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Rodeo Season Update: Injuries and Deaths Pile Up

August 1, 2013

Recently, I blogged on the Underbelly of Rodeos: Busting the American Myth and feel the need for an update as here we are in early August, and already the horrific occurrences of abuse, injuries and deaths are significant. I've read a lot about "freak accidents" at rodeos, and how shocked and horrified rodeo people are when... sigh... that gosh darn animal got his neck snapped -- who would have thought roping a calf or steer around his neck and violently jerking him off his feet may break his neck! Certainly, it would appear not the "cowboys" who have caused it and seen it happen time and time again, and yet still remain bemused by the apparent "freak accident."

To understand the overall picture of rodeos, and not be swayed by any apparent excuses that these "accidents" are "one-off incidents" it is important I think to endure a litany of recent injuries and death. It is otherwise hard to comprehend just how much of a cowardly show most rodeos are. As the rodeo spin-doctors deny all, the reported animal deaths and injuries appear to be just the tip of a very large iceberg whose depths are as yet, officially unreported.

The June Reno Rodeo chose to instigate a ban on cameras this year, but that did not stop extremely abusive behavior being caught on a cell phone camera by local residents Ellie and Steven Lopez-Bowlan. The couple was on their way to their seats when they noticed rodeo personnel allegedly shocking and jabbing a horse with a wire prod in his anus! Trapped in a confined chute the horse was in distress and was also seemingly being electro-shocked, pinched and slapped with only one result in mind, to aggravate him into bucking for the audience.

Ellie Lopez-Bowlan was so shocked, and who could blame her, she called down from her vantage point for the men to stop but was immediately harassed by rodeo personnel to get back to her seat. Not so surprisingly, the Reno Rodeo official statement was of surprise and horror -- perhaps a little too surprised given its alleged history of turning a blind eye to the electro-shocking of horses. Even the rodeo veterinarian chimed in with a statement saying the couple was mistaken; he couldn't imagine ANYONE doing such a thing to a horse. The problem with that statement is that the camera doesn't lie, and the evidence was as plain as the nose on his face, so why wasn't he as horrified as any normal person would be and investigate?

Now I guess you could put this down to a one-off event if you weren't paying attention, but lo and behold the same stock contractors, the Flying U Rodeo, turn up at the Ute Stampede Rodeo in Nephi, Utah allegedly abusing another horse with a wire prod in his anus. I cannot fathom anyone having an excuse for the kind of despicable behavior caught on tape, rodeo personnel tying a horse's tail to a gate and repeatedly poking and kicking him on his behind.

According to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle "at least six animals died" during the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo this year. Two steers had their legs broken, an injury which is extremely likely to end in death, another steer suffered a horrible and fatal neck injury when it was roped around the neck and dragged through the mud, its head flopping and lolling about in an utterly heartbreaking scenario. A calf was jerked off the ground in a roping event and landed badly. According to the rodeo, the calf suffered a neck and back "injury" and recovered; however witness Brandon Bohn said he heard an audible snap of the calf's neck and the animal appeared to no longer breathe. It sure doesn't look too good for the calf if you watch the video but hey, would love to hear from the stock contractor to whom the calf was apparently returned to and maybe even read the elusive veterinarian report. During the steer wrestling, a horse died of what the rodeo claims to be a pre-existing heart condition, but as it was being dragged up the trailer ramp, blood was clearly visible which is still unexplained. In the final days, another calf suffered a very severe back injury, which was potentially broken.

July's California Rodeo Salinas fared no better; the injured animal tally included a young steer that was trampled by a horse during a roping event which unfortunately proved fatal. Another calf appeared to have its leg broken and was left to hobble to the pen where it was left for a considerable amount of time with no veterinarian care. On the final day amidst the pomp and circumstance of that ol' Western tradition of glittering bulls, when bulls get sprayed in the face and eyes with an aerosol can and sprinkled with glitter, another calf was injured during the roping event, unable to stand he was hauled away on a tractor and hidden from view, fate again unknown.

At the Calgary Stampede Rodeo 2013 a steer was euthanized after suffering a broken neck. The rodeo veterinarian, Dr. Greg Evans stated that in addition to the severe neck injury the steer was paralyzed and had some systemic system failure. In other words, the contestant wrestled the animal so aggressively he broke the steer's neck and then again acted so surprised such a thing would happen! The rodeo was quick to point out that this kind of injury is rare, but when you put it together with all the other instances of broken necks during steer wrestling and roping events, not so rare.

Unlike the film industry, the rodeo circuit appears to have no accountability when it comes to injuring and killing animals. There was a huge public outcry over three horse deaths during the filming of the TV show Luck. The show was eventually cancelled, but the rodeo sanctioning body, the Professional Cowboys Rodeo Association ignores all complaints and instead just denies everything and closes ranks. As for all those "good" rodeo people who love their animals so much then isn't it time you self policed instead of being so outraged you are tarred with the same brush as those committing heinous animal abuse?


#8 Morgan 2017-11-06 13:25
This is ridiculous. These people and animals compete in sports just as anyone else. There is no abuse but as you all know injuries happen. Look how many injuries happen in the NFL alone. Now combine two minds that cant speak together. That is the beauty of rodeo, two totally different species working together to put on a show for all of you people to just tear us down. Accidents happen, along with injures. If you are an athlete you ARE going to get hurt. There is nothing else to it.
#7 Richard Woolley 2016-05-26 18:30
Slaves have no option but to do their job. Its all about whats in it for the homo sapiens regardless of the consequences to the animals. The general public are either ignorant of these consequences or completely devoid of empathy or both. Rodeo has nothing to do with real cowboys.
#6 Barrels are life 2016-05-25 18:43
You have no right to say any of this. You city people don't see what the people who are supposedly "abusing our animals". We take care of our animals, we don't just leave them to sit there and die. They have acres around them to eat, then they do there jobs. Rodeo is my life, until you know what it's like to be in one or know the actual rodeo life, you have no idea what goes on. Bull riders die for what they love to do, they wouldn't be doing it if they didn't want to.
#5 barrel racer 2016-01-25 12:13
there is nothing wrong with rodeo. i am a daughter of a team roper and i barrel race and starting breakaway. this is my life this is what i do for a living just like other people. rodeo people have more respect for humans and animals then y'all city people. Fallon Taylor and Patrick Smith have made more money then y'all will ever make if you don't like rodeo then don't go to the rodeos. instead of worrying about rodeo why dont people worry about how we have a lying presidental candidate running for office. I rodeo and i love my horse more then anything she is the most spoiled thing i know. i find all kinds of tack and treats for her. the roping steers we have have about 100 acre to eat and do their thing but when its time to rope they do their job. If it was such a bad cruel thing then why did God put this rodeo idea into someones head. God Bless y'all hope y'all find something better to do then mess with history of America.
#4 Bonnie Haskin 2015-09-16 04:13
Thank you for all the work you do to inform people about the horrific violence towards animals at rodeos. Thank you or standing up for the animals, humanity, and justice.

Bonnie in Vancouver, Canada
#3 cheryl travers 2015-09-08 06:46
although the acknowledgment of these things continues to force the culprits into deeper denial. the suffering that you have displayed which occurs is hard not to see. the injustice is done to the individual, but everyone else sees. Their lack of being responsible for their sick actions only continues to degrade their moral fiber, but we can never know this, as we do not walk in their shoes I know this as this lives so blantantly everywhere, and their ego and comfort zone is extended and accepted as a means of entertainment. SICK as we can see, the brutal destruction of beings like this is so incredibly criminal, we can only compare this to doing that to their own children since that is the same, but of course not to them, the calves are insignificant.
Thank you fro the incredible work you do
its stellar and appreciated by many dead and alive.
#2 Lea Buijsse 2014-02-26 07:25
When so many horses and cattle break leggs and die, than you can not call this an accident at work! In Europe we do not have such kind of shows. Electrocuting is forbidden and bucking is not natural for horses, accept when they are angry or extremely happy. When you have to force it, by electroctrocuti ng or slapping and kicking the horse or cattle, than it is called abuse of animals. That is so clear for the rest of the world and that is why we call these kind of Americans really crazy. When these kind of Americans defend the American Tradition it lookes as if there is a really big problem for the USA. It is not advertisement. Also this tradition has it origin in Spanish and Mexican. But anyhow, what the problem is, is that the abuse is very clear and obvious and that this is America's big shame! So change the way of handling and treating horses and cattle. Improve the Tradition, because now it is a really disgusting one now. Nothing to be proud of.
#1 Katy M 2014-02-10 19:04
I am an experienced horse professional and I totally support SHARK and the determination to expose rodeo cruelty! I did an experiment and posted a SHARK bronc riding video I saw on you tube to a very large equestrian Facebook group site in WI and the results were saddening. At least 80% of comments defended rodeo and said it was an accident and the bronc (which badly broke its leg) was just 'doing its job' and 'loved to buck'. They all turn a blind eye to blatant abuse and vehemently defend their 'sport'. They have become so used to the 'mishaps' that they don't see them as a bad thing. It is totally possible to work with horses in humane and fair ways, which don't include electric prods, flank straps, or sharp spurs...

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