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A whip is a tool traditionally used by humans to exert control over animals or other people, through pain compliance or fear of pain, although in some activities whips can be used without use of pain, such as an additional pressure aid in dressage. Whips are generally of two types, either a firm stick device designed to strike directly, or a flexible whip which must be swung in a specific manner to be effective, but has a longer reach. There are also whips which combine both a firm stick (the stock or handle) and a flexible line (the lash or thong), such as hunting whips.

The majority of whips are designed for use on animals, although whips such as the "cat o' nine tails" and knout were designed specifically for flagellation of humans as a means of a corporal punishment or torture. Whips can be used on oneself as part of a religious practice, or on consenting persons during BDSM activities.

Use of whipsEdit

Whips were primarily designed to inflict pain, with the objective of obtaining pain compliance to the wishes of the user. In modern times, the pain stimulus is still used in some animal training, and is permitted in many fields, including most equestrianism disciplines, some of which mandate carrying a whip. The whip can be a vital tool to back up riding aids when applied correctly, particularly when initial commands are ignored. However, many competition governing bodies limit such use of whips, and severe penalties may be in place for over-use of the whip, including disqualification and fines.[1] Socially, the use or over-use of whips may be considered animal cruelty in some jurisdictions.[2]

Whips can also be used without painful stimulus, as a tool that is an extension of the human hand or arm, used as a visual command, or to tap an animal, or to exert pressure, in order to indicate a certain command. Such use may be related to operant conditioning where the subject is conditioned to associate the whip with irritation, discomfort or pain, but in other cases, a whip can be used as a simple tool to provide a cue connected to positive reinforcement for compliant behavior. Such use is sometimes accompanied by practitioners renaming the whip with alternative, softer terms such as a "wand" or a "stick," calling the lash a "string" or a "popper"

Another use of the whip is to make a loud sound (the 'cracking' of a whip) which induces a fear response in animals, especially those conditioned to the pain stimulus of the whip, and this technique is often used as part of an escalation response, with sound being used first prior to a pain stimulus being applied, again as part of operant conditioning. This loud noise can be used to drive or direct livestock or teams of harnessed animals, such as oxen or mules.

When some types of flexible whip are swung in a certain way, a loop in the material may move down the whip, rapidly increasing in speed, until the tip moves faster than the speed of sound, or more than 30 times the speed of the initial movement in the handle. This creates a small sonic boom, described as a "crack".[3] Whips were the first man-made objects to break the sound barrier.

Most stick type whips cannot make a crack by themselves, unless they either have a very long lash, such as a longe whip, or are very flexible with a moderately long lash, like certain styles of buggy whip. But any design can be banged against another object such as leather boot to make a loud noise. Short, stiff crops often have a wide leather "popper" at the end which makes a particularly loud noise when slapped against an animal, boot, or other object.

  • A long stick-like device, usually slightly flexible, with a small bit of leather or cord, called a "popper" or a "cracker," on the end. Depending on length and flexibility, this type is often called a riding whip, riding crop or "bat". It is also sometimes called a "horsewhip" or "horse whip"; or
  • A long tapered flexible length of single-strand or plaited (braided) material (usually leather) with a stiff handle. Some whips of this type include the bullwhip and the stockwhip. Each design has many variations and lengths for different purposes, often with different names.

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