Horses neighing, ropes and lassos, and cowboys clad in boots and hats! Boys with accents and loaded pistols, and their shirts tucked smartly in their jeans. Isn’t this the picture that immediately comes to mind with the mention of the Wild West? The Wild West only gets wilder once you get to know how interestingly peculiar they culturally are from the rest of America. They have been seen as unruly and lawless with distinct manners that could not be tamed or regulated. Thus, it only makes more sense that the Wild West boys would have come up with a sport like the ‘Rodeo’.
Let’s get to the bottom of this; how did it come into being? Is there any significant history or events attached to it? And how are these Wild West Rodeos seen by the rest of the country.
Let’s Begin from the Top
The word ‘Rode’o itself comes from the Spanish word, ‘rodear’ that literally means ‘to encircle’ or a ‘cattle round up’. The first rodeos were held for entertainment purposes but only among the ranch boys. Cowboys would get together and hold competitions testing each other’s horse riding skills among other cattle work and ranch related contests.
The first ever rodeo that was held for public spectators was not even called a rodeo at that time and was supposed to be held for the 4th of July in Pecos, Texas. But the first actual exhibition that also had ‘cash prizes’ was held in Prescott, Arizona Territory on the same date in 1888. Mainly because of the popularity of the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show along with a few other travelling shows, it was then established that the western towns should have annual Cowboy Tournaments. That is when and how the rest of the rodeos began to take place around the West, like Cheyenne, Wyoming, Calgary Stampede and other Round-ups and Frontier Days, etc. The name Rodeo was first introduced for these cowboy exhibitions in 1916. The indoor Stockyards Coliseum was held at Fort Worth, Texas in 1917.
Rodeos in the early days would have Chuckwagon races, and Markmanship contests which were designed in a similar sequence to the show it was inspired from — Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Shows.
Today, many animals’ right activists find it quite disgraceful and an act of barbarianism considering the way the animals (baby cows) are being treated and violated. Countless animals are being mistreated to satisfy and amuse a group of spectators, and of course for the rodeo industry to make money. The rodeos today include, bull riding, calf roping, steer wrestling and bronc riding that is a clear mistreatment of the animals.
In today’s so called civilized and modern world, such events seem no different than the barbaric events held in the Colosseum where the gladiator would die fighting for freedom with all odds deliberately against him. However, animal rights activists have not been able to justify their claims of rodeo being cattle brutality, but the debate continues between the rodeo industry and the activists.