Bolas (from Spanish bola, "ball", also known as boleadoras) are a throwing weapon made of weights on the ends of interconnected cords, designed to capture animals by their legs. They are used by the gauchos in South America today, but have been found in excavations of pre-Hispanic settlements, especially in Patagonia, where indigenous peoples used them to catch guanaco and ñandu.
Gauchos use boleadoras to capture running cattle or game. The thrower gives the balls momentum by swinging them and then releases the boleadoras. The weapon is usually used to entangle the animal's legs, but when thrown with enough force might even break the bone.
There is no uniform design; most bolas have two or three balls, but there are versions of up to 8 or 9 balls. Some bolas have balls of equal weight,others vary the knot and cord. Gauchos use bolas made of leather cords with wooden balls or small leather sacks full of stones in the ends of the cords.
Bolas can be named depending on the amount of weights used:
- Perdida (1 weight)
- Avestrucera or ñanducera (2 weights)
- Boleadora (3 weights)
- Ka-Lum-Ik-Toun (Inuit name for bolas with 4 or more weights)
Bolas of three weights are usually designed with two shorter cords with heavier weights, and one longer cord with a light weight. The heavier weights fly at the front parallel to each other, hit either side of the legs, and the lighter weight goes around, wrapping up the legs.