When we think of the rodeo, our first thoughts turn to the American West, of rodeo riders who pit their strength against bucking broncos and bulls. From their leather cowboy boots to the wide Stetson hat, the image is one of the most iconic in the US.
These contests have been performed in the US for around 200 years, but other countries such as Canada, South America and Australia also have their own rodeo contests. The term ‘rodeo’ is taken from the Spanish ‘to round up’, and rodeos have formed around the working skills of needed by ranchers. While the rodeo is designed as a public spectacle, each event has a basis in practicality.
Because the world of ranching is open to women as well as men, and has been since its earliest days. Perhaps the most famous female rodeo rider is Annie Oakley, who’s ranching skills were second to her superb marksmanship. This made her a celebrity on both sides of the Atlantic, thanks to the tours of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in the late 1800s.
Rodeo riding today
To this day, the rodeo is a big draw for those who enjoy the action and spectacle of these exciting events. Large turn outs are usually populated by families, making them great days out. The Rodeo is often a full day of events, which are mostly timed, incorporating a wide range of skills and talents
Many rodeo events are centered around roping, one of the core skills required for any cowboy and cowgirl. With cows and bulls roaming across large expanses of land, the task of bringing an animal in can be a tough one. Sometimes animals will need to be roped for medical treatment, as well as branding. To perform this task, a lasso – a rope with a loop at the end – is used to catch an animal around the head or horns with a deft throw.
In rodeo competitions, there are various different events to reflect the use of roping in a working environment. The oldest of these is Calf Roping, whereby a running calf is lassoed. The cowboy or cowgirl dismounts the horse, which has now stopped, and ropes the calf. He or she has to wrestle it to the ground and tie three of its feet together. The horse is also a key part of the process, as it should be able to keep the rope taut, backing up to help with roping.
There are many other events in the rodeo, including Barrel Racing, which involves the horse and rider avoiding a formation of barrels. A far more dangerous event is Steer Wrestling, or ‘Bulldogging’. A rider jumps from their horse onto a Corriente cow, and wrestles it to the ground by its horns. There are many things that could go wrong taking part in the event from serious injury to fatality. Such is the life of the rodeo rider!
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