The history of rodeo

Boots with the Spurs

Cow hooves running, mud flinging, boots spurring and crowds screaming can be found in today's competition called a rodeo. Where did this horsemanship originate? What started this popular event? How did it evolve into this outrageous form of entertainment that so many people enjoy? What people rose to the top and became famous celebrities in the rodeo world? The power of strong horsemanship in Rodeo makes it a very entertaining events that has a lot of history and background that makes it the sport it is today.

The word rodeo comes from the word "rodear" and pronounced "ro-day-oh". In the early 1800's the Spanish owned large portions of the American West country. These land owners were of noble descent where horsemanship skills were handed down for centuries. Many Spanish men owned Ranchos, or ranches in which they would hold annual roundups for the cattle herd. In early history, what are now known as cowboys were called Vaqueros were employed by the ranch owners with the main duty being cattle collecting. The Spanish men chased cattle throughout the west where they spent much time in the saddle spinning a rope and catching the cow (Ralph). These early day cowboys had to practice roping daily until they could rope the head of a cow every time and would often show off during the range trips. At the end of the annual round up, small compititions were done between the men displaying their horsemanship and roping abilities. As more cattle came into the west so did the market for meat and the need for more ranches and cowboys with this special skill. The Spanish were the first to teach the art roping to their cowboys (Martinez).

After the Civil War, the population of the American Cowboy grew in numbers as did the ranges and American's love of beef. When America took over Mexico's lands in 1848, cowboys would travel on cattle drives in the west, stealing the Spanish cattle and selling them in the local stockyard (Ralph). During this period is when cowboy competition started between the western men. After completion the cattle rounding up, cowboys would start having competitions with each other to see who could throw the best rope on a cow or do cutting to see whose horse could best move the cattle. After the technology of the railroad, cowboys lost their job in the cattle business and had to go find new jobs (Quaid).

The infancy of rodeo started with Buffalo Bill. Cowboys were able to supplement their dwindling income in the small towns that had what was known as Stock Horse Shows. Cowboys did business by sell their stock horses but first had to show off their horsemanship. Buffalo Bill Cody planned and organized these gathering and turned this business into "The Wild West" (Martinez). The Organization consisted of some competition, theater, and different riding skills. Cowboys from all around would ride their specially trained horses and show off their abilities. These shows would include cutting, roping and western showmanship. These things appearing in The Wild West shows still remain in today's Rodeo. It was between 1890 and 1950 when the first rodeo association was created and rodeo was recognized. The Rodeo Association of America was started in 1929 and implemented ground rules for competitions being held (Clark).

One event that changed rodeo history was The Turtle Strike. A group of about 60 cowboys became fuming mad when promoters refused to advertise rodeo and continued to make high profits from their events. These cowboys wanted their entry fees to be added to the winning pot. The cowboys decided not to compete so W.T. Johnson ,the leader of the Garden Rodeo, tried to find replacements without luck and finally gave in to the cowboys' demands . After the group of cowboys got there way they started up a group called Cowboy Turtle Association. The cowboys called themselves "Turtles" because even though it was slow to organize, the men finally stuck their necks out and received what they wanted. In 1945, they changed their name to Rodeo Cowboys Association. If it were not for this event, there would not be money awards resulting in less interest for the competitors. After The Turtle Strike event happened, rodeo really began to grow (Martinez).

There are several events that make up rodeo today. The basic ones include barrel racing, team roping, break-away, steer wrestling, tie down roping, bull riding, and bronc riding. Each event has its own guidelines and rules. Barrel racing was created in the 1940's when woman wanted to add some color into the rough and dirty sport of Rodeo. It has become the highest paying event in rodeo history. Each rider must complete a clover leaf pattern without knocking over a barrel. It is a timed event with the fastest winning run winning the competition. Steer wrestling or also known as Bulldogging is the hardest sport in rodeo and started in the 1930's. To complete this event you must have strength and courage to jump off your horse and onto the back of a steer. If you miss the steer you are eliminated. The event is timed with fastest time wins (Clark).

Bull riding is the most popular even in rodeo. The adrenalin to stay on a bucking bull for eight seconds is the excitement for the rider and the crowd. The strength and courage to ride a huge bull makes the sport so unique. Each rider must ride for eight seconds for the score to count and have one hand in the air remaining at all times. If both hands go on the bull rope you are eliminated and you don't get a score. Lane Frost has become a crowd favorite in this sport. Another popular event in Rodeo is saddle bronc and bareback bronc. Before it was even considered as event many cowboys would take an unbroken horse and ride it. Having the horse buck was considered bronc riding. The event rules run on the same terms as bull riding. You must stay one 8 seconds without falling off.

Most events that take place in Rodeo today are roping events. Team roping is the only team event in rodeo. It consists of two people. In the team you have a "header" who catches the head of the calf, and a "footer" who catches the feet. The header will catch first, then the footer. Break-away roping is a simple event. After exiting the box you are timed until you rope your cow and the rope break off your saddle. The last roping event is tie down roping. The adrenaline to rope a cow plus tackle it to the ground takes a lot of power for the cowboy and horse. A cowboy is timed to rope his calf, jump off his horse, tackle the calf and tie 3 of its legs. The fastest time wins the event.

Rodeo has a lot of history to its name. If it wasn't for the Spanish men learning to rope and chase cattle, or the fuming Turtle Strike, rodeo would not be the same. Many people including Buffalo Bill have made rodeo the special event people in today's society enjoy watching.

Works Cited

  • QUAID, RONDA. "A tip of the hat to the vaqueros." Coastline. Santa Barbara News Press and Imago Internet Marketing, 1996. Web. 26 Apr 2010. .
  • Martinez, Diana. "Suite101.com." The History Of Rodeo. N.p., 28 April 2000. Web. 26 Apr 2010. .
  • Clark, Ralph. "Rodeo History." New York Times Company 10 March 2010: 1-3. Web. 26 Apr 2010. .

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