What “Rodeo” Means
The word “rodeo” comes from the Spanish language word “rodeo”, which roughly translates into “round up”. Rodeo in Spanish language refers to the process wherein vaqueros (a horse-mounted livestock herder) gather cattle for a variety of purposes such as moving them to another location, preparation for slaughter and separating the herd according to their ownership. The term also refers to the skill exhibited by vaqueros in rounding up the cattle.
Rodeo, the Sport
Today, it refers to a competitive sport where cowboy skills are publically displaced, usually in the form of a competition. Rodeos are typically held from spring through fall. It has become a popular sport and is now the third most watched sport in North America. Rodeo tickets remain quite in demand with these events often being sold out events.
Dating back to the 1820s and 1830s, rodeos were informal events where cowboys in northern Mexico and western United States tested their rounding up skills against each other. It was more of a matter of pride.
The first rodeo competition was held in 1872 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. However, it was in 1888 in Prescott, Arizona, where the first professional rodeo was held. The event had admission fee and it also awarded trophies.
From 1890 to 1910, rodeos became the major source of entertainment and had stars of its own such as Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill Cody and others. Sometimes these events were held in conjunction with Wild West shows. By 1910, rodeo had become a popular competitive sport with the establishment of various rodeos such as the Cheyenne Frontier Days, the Pendleton Round-Up, and the Calgary Stampede.
With time, rodeo’s popularity grew far and wide to big eastern cities such as New York. Madison Square Garden played an instrumental role in popularizing this sport on the east coast. However, rodeo, remain to this day, a west coast sport.
In the 1970’s, rodeos started to get time on television as well, as a result of which it grew exponentially. The new breed of cowboys was essentially urban and young. They became cowboys for the rewards the sport offered, rather than their cattle herding background. By 1985, one third of the members of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA - the oldest rodeo-managing body) had some college education, while half of all competitors had never worked on a ranch.
Some present day rodeos are held inside large, air-conditioned arenas, broadcast on television and promise a heft prize to the winner. However, traditional rodeos are still held and are as popular as ever with crowds that prefer watching it in the outdoor, in heat, dust and cold.
Women in Rodeo
Traditionally competitive sports have been dominated by men, but not rodeo. “Prairie Rose” Henderson in 1901 debuted at the Cheyenne rodeo. By 1920, women were participating in trick riding, relay races, and rough stock events. However, after two fatal accidents, women’s participation in competitive rodeo was restricted. As a result, women formed their own rodeo organizations and organized their own events. Women, today participate in mainstream rodeo, albeit in selected events such as barrel racing, while goat tying and breakaway roping is organized at lower and collegiate levels. In the team roping event, women compete equally with men. Sometimes, team roping events have mixed-sex teams.
In the United States, professional rodeos are regulated by two associations – the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA). Rodeo events are also organized for children’s, seniors, and college and high school students. There are different governing bodies for these rodeos. Native Americans have their own rodeo association.
Since rodeos involve animals, therefore, protests regarding animal cruelty were first raised in the 1870s. By the 1930s, some states enacted laws restricting rodeo events involving animals. In the 1950s, the American Humane Association (AHA) along with the then Rodeo Cowboys Association (RCA) drafted rules to safeguard animal welfare. As a result, conditions for animals in rodeo and related events improved. Today, PRCA and other rodeo governing bodies have stringent rules to ensure animal welfare.
Laws regulating the use of animals in rodeo are not uniform. In some states and cities, these laws are more stringent than in others. Some states have banned certain rodeo events all together. However, it is worth mentioning here that AHA does not demand the banning of rodeo.
As the rodeo season typically starts in spring and lasts through fall, various rodeo events are held all over the US, especially in western United States. Get your Rodeo tickets to see the action live.