Apparel Gear

6 Best Cowboy Chaps to Perform & Protect Western Riders

Black chaps on gray horse at show
Written by Holly N.

Chinks, Chaps & Shotguns

I’ve lost count of the number of pairs of jeans I’ve destroyed while out riding. The thorn bushes and cacti are unrelenting around here, and it’s virtually impossible to go out on trail without sustaining at least one scratch. After losing my favorite pair of jeans to a particularly vicious barbed wire fence, I decided it was time to invest in chaps.

Chaps protect your legs when riding or working around the ranch or farm, but don’t cover your crotch or rear end, providing some airflow! They safeguard your lower body against dirt, thorns, fences, and brush while providing additional grip and preventing chafing in the saddle.

Craving safety, durability, and comfort? Get some chaps!

western chinks and boots on a horse

Source: Canva

Chap Basics

Chaps have been around for hundreds of years, and over those years, different styles and designs have emerged.


Western chaps are full-length, protecting everything from the waist down whereas chinks and half chaps only safeguard the upper or lower leg. Other types of chaps include wooly chaps made from leather processed with the hair still on.

These are specifically designed to provide additional warmth, as well as protection, during the winter months.


  • Western chaps and chinks are both intended to protect the legs from external threats, like thorn bushes and cacti. They also help you to stick in the saddle better than jeans.
  • Farriers also wear chinks to protect their legs while trimming and shoeing horses, preventing scratches and burns from hot shoes.
  • Half chaps only protect the leg from the knee down and are used by English riders who would otherwise get rubs and chafes from the stirrup leathers.


Traditionally, chaps were made from thick, durable leather, hide, or sometimes wool. These days, manufacturers have reduced production costs by using more affordable materials, such as suede, synthetic leather, and nylon.

Synthetic materials are often machine washable, making them easier to care for than suede or leather

Chaps vs. Chinks:

The main difference between chaps and chinks is the length.

Chinks are shorter than chaps, which allows for a little more airflow and makes them more comfortable in hot weather.

On the downside, chinks will only protect your upper legs and are often open at the back, while chaps wrap around the whole leg, providing greater protection. You can read more about the differences between chaps and chinks here.

man and woman standing in barn wearing chaps

Source: Canva

Best Cowboy Chaps

Category Option Price Point Key Features
Best Overall Rod’s All-round In-stock $$ Affordable yet durable chaps that protect the whole leg
Best for Ranch Work Weaver Leather Shotgun Chaps $$$ High-quality leather provides flexibility and protection
Best for Rodeos Tough1 Suede Leather Show Chaps $$ Fully adjustable and hard-wearing
Best on a Budget Tough1 Western Fringed Chaps $ Buckles and full-length zippers provide a snug and secure fit
Best for Showing Hobby Horse Ultrasuede Fringe Chaps $$$$$ Flattering fit and excellent quality
Best Chinks Weaver Leather Pull-Up Chinks $$$$ Made with high-quality supple leather, with hand-crafted details

Best Overall: Rod’s All-Round In-Stock Suede Chaps

These chaps combine style with durability and are easier to fit than many other brands. Full-length, heavy-duty zippers keep the chaps securely in place to maximize protection both in the saddle and on the ranch.

rods chaps

Click to see them at Amazon

Suitable for both men and women, they fasten using a buckle at the back and a tie at the front. The tassels add a little glamor and stop the rain from soaking into your legs. Made with faux suede, they aren’t as durable as leather chaps, but are lighter and more affordable.


  • Lower price range
  • Easy to fit
  • Durable


  • Handwash only
  • Don’t fit all body shapes

Where to buy it: Amazon

Best for Ranch Work: Weaver Leather Shotgun Grain Work Chaps

These shotgun-style chaps are made from high-quality full-grain leather that can withstand the roughest treatment. They are flexible enough to work and ride in while protecting you against thorns and insect bites.

weaver leather chaps

Click to see them at Amazon

Although these chaps are unisex, their dimensions seem more suited to a woman’s body than a man’s, and several male users have reported problems with the fit. Full-length zippers ensure your whole leg is protected, while the buckle and tie closures around the waist keep the chaps securely in position.


  • Made using durable, high-quality leather
  • Strong yet flexible enough to allow freedom of movement
  • High-quality closures keep chaps secure


  • Men may struggle to find the perfect fit
  • The front tie closure is a bit flimsy

Where to buy it: Amazon

Best for Rodeos: Tough1 Suede Leather Reining Show Chaps

With a suede fringe and basket stamp design, these chaps are guaranteed to stand out in the show ring. Each leg had three buckle straps, making them fully adjustable and easy to fit regardless of your leg shape.


Click to see them at State Line Tack

Like chinks, these chaps only cover the front of the leg, allowing for more airflow and making them more comfortable in hotter weather.

Available in either black or brown, these chaps tend to run a little long, but it’s easy enough to cut off the excess and create the perfect fit.


  • Eye-catching design
  • Easy to adjust
  • Cool enough to wear in hot weather


  • The longer fit means they may need adjusting
  • Chink-style design doesn’t protect the back of the leg

Where to buy it: Stateline Tack

Best on a Budget: Tough1 Western Fringed Chaps

These chaps represent excellent value for money. Made from suede leather, they have full-length zippers on each leg and buckles at the front and back, allowing for a more secure fit. Some users have reported problems with the stitching, which isn’t as secure as on more expensive brands.

fringed chaps

Click to see them at State Line Tack

Available in either black or brown, these chaps look just as good in the show ring as they do out on the trail, and are suitable for both men and women.


  • Buckles provide a more secure fit
  • Versatile enough to wear on trail or in the show ring
  • Lower price range


  • Stitching could be more secure
  • Full-length zippers make it difficult to adjust the length

Where to buy it: Stateline Tack

Best for Horse Shows: Hobby Horse Ultrasuade Fringe Chaps

Hobby Horse is a well-known brand in the Western horse show world. They craft timeless, quality Western wear perfect for horse shows–all the way up to the Quarter Horse Congress.

hobby horse chaps

Click to see them at Hobby Horse

These ultrasuade chaps come in a variety of colors to help you create the perfect combination for your ride. Made from premium materials, these chaps are lightweight yet durable (the zipper itself can take some serious abuse!) and are easily cleaned with a damp washcloth. The fit is flattering for a variety of shapes and sizes.


  • Made with high quality, durable materials
  • Flattering fit appropriate for top level competition
  • Variety of color options to create the perfect Western show outfit


  • Only one length option
  • The price point; these have definitely gotten even more expensive with inflation!

Where to buy it: Hobby Horse

Best Chinks: Weaver Leather Pull-Up Fashion Chinks with Floral Yoke Set

These chinks are both fashionable and practical. Made of high-quality leather, these hand-crafted chinks have adjustable leg straps to ensure you get the perfect fit while maintaining freedom of movement.


Click to see them at Amazon

The leather is soft and supple, and the decorative details are perfectly crafted. The buckle at the back is robust and easy to adjust, while the front tie is somewhat flimsy. This could be a safety feature that allows it to break easily should the chaps get caught on the front of the saddle, but it also struggles under the weight of the chaps.


  • Hand-crafted for superior quality
  • Soft, supple leather promotes freedom of movement
  • Easy to adjust


  • Higher price range
  • The front tie could be more robust

Where to buy it: Amazon

Shopping Considerations

Aside from style, when shopping for Western chaps, you should prioritize the following features:

Size – it can be challenging to find a pair of chaps that fits snugly without bunching up around the waist or, with half chaps, cutting off your circulation at the knee.

Ideally, Western chaps should fit snugly around the waist, without any gaping or sagging, and extend approximately 1.5 inches past the heel of your boot.

Color – darker colors not only hide the dirt better but, according to the American Quarter Horse Association, “won’t show extra movement” in the show ring, meaning the judge can focus on the horse’s performance.

Material – leather is the most durable material for chaps and is easier to clean than suede, but it’s also pricey.

Suede chaps are considerably cheaper but harder to clean, while synthetic materials are both affordable and machine-washable.

Style – Western chaps come in two basic designs – batwing and shotgun.

Shotgun chaps are straight-legged with a fitted appearance, while the batwing design is slightly flared from the knee down.

The batwing design offers more protection, but the extra material can make them hot, heavy, and cumbersome.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What chaps do cowboys wear?

Cowboys usually wear either chinks or full-length Western chaps. During the winter, they might swap their leather chaps for a wooly pair that provides extra warmth and protection against the elements.

Q: What type of chaps are best?

The best chaps in one situation may be the worst in another, so it depends on what you’re doing.

For ranch work, chinks are often better than Western chaps as they allow for a bit more airflow and give you more freedom of movement.

If you’re going to be in the saddle all day riding through thorny brush, full-length leather Western chaps are ideal, but if you’re entering a showjumping competition, you should be in a pair of the best horseback riding half chaps.

Q: What is the best leather for cowboy chaps?

Cowhide is the best leather for cowboy chaps because it’s durable, relatively waterproof, and resistant to sun damage. It’s also strong enough to withstand sharp thorns and cow horns!

Q: What are the best western riding chaps?

The best Western riding chaps fit snugly, while allowing for plenty of freedom of movement. They protect you from chafing, help keep you in the saddle, and fend off attacks from thorns, biting insects, and charging bulls!

Q: Why do cowboys wear chaps?

Cowboys wear chaps to protect their legs while riding and working on the ranch. They offer protection against the elements, thorns, branches, brush, insect bites, and dirt.

Man wearing leather chaps in front of stacked hay

Source: Canva

Parting Thoughts

In many circumstances, chaps are an essential piece of riding equipment. Western chaps not only protect you against chafing but also prevent thorns and cacti from tearing at your clothes and skin.

The best Western chaps should fit snugly without restricting your movement, be hard-wearing enough to offer sufficient protection while being lightweight enough to wear all year round. They also should be easy to clean and resistant to the elements.

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About the author


Holly N.

Holly started riding as a six years old in the UK and competed regularly in local events, including showjumping, cross country, showing, working hunter, and gymkhana. She now lives and rides in South Africa, working as a trail guide with Wild Coast Horseback Adventures. Her interests are primarily in the areas of DIY horse ownership, trail riding, barefoot horses, endurance, competitive trail riding, and South African breeds.