Rodeo is a traditional North American sport, where cowboys, and cowgirls exhibit their skills in different challenging events. Events include riding broncos and steers, “bulldogging” steers, roping and tying steers and calves, and other activities. Traditionally, there are seven events in a rodeo, divided into two basic categories – roughstock events and timed events.
- Bull riding
- Saddle bronc
- Barrel racing
- Calf roping
- Steer wrestling
- Team roping
Major rodeo associations like the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and the International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) sanction these events. Some rodeos like the Cheyenne Frontier Days offer non-sanctioned events like the Chuck Wagon Racing or the Wild Horse Race. Annual rodeos are a regular feature in the West; in the East the rodeos normally travel like the circus and take place in indoor arenas.
A rodeo school would help develop skills necessary to compete in the contests. Having friends who compete in rodeos is an asset, because you can borrow equipment and get helpful coaching. The PRCA has very strict guidelines regarding the treatment of animals in the rodeo and enforces measures to ensure their safety. Rodeo appeared in the 2002 Olympics as a demonstration sport.
In the early days, the annual round up and branding of cattle was an occasion for a display of horsemanship and roping. When the main events were over, there was a display of skills by the cowboys. Stock horse shows became regular in small towns throughout the West and were a source of extra income for the cowboys. Showmen like Buffalo Bill Cody organized and elaborated on these events. Soon America’s fascination with the ‘Wild West’ became a lucrative business.
To regulate the activities, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association was formed in 1936. The organization was the result of a walkout by a group of cowboys, who wanted their entry fees to be added to the prize money. It was called the Cowboys Turtle Association and was later renamed the Rodeo Cowboys Association in 1945. In 1975, it was renamed the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Though rodeo has its roots in stock horse shows, it has evolved into a distinct sport.
National Finals Rodeo
The National Finals Rodeo is held at Las Vegas every year. The 2003 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo was held from December 5-14 at the Thomas & Mack Center at Las Vegas, Nevada. Cody Ohl of Stephenville, Texas set a world record of 6.5 seconds in the tie-down roping event and won the world championship. Cody finished the season with a win of $212, 366 ahead of his best friend Fred Whitfield of Hockley, Texas who finished second with $200, 656. Speed Williams of Amarillo, Texas and Rich Skelton of Llano, Texas won their seventh consecutive world championship for team roping, thus equaling the all-time record for world titles held by Jake Barnes of Scottsdale, Arizona and Clay O'Brien Cooper of Glen Rose, Texas. Dan Mortensen of Billings, Montana won his sixth world championship as a saddle bronc rider to tie the late Casey Tibbs for the most world titles in the event. In bull riding, Terry Don West of Henryetta, Oklahoma, completed his dominating season with the world championship. Will Lowe of Canyon, Texas won the bareback world championship. Janae Ward of Addington, Oklahoma won the barrel racing world championship with a dominating NFR performance.
Association for the college rodeo is The National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) which is the governing body of this competition in United States . The NIRA was officially started in August 1949 and the first College National Finals Rodeo was held in the same year in San Francisco, California. Harley May of Sul Ross State University was the first NIRA All Around Champion. Both professional and college rodeo saw steady growth in the 1960s. Hewlett Packard and Montana State University’s electrical engineering department in 1971 developed the first computer scoring system for the College National Finals Rodeo. The underlying theme of college rodeo is to preserve the Western heritage.
Rodeo sport is both thrilling and challenging. Events like steer wrestling, team roping and calf roping are timed in a rodeo competition. Steer wrestling is also called bulldogging and is an exciting event. The steers typically weigh between 500 and 700 pounds and the steer wrestlers typically weigh 200-275 pounds. Team roping is also called heading and heeling. It takes about
4 to 12 seconds for a professional team for roping. Calf roping takes just 7 to 10 seconds for a professional.
National Rodeo Association
To encourage some form of regulation in the sport of rodeo, professional organizations were formed. Such organizations make sure that the competitors are qualified, the animal stock contractors are regulated, and that the rules and judging guidelines of each event are clear both to the competitor and the judge.
The National Rodeo Association was formed in the year 1987 as the Northern Plains Rodeo Association. The name was changed in 1995 to reflect the expansion and growth of the Association. The NPRA sanctions Rodeo and Bull-A-Rama events in many states across the Upper Midwest. 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 recent organization dedicated to Bull Riding and puts on a number of events. There are also high school and college rodeos, amateur rodeos and rodeos for women.
Many rodeos are held throughout the United States and Canada. The most prominent are the Calgary Stampede; Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming; the National Western Stock Show in Denver and the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in Las Vegas, Nevada. The NFR is held each December at the Thomas and Mack Center and features the top 15 (in terms of earnings) competitors from each of the events. The National Little Britches Rodeo Association is the oldest national junior rodeo association in the United States. The NLBRA has three age divisions: The Little Wranglers, Ages 5-7, Juniors, Ages 8-13, and Seniors, Ages 14-18. The National Little Britches Finals Rodeo is tentatively scheduled for the last week of July (25-31) 2004 and is planned to be held in Colorado Springs, Colorado at Penrose Stadium.
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