- Plural of rodeo
Rodeo ( or /roʊˈdeɪoʊ/) is a sport which arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later the United States, Canada, South America and Australia. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, of what today is the western United States, western Canada, and northern Mexico. Today it is a sporting event that consists of several different timed and judged events that involve cattle and horses, designed to test the skill and speed of the human cowboy and cowgirl athletes who participate.
Rodeo, particularly popular today throughout the western United States, is the official state sport of Wyoming and Texas, and the iconic silhouette image of a Bucking Horse and Rider is a federal and state registered trademark of the State of Wyoming.
In North America, the traditional season for competitive rodeo runs from spring through fall. The traditional peak time for the largest number of rodeos is the July 4th weekend. The modern professional rodeo circuit runs longer, and concludes with the world’s richest rodeo, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in Las Vegas, Nevada which is now held in December.
Rodeo has provoked protest and opposition from animal rights advocates who argue that various competitions constitute animal cruelty. In some cases, these groups have succeeded in having a number of local municipalities ban or restrict certain events.
EtymologyThe American English word "rodeo" is taken directly from Spanish. The most common English translation is "round up."
The Spanish word is derived from the verb rodear, meaning "to surround" or "go around," used to refer to "a pen for cattle at a fair or market," derived from the Latin rota or rotare, meaning to rotate or go around.
In Spanish America, the rodeo was the vaqueros' procedure for gathering up cattle for various purposes such as moving them to new pastures or to slaughter (matanza). The term was also used to refer to exhibitions of skills used in the working rodeo, and it is this latter usage which was adopted into the cowboy tradition of the United States and Canada.
The term rodeo was first used in English approximately 1834 to refer to a cattle round-up.
EventsRodeo events in the United States and Canada include the following forms of competition:
- Barrel racing and pole bending - the timed speed and agility events seen in rodeo as well as gymkhana or O-Mok-See competition. Both men and women compete in speed events at gymkhanas or O-Mok-Sees; however, at rodeos, barrel racing is an exclusively women's sport. In a barrel race, horse and rider gallop around a cloverleaf pattern of barrels, making agile turns without knocking the barrels over. In pole bending, horse and rider run the length of a line of six upright poles, turn sharply and weave through the poles, turn again and weave back, then return to the start. Only barrel racing is seen in professional competition.
- Steer wrestling - Also known as "Bulldogging," this is a rodeo event where the rider jumps off his horse onto a steer and 'wrestles' it to the ground by grabbing it by the horns. This is probably the single most physically dangerous event in rodeo for the cowboy, who runs a high risk of jumping off a running horse head first and missing the steer, or of having the thrown steer land on top of him, sometimes horns first.
- Goat tying - usually an event for women or pre-teen girls and boys; a goat is staked out while a mounted rider runs to the goat, dismounts, grabs the goat, throws it to the ground and ties it in the same manner as a calf. This event was designed to teach smaller or younger riders the basics of calf roping without the more complex need to also rope the animal. This event is not part of professional rodeo competition.
RopingRoping encompasses a number of timed events that are based on the real-life tasks of a working cowboy, who often had to capture calves and adult cattle for branding, medical treatment and other purposes. A lasso or lariat is thrown over the head of a calf or the horns and heels of adult cattle, and the animal is secured in a fashion dictated by its size and age.
- Calf Roping, officially changed to Tie-down roping by the PRCA - A calf is roped around the neck by a lariat, the horse stops and sets back on the rope while the cowboy dismounts, runs to the calf, throws it to the ground and ties three feet together. (If the horse throws the calf, the cowboy must lose time waiting for the calf to get back to its feet so that the cowboy can do the work. The job of the horse is to hold the calf steady on the rope) This activity is still practiced on modern working ranches for branding, medical treatment, and so on.
- Team roping, also called "heading and heeling," is the only rodeo event where men and women riders may compete together. Two people capture and restrain a full-grown steer. One horse and rider, the "header," lassos a running steer's horns, while the other horse and rider, the "heeler," lassos the steer's two hind legs. Once the animal is captured, the riders face each other and lightly pull the steer between them, so that it loses its balance and lays over, thus in the real world allowing restraint for treatment.
- Breakaway roping - an easier form of calf roping where a very short lariat is used, tied lightly to the saddle horn with string and a flag. When the calf is roped, the horse stops, allowing the calf to run on, flagging the end of time when the string and flag breaks from the saddle. In the United States, this event is primarily for women of all ages and boys under 12, while in some nations where traditional "tie-down" calf roping is frowned upon, riders of both genders compete.
- Steer Roping - rarely seen in the United States today because of the tremendous risk of injury to all involved, as well as animal cruelty concerns. A single roper ropes the steer around the legs in such a manner as to trip it. Steers are too big to tie in the manner used for calves, and absent a "heeler," it is very difficult for one person to restrain a grown steer once down, so the event has few roots in actual ranch practices. It is sometimes still seen at rodeos in Mexico, sometimes also referred to as "steer tripping."
"Rough Stock" competitionIn spite of popular myth, most modern "broncs" are not in fact wild horses, but are more commonly spoiled riding horses or horses bred specifically as bucking stock. Rough stock events also use well-trained riding horses ridden by "pick up men" (or women), of whom there are usually at least two, tasked with assisting fallen riders and helping successful riders get safely off the bucking animal.
- Bronc riding - there are two divisions in rodeo, bareback bronc riding, where the rider is only allowed to hang onto a bucking horse with a type of surcingle called a "rigging," and saddle bronc riding, where the rider is allowed a specialized western saddle without a horn (for safety) and may hang onto a heavy lead rope, called a bronc rein, which is attached to a halter on the horse.
- Bull riding - an event where the cowboys ride full-grown bulls instead of horses. Although skills and equipment similar to those needed for bareback bronc riding are required, the event differs considerably from horse riding competition due to the danger involved. Because bulls are unpredictable and may attack a fallen rider, Rodeo clowns, now known as Bullfighters, work during bull riding competition to help prevent injury to competitors.
Early history of rodeoRodeo stresses its western folk hero image and its being a genuinely American creation. But in fact it grew out of the practices of Spanish ranchers and their Mexican ranch hands (vaqueros), a mixture of cattle wrangling and bull fighting that dates back to the sixteenth-century conquistadors.
One of the activities introduced by the Spanish and incorporated into rodeo was bull riding. Another was steer wrestling, involved wrestling the steer to the ground by riding up behind it, grabbing its tail, and twisting it to the ground. Bull wrestling had been part of an ancient tradition throughout the ancient Mediterranean world including Spain. The ancient Minoans of Crete practiced bull jumping, bull riding, and bull wrestling. Bull wrestling may have been one of the Olympic sports events of the ancient Greeks.
The events spread throughout the Viceroyalty of New Spain and was found at fairgrounds, racetracks, fiestas, and festivals in nineteenth century southwestern areas that now comprise the United States. However, unlike the roping, riding, and racing, this contest never attracted a following among Anglo cowboys or audiences. It is however a favorite event included in the charreada, the style of rodeo which originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco. There would probably be no steer wrestling at all in American rodeo were it not for a black cowboy from Texas named Bill Pickett who devised his own unique method of bulldogging steers. He jumped from his horse to a steer’s back, bit its upper lip, and threw it to the ground by grabbing its horns. He performed at local central Texas fairs and rodeos and was discovered by an agent, who signed him on a tour of the West with his brothers. He received sensational national publicity with his bulldogging exhibition at the 1904 Cheyenne Frontier Days. This brought him a contract with the famous 101 Ranch in Oklahoma and its traveling Wild West exhibitions, where he spent many years performing in the United States and abroad.
Pickett attracted many imitators who appeared at rodeos and Wild West shows, and soon there were enough practitioners for promoters to stage contests. The first woman bulldogger appeared in 1913, when the great champion trick and bronc rider and racer Tillie Baldwin exhibited the feat. However, women's bulldogging contests never materialized. But cowboys did take up the sport with enthusiasm but without the lip-biting, and when rodeo rules were codified, steer wrestling was among the standard contests. Two halls of fame recognize Bill Pickett as the sole inventor of bulldogging, the only rodeo event which can be attributed to a single individual.
Rodeo itself evolved after the Texas Revolution and the U.S.-Mexican War when Anglo cowboys learned the skills, attire, vocabulary, and sports of the vaqueros. Ranch-versus-ranch contests gradually sprang up, as bronc riding, bull riding, and roping contests appeared at race tracks, fairgrounds, and festivals of all kinds. William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) created the first major rodeo and the first Wild West show in North Platte, Nebraska in 1882. Following this successful endeavor, Cody organized his touring Wild West show, leaving other entrepreneurs to create what became professional rodeo. Rodeos and Wild West shows enjoyed a parallel existence, employing many of the same stars, while capitalizing on the continuing allure of the mythic West. Women joined the Wild West and contest rodeo circuits in the 1890s and their participation grew as the activities spread geographically. Animal welfare groups began targeting rodeo from the earliest times, and have continued their efforts with varying degrees of success ever since.
The word rodeo was only occasionally used for American cowboy sports until the 1920s, and professional cowboys themselves did not officially adopt the term until 1945. Similarly, there was no attempt to standardize the events needed to make up such sporting contests until 1929. From the 1880s through the 1920s, frontier days, stampedes, and cowboy contests were the most popular names. Cheyenne Frontier Days, which began in 1897, remains the most significant annual community celebration even today. Until 1922, cowboys and cowgirls who won at Cheyenne were considered the world’s champions. Until 1912, organization of these community celebrations fell to local citizen committees who selected the events, made the rules, chose officials, arranged for the stock, and handled all other aspects of the festival. Many of these early contests bore more resemblance to Buffalo Bill's Wild West than to contemporary rodeo. While today's PRCA-sanctioned rodeos must include five events: calf roping, bareback and saddle bronc riding, bull riding, and steer wrestling, with the option to also hold steer roping and team roping, their Pre-World War I counterparts often offered only two of these contests. The day-long programs included diverse activities including Pony Express races, nightshirt races, and drunken rides. One even featured a football game. Almost all contests were billed as world's championships, causing confusion that endures to this day. Cowboys and cowgirls often did not know the exact events on offer until they arrived on site, and did not learn the rules of competition until they had paid their entry fees.
Before World War II, the most popular rodeo events included trick and fancy roping, trick and fancy riding, and racing. Trick and fancy roping contestants had to make figures and shapes with their lassos before releasing them to capture one or several persons or animals. These skills had to be exhibited on foot and on horseback. Fancy roping was the event most closely identified with the vaqueros, who invented it. In trick and fancy riding, athletes performed gymnastic feats on horseback while circling the arena at top speed. Athletes in these events were judged, much like those in contemporary gymnastics. The most popular races included Roman standing races wherein riders stood with one foot on the back of each of a pair of horses, and relays in which riders changed horses after each lap of the arena. Both were extremely dangerous, and sometimes fatal.
Another great difference between these colorful contests and their modern counterparts was that there were no chutes or gates, and no time limits. Rough stock were blindfolded and snubbed in the center of the arenas where the riders mounted. The animals were then set free. In the vast arenas, which usually included a racetrack, rides often lasted more than 10 minutes, and sometimes the contestants vanished from view of the audience.
During this era, women rode broncs and bulls and roped steers. They also competed in a variety of races, as well as trick and fancy roping and riding. In all of these contests, they often competed against men and won. Hispanics, blacks and Native Americans also participated in significant numbers. In some places, Native Americans were invited to set up camp on the grounds, perform dances and other activities for the audience, and participate in contests designated solely for them, Some rodeos did discriminate against one or more of these groups, but most were open to anyone who could pay the entry fee.
All this began to change in 1912, when a group of Calgary businessmen hired roper Guy Weadick to manage, promote, and produce his first Stampede. Weadick selected the events, determined rules and elegibility, chose the officials, and invited well-known cowboys and cowgirls to take part. He hoped to pit the best Canadian hands against those of the US and Mexico, but Mexican participation was severely limited by the civil unrest in that country. Nonetheless, the Stampede was a huge success, and Weadick followed with the Winnipeg Stampede of 1913, and much less successful New York Stampede of 1916. Although Weadick’s last production, the 1919 Calgary Stampede, was only a minor success, he led the way for a new era in which powerful producers, not local committees, would dominate rodeo and greatly expand its audience.
Rodeo enjoyed enormous popularity in New York, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia, as well as in London, Europe, Cuba, South America, and the Far East in the 1920s and 1930s. Today, none of those venues is viable. Despite numerous tours abroad before World War II, rodeo is really significant only in North America. While it does exist in Australia and New Zealand, top athletes from those countries come to America to seek their fortunes. Some Latin American countries have contests called rodeos but these have none of the events found in the North American version.
Organizations governing rodeoThere are numerous organizations governing rodeo today, each with slightly different rules, different roles for women, and different events.
The oldest and largest sanctioning body of professional rodeo is the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) which sanctions around 700 rodeos annually. The Professional Bull Riders (PBR) is a more recent organization dedicated solely to the bull riding event. In 1985, the International Gay Rodeo Association was formed as a national sanctioning body. There are also high-school rodeos, sponsored by the National High School Rodeo Association, amateur rodeos, "Little Britches" rodeos for preteens and early adolescents, mostly governed by the American Junior Rodeo Association, and rodeos for women. Many colleges, particularly land grant colleges in the west, have rodeo teams. The National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association is responsible for the College National Rodeo Finals (CNFR) held each June in Casper, WY.
Until recently, the most important was PRCA. They crown the World Champions at the National Finals Rodeo (NFR), held since 1985 at Las Vegas, Nevada, it features the top fifteen money-winners in seven events. The athletes who have won the most money, including NFR earnings, in each event are the World’s Champions. However, since 1992, Professional Bull Riders, Inc. (PBR) has siphoned off the top athletes in that event, and holds its own multi- million dollar finals in Las Vegas prior to the NFR. Much of their success usually attributed to the leadership of nine-time world champion and hall of fame honoree Ty Murray. Women’s barrel racing is governed by the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA), and through 2006 held its finals along with the PRCA with the cowboys at the NFR.
Contemporary rodeo is a lucrative business. More than 7,500 cowboys compete for over thirty million dollars at 650 rodeos annually. Women’s barrel racing, sanctioned by the WRPA, has taken place at most of these rodeos. Over 2,000 barrel racers compete for nearly four million dollars annually. What few people realize is that there are also professional cowgirls competing in bronc and bull riding, team roping and calf roping. Under the auspices of the PWRA, a WPRA subsidiary, these 120 women go largely unnoticed, with only twenty rodeos and seventy individual contests available annually. The total purse at their National Finals is only $50,000. Meanwhile, the upstart PBR now boasts 700 members from three continents, and ten million dollars in prize money.
Rodeo contests are classified as timed events, where athletes try to be the swiftest, and rough stock events, in which athletes attempt to stay atop a bucking animal for a designated time. The PRCA timed events are calf roping, steer roping, team roping, and steer wrestling. However, steer roping is not included in the NFR, while barrel racing is. In barrel racing, the rider with the fastest time completing a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels without toppling them is the winner. Bull riding, saddle bronc riding, and bareback bronc riding are the standard rough stock events. In PRCA rodeos, riders must stay on the animals for eight seconds. Different organizations have various time limits for different events.
Other rodeo governing bodies include American Junior Rodeo Association (AJRA) for contestants under twenty years of age; Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA); National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA); National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA); National Little Britches Rodeo Association (NLBRA), ages eight to eighteen; Senior Pro Rodeo (SPR), for athletes forty years old or over. Each one has its own regulations and its own method of determining champions. Every organization requires its athletes to have membership cards or permits in order to compete in its events. Athletes must participate only in rodeos sanctioned by their own governing body or one that has a mutual agreement with theirs. Rodeo committees must pay sanctioning fees to the appropriate governing bodies, and employ the needed stock contractors, judges, announcers, bull fighters, and barrel men from their approved lists.
So many organizations and detailed rules came late to rodeo. Until the mid-1930’s, every rodeo was independent, and selected its own events from among nearly one hundred different contests. Until World War I, there was little difference between rodeo and “Charreada”, and athletes from the US, Mexico and Canada competed freely in all three countries. Subsequently, “Charreada” was formalized as an amateur team sport and the international competitions ceased, although “Charreada” remains a popular amateur sport in Mexico and the Hispanic communities of the U.S. today.
Rodeo after World War IWorld War I nearly killed rodeo, but three men and two organizations brought it back to greater prominence, not in the West where it was born, but in the big cities of the East. Tex Austin created the Madison Square Garden Rodeo in 1922. It immediately became the premier event. Overshadowing Cheyenne Frontier Days, its winners were thereafter recognized as the unofficial worlds champions. In 1924, Austin produced the London Rodeo at Wembley Stadium, universally acknowledged as the most successful international contest in rodeo history. However, despite his triumphs, Austin lost control of the Madison Square Garden contest, and his influence dwindled. A Texan, Col. William T. Johnson, took over the Garden rodeo. He soon began producing rodeos in other eastern indoor arenas, which forever changed the nature of the sport. There was no room indoors for races, and time constraints limited the number of events that could be included. Rodeos no longer lasted all day as they did under the western sky. Nonetheless, Johnson was a major figure in modernizing and professionalizing the sport. He also enabled big-time rodeo to thrive during the Great Depression. Prior to WWI, cowboys and cowgirls could not earn a living on rodeo winnings alone. Most were also Wild West show performers, and exhibition or "contract acts" at rodeos. The top names could appear in vaudeville in the off-season. Others found whatever jobs they could. But with the advent of the producers, and the expansion of the eastern circuit, rodeo gradually became a lucrative career for the best contestants, even as Wild West shows diminished and vanished. During the depths of the Depression, the rodeo publication "Hoofs and Horns," estimated the average cowboy's earnings at $2,000-$3,000 annually. This placed them well above teachers, and near or above dentists in income. A few superstars earned far more.
By 1934, every rodeo that Johnson produced had set attendance records. A typical Johnson rodeo featured sixteen events, of which six were contests: cowboys bareback and saddle bronc riding, cowgirl bronc riding, cowboys steer riding, steer wrestling, and calf roping. Steer riding has now become bull riding, but other than that, Johnson's cowboy contests are the same as those mandated by the PRCA today. On the other hand, entertainment features such as basketball games on horseback and horseback quadrilles have largely disappeared.
In 1929 two events occurred which split rodeo down the geographic middle: superstar cowgirl Bonnie McCarroll died as a result of a bronc riding accident at Pendleton, Oregon. Her death caused many western rodeos to drop women’s contests. That same year, western rodeo producers formed the Rodeo Association of America (RAA) in an attempt to bring order to the chaotic sport. Largely as a result of McCarroll's death, the RAA was organized as an all-male entity. Despite pleas to do so, they refused to include any women’s contests. The RAA hoped to standardize rules and events, and eliminate the unscrupulous promoters who threatened the integrity of the sport. The RAA also set out to determine the "true world's champion cowboys," based on a system of points derived from on money won in their sanctioned rodeos. This remains the basic system used today, but the dream of having only one "world's champion" would not be realized for decades. If not for the McCarroll tragedy, the rest of rodeo history might have been very different. It is unlikely there would ever have been a need for the WPRA, and barrel racing would probably not exist. Eastern producers did align themselves with Col. Johnson who ignored the RAA, and continued include lucrative cowgirl contests at their rodeos. But that was short lived. Meantime, in 1931, promoters of the Stamford Cowboy Reunion invited all local ranches to send a young woman at least sixteen years old to compete in a Sponsor Contest designed "to add femininity to the all-male rodeo." The women were judged on who had the best horse, the most attractive outfit, and on horsemanship as they rode a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels. The contest was a huge success, and was widely copied. In 1939, Johnson’s replacement at Madison Square Garden, Everett Colburn, invited a group of Texas Sponsor Girls to appear at his rodeo as a publicity stunt. A second group appeared at the 1940 rodeo. It featured Hollywood singing Cowboy Gene Autry, and the women rode while he sang, “Home on the Range.” It was a tradition that continued for decades. Soon thereafter, Autry formed a rodeo company and took over not only Madison Square Garden, but also Boston Garden and most of the other major rodeos from coast-to-coast. One of his first actions was to discontinue the cowgirl bronc riding contest, which had been a highlight of the Madison Square Garden Rodeo since its inception in 1922. There was nothing left for cowgirls but the invitation-only sponsor girl event. Because of Gene Autry, real cowgirl contests disappeared from rodeos nation wide. Sponsor contests are the genesis of barrel racing, which is today the premier women’s rodeo event.
Rodeo after World War IIFollowing the War, a merged CTA and RAA became the PRCA, and took complete control of the sport. Men like Austin, Johnson, and Autry could no longer wield the power they previously maintained. Consequently, the Madison Square Garden rodeo lost its luster, and the PRCA established the NFR, to determine for the next half century who were the true worlds champion cowboys. In forming their organization, cowboys were decades ahead of athletes in other professional sports. By 1953, the first year for which such information is available, the total prize money available at PRCA rodeos was $2,491,856. Thirty years later, the figure had risen to just over $13 million. As prize money rose, of course, so did individual earnings. In 1976, Tom Ferguson, competing in all four timed events, became the first cowboy to exceed $100,000 winnings in a single year. Only six years later, that figure was surpassed by a single-event contestant. Bareback bronc rider Bruce Ford, amassed $101,351 before the NFR. In 2006, all contestants coming into the NFR as leading money-winners in their events had earned at least $100,00, except team ropers, who had a little over $90,000 apiece. When the NFR began in 1959, the total purse was $50,000. Today, the figure is $5,375,000.
However, the PRCA benefited primarily white males, as the diverse groups who had once competed in rodeo were largely absent from the arena. Native Americans now have their own rodeo organization, and have shown little interest in PRCA activities. Records give no indication of institutional racism on the part of the PRCA, although anecdotal evidence suggests that individual rodeo committees sometimes did discriminate against African Americans and Hispanics in the fifties and sixties. Nonetheless, black and Hispanic cowboys have won the PRCA worlds championships, with Leo Camarillo taking the team roping title five times, and earning fifteen consecutive trips to the NFR.
Women realized it would be up to them to get back into the mainstream of the sport. Following a successful all-girl rodeo, many of the participants met in 1948 to form what is now the WPRA. The organization aimed to provide women the opportunity to compete in legitimate, sanctioned contests at PRCA rodeos and in rough stock and roping events at all-girl rodeos. While prize money from all-girl rodeos never provided participants with enough money to meet expenses, the WPRA was highly successful in restoring cowgirl contests to PRCA rodeos. Barrel racing was the most popular WPRA contest and it spread rapidly throughout the country. In 1955, PRCA president Bill Linderman and WPRA president Jackie Worthington signed an historic agreement that remained in effect for half a century. It urged the inclusion of WPRA barrel racing at PRCA rodeos, and required that women’s events at PRCA rodeos conform to WPRA rules and regulations. Following a lengthy campaign, barrel racing was added to the NFR in 1968.
Although the barrel race was in the NFR, cowgirls’ prize money was far below that of cowboys. The gender equity movement led the WPRA in 1980 to send an ultimatum to 650 rodeo committees nationwide that if prizes were not equal by 1985, the WPRA would not participate. There was almost universal compliance, except for the NFR. The WPRA obtained corporate sponsors to increase their NFR purse to that of the team ropers, the lowest paid cowboy participants, whose already small purse had to be split between the two team members. At the 1997 NFR, cowboys and cowgirls led by team roper Matt Tyler threatened to strike unless they received equal prize money. This cooperative effort resulted in successful negotiations. Since 1998, the NFR has paid equal money to all participants. The additional funding comes from the sale of special luxury seats.
Current situation in professional rodeoThe WPRA recently emerged victorious in a struggle with the PRCA that might have been their undoing. After lengthy negotiations, the PRCA in 2007 severed relations with the WPRA. They formed a women's subsidiary, Professional Women's Barrel Racing or PWBR, with whom they would work in the future.
After almost a year of litigation, on Devember 6, 2007, it was announced that a Colorado Springs jury had awarded the WPRA $6.8 million in its lawsuit against the PRCA. This was a stunning setback for the PRCA, and an historic one for the WPRA. It also brought all parties back to the bargaining table. On January 23, 2008, the WPRA, PWBR, and PRCA announced the resolution of all litigation, and the merger of PWBR and WPRA. Through 2019, the WPRA will be the final sanctioning body for NFR barrel racing.
Future of professional rodeo
The WPRA and PBR are in the strongest positions at present. The PRCA, having settled its differences with the WPRA and gotten out of the barrel racing business, can now concentrate on cowboys, and the growing challenge from the PBR. Evidently in response to the PBR success, the PRCA introduced its own bull riding competition, Xtreme Bulls Tour, in 2003. Recently renamed the Dodge Xtreme Bulls Ride Hard Tour, it holds its finals in Reno, Nevada. One incentive this tour offers cowboys is that unlike PBR winnings, money they earn on Xtreme Bulls counts toward the NFR and the PRCA worlds championship. Whether this action will stem the exodus of top riders to the PBR remains to be seen. The NFR purse of a little over 5 million dollars must still be split among the top fifteen athletes in seven events, while the PBR pays its World Champion a million dollar bonus.
By 2006, both the PBR and PRCA had achieved year-round television coverage for their events, some live, some tape delay, some network and some cable. The PRCA has finally gotten some of its NFR go-rounds telecast live, albeit on ESPN2. The PRCA recently added 32 weeks of regular season rodeos on the Versus Channel, including Cheyenne Frontier Days and the $1 million RodeoHouston. Ten years ago the PRCA had none of these things. But despite this progress, confusion reigns for bull riding. The current situation mirrors the pre-PRCA era of rodeo and creates a definite problem: who is the real World Champion?
This chaos does not help a sport that wants to grow and attract new audiences. To survive in the twenty-first century, rodeo organizations must meet the challenges of animal rights groups. However, other issues have become more pressing. Nostaglia for the mythic West is quickly fading away, and fewer people are attracted to a sport that reflects that lifestyle. The PBR has enjoyed success by adding another audience altogether—one drawn to extreme sports, whether on, snow, water, concrete, or dirt. It is noteworthy that the most successful rodeo event of the twenty-first century is the oldest contest of them all: bull riding, which was introduced to North America by the conquistadores in the sixteenth century.
Animal cruelty controversiesCharges that rodeos are cruel to the animals involved are not new, and some practices justly warranted scrutiny. Concerns about animal cruelty were raised as far back as 1886. In 1924, author John Galsworthy and Henry Nevinson, a journalist, publicly condemned rodeo for its cruelty. One year later, Wisconsin Governor John Elaine vetoed a bill aimed against rodeos.In 1927, the Chicago Anti-Rodeo League formed. Over the years, conditions for animals in rodeo and many other sporting events improved. Today, the PRCA and other rodeo sanctioning organizations have stringent regulations to ensure rodeo animals' welfare. For example, these rules require, among other things, provisions for injured animals, a veterinarian's presence at all rodeos (a similar requirement exists for other equine events), and spurs with dulled, free-spinning rowels. Rodeo competitors in general have a high level of esteem for the animals with which they work.
However, a number of humane and animal rights organizations have policy statements that oppose many rodeo practices, and often the events themselves. Some also claim that these regulations vary from vague to ineffective, and are frequently violated.
In response to these concerns, a number of cities and states, mostly in the eastern half of the United States, have passed ordinances and laws governing rodeo. Pittsburgh, for example, specifically prohibits electric prods or shocking devices, flank or bucking straps, wire tie-downs, and sharpened or fixed spurs or rowels. Pittsburgh also requires humane officers be provided access to any and all areas where animals may go—specifically pens, chutes, and injury pens. Other locales have similar ordinances and laws.
Positions taken by animal welfare organizationsThere are three basic areas of concern to various groups. The first set of concerns surround relatively common rodeo practices, such as the use of bucking straps, also known as flank straps, the use of metal or electric cattle prods, and tail-twisting. The second set of concerns surround non-traditional rodeo events that operate outside the rules of sanctioning organizations. These are usually amateur events such as mutton busting, calf dressing, wild cow milking, calf riding, chuck wagon races, and other events designed primarily for publicity, half-time entertainment or crowd participation. Finally, some groups consider some or all rodeo events themselves to be cruel, including Calf roping, steer roping, and the "rough stock" events.
Groups such as PETA, SHARK, and the Humane Society of the United States generally take a position of opposition to all rodeos and rodeo events.
A more general position is taken by the ASPCA, simply opposing rodeo events that "involve cruel, painful, stressful and potentially harmful treatment of livestock, not only in performance but also in handling, transport and prodding to perform." The group singles out children’s rodeo events such as goat tying, calf riding and sheep riding (“mutton busting”), "which do not promote humane care and respect for animals."
The American Humane Association (AHA) does not appear to oppose rodeos per se, though they have a general position on events and contests involving animals, stating that "when animals are involved in entertainment, they must be treated humanely at all times." The AHA also has strict requirements for the treatment of animals used for rodeo scenes in movies, starting with the rules of the PRCA and adding additional requirements consistent with the association's other policies.
Unique among animal protection groups, the ASPCA specifically notes that practice sessions are often the location of more severe abuses than competitions. However, many state animal cruelty laws provide specific exemptions for "training practices." The American Humane Association is the only organization addressing the legislative issue, advocating the strengthening of animal cruelty laws in general, with no exceptions for "training practices."
Independent viewsThose outside either set of interest groups note that actual treatment of animals at rodeos can be found in economics. Severe animal cruelty at a North American-style rodeo is simply not profitable. Rodeo stock is an investment, and stock contractors who supply the best quality animals, who allow competitors to obtain the highest scores, particularly in the "rough stock" events, are the ones hired by rodeos. The injury rate of animals is also relatively low. In 1994, a survey of 28 sanctioned rodeos was conducted by on-site independent veterinarians. Reviewing 33,991 animal runs, the injury rate was documented at .00047 percent, or less than five-hundredths of one percent.
Myths and actual modern practiceSome accusations of cruelty are based on misunderstanding. For example, it is a myth that a bucking horse is a wild, terrified animal. The modern bronc is not a truly feral horse. Most bucking horses today are specifically bred for use in rodeos. A proven bucking horse can be sold for $8000 to $10,000, making "rough stock" a valuable investment worth caring for and keeping in good health for many years.. Likewise, bucking bulls are also selectively bred. Most are allowed to grow up in a natural, semi-wild condition on the open range, but also have to be gentled and tamed in order to be managed from the ground, safely loaded into trailers, vaccinated and wormed, and to load in and out of bucking chutes.
Young bucking horses are initially introduced to work with cloth dummies attached to the saddle. Due to the rigors of travel and the short bursts of high intensity work required, most horses in a bucking string are at least 6 or 7 years old before they are used extensively, and are expected to be sound performers for many years. Likewise, some bulls appear to understand that their "job" is to throw the rider and have learned not to buck when in the chute.
Industry positionAdvocates for rodeo state that sick, injured, hungry, or severely abused animals cannot perform well in a given event. Rough stock must be healthy and well fed to give the cowboy a powerful and challenging ride sufficient to obtain a high score. The bucking strap has to be an incentive to an animal that already wants to buck off a rider, not a prod, or the animal will either flee the pain, not buck, quickly sour and refuse to work, regardless of any pain that might be inflicted.
The PRCA emphasizes that they first promulgated rules for proper and humane treatment of livestock in 1947, a full 7 years before the founding of the Humane Society of the United States.
On the other hand, there are occasions of rule violations and animal mistreatment at sanctioned rodeos. However, the major national rodeos are also under the most intense scrutiny and are the most likely to rigorously follow the rules. Rodeos not subject to the rules of the PRCA or other organizations, and rodeos outside of the United States and Canada, where animal cruelty laws are weaker, are more likely to be the sites of abusive practices. However, animal rights groups are less likely to target these cases.
Rodeos worldwideThere are thousands of rodeos held worldwide each year.
- Australian Professional Rodeo Association
- All Indian Rodeo Cowboys Association
- Canadian Cowboys Association
- Canadian Professional Rodeo Association
- Cowboy's Professional Rodeo Association
- European Rodeo Cowboy Association
- International Gay Rodeo Association
- International Professional Rodeo Association
- National Finals Rodeo (NFR) information
- National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA)
- National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association [(NIRA)
- National Senior Pro Rodeo Association (NSPRA)
- New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Association (NZRCA)
- Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association http://www.prorodeo.org/ (PRCA)]
- [[Professional Bull Riders (PBR)
- Women's Professional Rodeo Association
- Working Ranch Cowboys Association (WPRA)
- United States Team Roping Championships
- National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum
- PRCA Animal Welfare Rules: Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association
- Animal Interest Alliance : Rodeo Horses are Bred to Buck?
- Rodeo Animal Injury Survey
- Animal Welfare Factsheet
- RodeoAbuse.com undercover investigation of rodeo abuse in Ohio
- Shark Online
- Buck The Rodeo
rodeos in Bulgarian: Родео (спорт)
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