In the 70s, while learning sailing, I was taught to use a double half hitch, where the two hitches are tied in opposite directions. However, in the 90s, I took a USCG course, where in the same situations I was taught to use two half hitches, where the hitches are tied in the same direction, similar to a clove hitch.

For example, see this image from this scoutpioneering.com post, where they call my "double half hitch" a Lark's Head, and "two half hitches" a Clove Hitch:

Lark's Head vs Clove Hitch

I should have asked the course leaders, but never did: is there a valid use for a double half hitch/Lark's Head? (It's the version I always tie, although it does seem to work free when intermittently loaded.)

2 Answers 2


First, a note on terminology. There are several groups of knots that have a certain what I call topology. When that topology in the rope is tied around a fixed object, the resulting knot has one name, but when turned around that object then tied around the standing end of the rope, it has a different name. Further, some knots can also be used to join ends of two ropes, and then it will have yet a different name. Examples include the pairs you listed:

  • Larks head (around object) and double half-hitch (around the standing end)
  • Clove hitch (around object) and two half-hitches (around the standing end)

Take a close look at these two as well, and you'll see the same topology:

  • Bowline (forms a closed loop) and sheet bend (joins end of two ropes)

With that said, I think you partially answer your own question- the two half-hitches holds better under load than does the double half-hitch. This is easy to test for yourself- tie each one in a small piece of rope around a convenient table leg or something, then pull backwards. You will find the double half-hitch slips more easily than the two half-hitches.


Looking closely at the photo, the knots are very much different. In the lark's head, the running end is inside the knot; that means, as tension is applied, the knot will tend to tighten on the standing end, making it more secure. The pull of the standing end will tend to pull the knot and the running end into the knot, guaranteeing a tight knot.

In the clove hitch shown, the running end is on the outside of the knot's load, which means, the tightness of the knot relies on the knot tier's skill at keeping it tight.

Further, if the knots were tied such that there isn't much load on the knot (and there is more slip in the bight), then, the clove hitch will tend to twist out, eventually allowing the running end to unsecure itself from inside the knot.

The first (lark's head double half-hitch) is a more secure knot.

  • And I'm curious; why is it almost impossible to find my old interpretation of "double half hitch" on the web, when "two half hitches" is everywhere? If the former is superior, why is everyone using the latter? Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 13:55
  • 1
    @DanielGriscom, I think because "two" and "double" are nearly synonymous. The knot itself can be tied in the same way, not unlike granny and square knots. (You can even tie the 2x hitch with a square or granny, and pull the loosely-tied know into the 2x half hitch).I think the preference for light weight work favors the clove hitch method, because at the knot's tightest, the running end isn't bound to the pressure, and allows easier untie. The lark's head would be insanely difficult to undo if the knot was tight.
    – Andrew Jay
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 12:20
  • I did a Google image search for two half hitches, and of the first fifty recognizable knots all but two were the "clove hitch" style, and one of those showed both ways without discrimination (and so probably wasn't deliberate). Searching for double half hitch had almost the same results, except for a lot of lark's head style knots used in macrame. So, there's a strong bias towards the clove hitch style, naming aside. Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 0:27
  • @DanielGriscom - yes, seems bias toward "two" (clove) vs "double" (lark), but I think there is issue with grammar (two and double are nearly synonymous) and also, to make the clove variant, the running end continues in the same direction and flow, while the lark's, the running end has to change direction around the standing end. That may seem trivial, but - I guess - it seems more natural to let the knot be tied by going in the same flow. If the knot tyier (?) was keen to method, s/he'd know the larks head is a much tighter knot, the other is easier to untie or become untied.
    – Andrew Jay
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 15:42

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