Great American Pastimes: The Rodeo

Great American Pastimes: The Rodeo

The Rodeo is a competitive sport that originated in the American West. In the 1500s as Spaniards settled in the region, they brought along their horses and cattle to run their ranches. Typical ranching duties for early cattleman included riding horses, branding, roping, and herding cattle. Overtime this would lead to informal competitions to test skills between cattleman. By the late 1800s, the popularity had led to formal rodeo competitions offering prize money and charging admission. The history of the rodeo is also closely intermingled with the history of the cowboy. Early cattlemen working on Spanish ranches were usually of Native American or Mexican descent. As English settlers expanded westward, cultures, lifestyles, and traditions merged somewhat leading to the rise of the American cowboy.

Today rodeos are not just popular in the American West; their appeal has spread all across the United States, Canada, and other regions of the world. Rodeos are administered and sanctioned by various associations including state and local associations. Associations for high school students, college students, women, seniors, minorities, and gay riders are also in existence. The largest rodeo association, however, is the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). To compete professionally in the PRCA, amateurs start by purchasing a permit, this allows them to participate in professional rodeo events which award prize money. Throughout the year, professionals compete in various regional rodeos where they have a chance to earn prize money, the total earned determines contestants rankings. The season concludes, by the top ranked players competing in the National Rodeo Finals to determine the world champion.

Rodeos are not one event but a combination of various events. Some contestants may only focus on one event while others compete in several. The most popular rodeo event is bull riding where the contestant rides the back of bucking bull with only one hand allowed to hold a rope attached to the bull. Other events include timed events like roping a calf. For women, the primary sanctioned event is barrel racing, an event where horse and rider race around a group of barrels set a certain distance apart with the goal of getting the fastest completion time. Top rodeo events are usually televised and watched by millions. The top contestants typically compete in over 100 rodeos each year, and top winners may walk away with annual earnings of over $100,000. 

History

Rodeo Annual Competitions

Rodeo Events

Rodeo Publications

Rodeo Associations & Organizations

Rodeo & Cowboy Culture

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