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I have never seen any experienced climber tie up a bowline knot starting up with an underhand loop (*). Bowline knots are most typically started with an overhand by flipping the standing part of the rope under the running end.

After the comment by Ben Crowell, it is worth pointing out that starting with an overhand loop determines the position of with the tail end inside assuming that the working end is wrapped around the standing part of the rope anticlockwise. Wrapping the standing part with the running end directed clockwise will render the end on the outside as in this picture in which the initial loop was overhand in both instances:

enter image description here

In any event, the typical result achieved in the most common way of tying up the knot is that the tail end of the rope stays inside of the final bowline as in animatedknots.com:

enter image description here

However, starting off with an underhand loop, passing a bight of the standing end through it, and then threading the end of the rope through the bight, results in a nicer final dressing with the tail end on the outside, as in here. This is the final appearance:

enter image description here

This is not even an esthetic issue with the Yosemite bowline, in which the end is parallel to the standing part of the rope.

Are there any reasons to prefer the most typical way of tying a bowline? Mechanically, they seem to be identically sturdy, but the second knot looks less busy and better dressed. Both of them are equally visually verifiable with the "pierced-tongue" final look.

I just came across this:

enter image description here

which would reformulate the question along the lines of:

Is there only tradition behind the "purists" stand?


(*) An underhand loop is formed when the running or working end of the rope is placed under the standing part of the rope. It results in a running loop when a bight of the standing part is pushed through the loop. The opposite (overhand loop) is formed when the running or working end of the rope is placed over the standing part, resulting in slip loop when a bight of the running end is passed through it.

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    It seems to me that the important distinction would be between tail on the inside and tail on the outside. The title of the question talks about overhand versus underhand, but you can change that simply by flipping the knot over. Personally, I and the people I climb with almost never use a bowline for the types of climbing we do. If I want to tie in to a tree as an anchor, I use my cordelette. Using the climbing rope to construct an anchor is kind of old-fashioned and inefficient. Tying in to a gear anchor with the rope is already a hassle, but anchoring to a tree would require untying myself.
    – user2169
    Jun 21 at 23:28
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cowboy_bowline also ABOK 1034 1/2. "In formation the Left-Hand Bowline Knot is similar to the Left-Hand Sheet Bend (# 67). It is often tied directly around a post, in mooring (probably by mistake), instead of tying a Right-Hand Bowline (# 1010), to which it is distinctly inferior."
    – endolith
    Jun 22 at 0:31
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    @endolith Well... That is the answer! Thank you! Jun 22 at 1:07
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    @BenCrowell Are you USAian? Building anchors with the rope is very common in the UK. We hardly every use cordelette. Personally, I'd throw a sling around a tree for an anchor but if I didn't have one big enough I'd definitely use the rope.
    – Darren
    Jun 22 at 9:54
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    Actually while searching I realized this question may be a duplicate: Bowline knot, end at the inside or outside?
    – endolith
    Jun 22 at 13:14
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This is a Cowboy bowline. Wikipedia says:

tests of the different versions' strengths show little difference; conjecture about either knot's vulnerability to some failure remain pretty much only that – conjectures.

But this statement doesn't have any references.

Cordage Institute did a strength testing comparison:

The standard Bowline was selected for the test, but the Cowboy or Dutch Bowline was tested to see if there was a difference. The numbers were almost identical.

One of the references is Ropers Knot Page, which says:

The Dutch Navy uses this variant of the bowline. And, of course, the Dutch sailor says this one is superior. The working end is not so easy pushed back by accident, they say. I think it is just a difference in culture.

It's listed in Ashley Book of Knots as knot #1034½:

In formation the Left-Hand Bowline Knot is similar to the Left-Hand Sheet Bend (# 67). It is often tied directly around a post, in mooring (probably by mistake), instead of tying a Right-Hand Bowline (# 1010), to which it is distinctly inferior.

He doesn't go into any other detail about what makes it "inferior", though.

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    Thank you for all the references, and commentary. Jun 22 at 17:15

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