The History of the Highwayman’s Hitch
While the knot is alleged to have actually been used by highwaymen, this claim is rejected by knot expert Geoffrey Budworth who stated, “there is no evidence to substantiate the reputation of the highwayman’s hitch as a quick-getaway-knot for robbers on horseback.”
Tying the Highwayman’s Hitch
Until the knot is tightened and properly dressed the highwayman’s hitch has little holding power. The treacherous problem with this knot is that the bight that nips the slip-tuck (last-formed bight, which is pulled for release) presses it against the rope and the hitched object, and does so with great force, as it is the bight in the (fully loaded) standing part; especially with relatively larger diameter objects vis-a-vis rope diameter, the rope pulls away from the object such that it is possible –all too easily, in some circumstances– for the nipping bight to collapse the toggle bight and pull it the “frame” against which it should be pressed. Therefore, alternatives to this dangerous hitch were devised such that this problem was avoided (or at least mitigated).
Highwayman’s Hitch Alternatives
The Notable Knot Index recommends the tumble hitch as a more stable hitch. It’s a similar hitch, but less prone to capsizing.