The Abusive World of Rodeos

By Megan Drake
June 21, 2010


Rodeos derived from the working practices of cattle herding. Today, they're considered "sporting" events used for human entertainment.  

One of the most iconic events at a rodeo is bronco riding.  A cowboy rides a bucking horse -- holding on with only one hand -- and attempts to stay on the horse's back for eight seconds.  Originally, a working cowboy had a need for horse-breaking skills. But bronco riding today is simply a stylized competition, demanding horses be specifically bred for strength, agility and bucking ability.  The horses used are not feral.

To "mark the horse out" the rider must have the heels of his boots in contact with the horse -- above the point of the animals' shoulders -- before the horse's front legs hit the ground.  After a competitor climbs onto a horse -- which is held in a small pipe enclosure called a bucking chute -- the gate of the bucking chute is opened and the horse bursts out and begins to buck. 

Scoring are given on a scale of 0 - 50, for both the rider and the horse. Scores in the 80's are considered quite good and in the 90's outstanding.  The more a horse bucks in a spectacular and effective manner, the higher the score.  A horse bucking in a straight line with no significant changes of direction, will receive a lower score.

SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness), an Illinois-based animal advocacy group, has been documenting abuse at rodeos for years.  Recently, the group released video from the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) in Casper, Wyoming. The footage clearly shows a man using an electric prod on the horses just prior to them leaving the gate for competition.

Remember, it's all about the buck...

While CNFR and other rodeo organizations state they have rules about humane treatment of rodeo animals, how is shooting electricity into the flesh of an animal to force it to move in a certain way considered humane?  The CRA (College Rodeo Association) rules allow electric prodding of a bronco horse if it is stalling -- meaning if it stops moving and will not leave the gate.



It's apparent none of these horses were stalling.  The point made by SHARK is truly telling.  If electrically prodding a rodeo horse is humane, why is this person so obviously trying to hide his act?

Other rodeo events like steer wrestling, team roping, tie down roping (done to a calf), barrel racing and bull riding are all tests of a cowboy's (or cowgirl's) skills and speed.  I have to ask -- what is the point of all of this?  Is there a purpose?  Why put an animal through the danger and stress of rodeo competitions when it is solely for the entertainment of humans? 

Harming animals or even the risk of harming animals is not a good reason to force them to participate in something that does not come naturally to them.  In my opinion, a rodeo is no different from a circus -- animals are used and abused in the name of human entertainment.  Not acceptable. 


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