The Sports Archives – The Life Of A Rodeo Clown

The world of the rodeo is a thrilling and dangerous place. For the riders, riding a bucking bronco or bringing down a hot-headed bull can, if mis-timed, can cause serious injury or worse. Imagine if your job was to distract a bull away from a rider. Imagine the life of a rodeo clown.

The term ‘rodeo clown’ has fallen out of usage over the last 20 years,

Flint Rasmussen in 2007

Flint Rasmussen in 2007

mainly because it doesn’t adequately reflect the importance of the job. They are known broadly as a bullfighter, and the official term is Rodeo Protection Athlete. If a rider has been thrown from a bull, or steer, the bullfighter must draw attention away from the rider as he scrambles to safety.

It’s not common for a rodeo bullfighter to suffer injuries during the course of these acts. As they throw themselves into the eye line of an angry bull, there is also the possibility of a fatality. To do such a job, these men must have keen athleticism, with agility and speed a priority. These skills alone will not be enough, as the athlete will also need to have knowledge of how a bull ticks. He must be able to understand the bull’s body language to be able to predetermine its next move.

Rodeo clowns today

Although Rodeo Protection Athletes no longer take on the rodeo clown persona as much as they used to, there are still some rodeo clowns out there. A rodeo clown has a bit more diversity to the job, as he not only provides a distraction for the bull, but entertainment for the crowds too. More often, the rodeo clown takes on the role of a mascot, designed to keep up the audience’s good humor. For many modern rodeos, they will hire a clown, which has a different job to the rodeo bullfighter.

They may also have rodeo barrelmen; a barrelman has is an all-rounder that can step in to do the comic role as well as providing assistance to the bullfighter. He’s called the barrelman because of the big foam barrel that he wears. This extra padding isn’t tightly fitted, and allows the barrelman to jump in and out of it easily. The rodeo teams tend to work in small groups, usually no more than three, to monitor the event closely.

While the job of the rodeo clown has changed and diversified over the years, it is still a key part of the rodeo experience.


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