The length of a whip is typically measured based on how much braiding it has. For this reason, whips are not measured in their entirety. Instead, they are measured by the length of the pieces that are not easily replaced. In most cases, this means that certain parts of the whip like the handle, fall, and cracker are not measured. For example:
Bullwhips are measured from the beginning of the handle to the end of the thong. This is because bullwhip handles are directly attached to the thong and cannot be replaced without taking apart the entire whip. So, a 5′ bullwhip is 5′ plus the length of the fall and the cracker. Therefore, a 5′ bullwhip may actually measure between 5.5′ and 7′ long.
Stockwhips are measured based only on the length of the thong. Because of the keeper knot, stockwhip handles can be easily replaced and are therefore not included in the measurement of the whip. So, if you order a 5’ stockwhip, your whip will be 5’ long plus the length of the handle and the length of the fall and cracker. A 5′ stockwhip may actually measure anywhere from 7′ to 8.5′ long.
Performance Hybrid (PH) Whips and Florida Cow Whips are measured just like stock whips: only the length of the thong matters. Most of these whips can be removed from the handle by untying a simple knot. Therefore, the handle, fall, and cracker are not included in the measurement.
Snakewhips are measured based on the length of the thong. However, because snakewhips do not have a handle, their classified length is typically much closer to their actual length than with most other whips. Only the fall and cracker are excluded from the measurement. A 3′ snake whip might be just over 4′ long.
It is important to clarify whip length with your whip maker before ordering a whip in order to avoid confusion. Most whip makers are used to receiving questions from beginners, and would be happy to make you the whip that you truly want.