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Matthew Allsopp

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The Bullwhip

The leather bullwhip is one of the oldest weapons in human history. In one form or another has this brutal device existed since the dawn of civilization. Normally used to motivate cattle or slaves and torture enemies, the bullwhip has come down through the millennia virtually unchanged by technology. The unique weapon takes great skill to use efficiently and without self-inflicted pain. Since the early days of filmmaking has it been a prominent prop for cinema heroes.

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A 10 foot David Morgan
whip, circa 2001.

As early as the adventure serials, most notably the Zorro films, has the idea of a hero lashing a bullwhip been a common occurrence. In conceiving Indiana Jones, this was taken into account and Indy carries a bullwhip throughout the film series. The original bullwhips were the personal property of stunt coordinator Glenn Randall and allegedly they were around 8 feet in length. These whips were made by David Morgan, arguably one of the greatest whip makers in the United States. According to some sources, the whips in Raiders were not made with the traditional kangaroo hide due to U.S. import restrictions at the time.

For the sequels, the production company hired David Morgan to provide bullwhips for the films. These new bullwhips were dyed a much darker brown than the original whips in Raiders and made from kangaroo hide. While the standard length of the whip carried on Harrison Ford’s belt has been said to be either 8 or 10 feet in length, multiple lengths were used for various stunts. In some cases, bullwhips weren’t used at all. When Indy swings across a chasm, that’s not a bullwhip. Ford’s stuntman is swinging on a steel cable wrapped in braided leather. See, a bullwhip cannot hold a man’s weight in reality and such force exerted on it would ruin it.

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Indy cracking his whip in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Considering that one of David Morgan’s bullwhips costs literally hundreds of dollars, ruining it on a wild stunt would be wasteful and foolhardy. Morgan’s whips are still available today at, but their handles are an inch to two inches shorter than the whips carried by Harrison Ford due to design improvements. Understand that this makes for a better and more durable whip and all of the braiding is still accurate to the whips in the Indiana Jones series.


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