Life in the USA
Rodeo today is a popular sport, particularly in the western United States and neighboring
areas of western Canada and northern Mexico. Through much of North America's history,
cowboys (vaqueros in Spanish) developed and perfected a complicated set of roping
and riding skills to deal with horses and cattle. Informal competitions to prove athletic
prowess and skill were the inevitable result, leading to today's modern sport. The word
“rodeo” is of Spanish origin and is pronounced with the stress on the first
syllable. In rodeo, all the participants and many of the spectators wear
“western-wear”, or cowboy outfits.
The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), sanctions many of the nation's major
rodeos, including the world championship held each year in Las Vegas. Professional Bull
Riders (PBR) is of recent vintage and deals solely with the rough and tumble sport of bull
Major rodeo events include:
In addition to competitive events, rodeos may see a bit of pageantry, including exhibitions of
trick riding and trick roping. When they are not protecting riders, rodeo clowns may actually
amuse the audience by clowning around and poking fun at cowboys and rodeo events.
Musical performances, usually involving “country and western” music, may
occur. Rodeos vary in size from those taking place in major sports arenas down to local
“dirt” rodeos, and every size in between.
- Bronc riding, in which the participant must successfully ride a bucking bronco
horse, either bareback or using a saddle, for a minimum of eight seconds, earning additional
points based on the judges' assessment of form and skill. The sport arose from the necessity
among cowboys to “break” a wild horse by getting it used to a rider.
- Bull riding. The cowboy must remain atop an enraged bull for eight seconds, and
do so skillfully to earn maximum points. This sport can be dangerous or sometimes fatal. Bull
riding is a world apart. For safety reasons, brightly attired “rodeo clowns” act
to distract the bull after the cowboy has gotten down from the animal or been “bucked
off,” allowing handlers to coax the dangerous animal back into an enclosure. Unlike
bronco riding, bull riding has no basis in real-world cowboy skills. Because of the intensity of
the sport, the raising of these specialty bulls is big business. Certain very difficult bulls may
become famous in their own right. Bull riding may take place as one event during a general
rodeo, although in recent years specialized bull riding tournaments have become common.
- Calf roping. Cowboys on the range often need to rope a calf in order to subdue it
for branding or other purposes. In the sport, the cowboy on a well-trained horse ropes the
running calf, wrestles it to the ground it, and ties three of its feet together. The cowboy with
the quickest time wins.
- Steer wrestling is also a timed event. Here the cowboy on horseback chases a
steer, jumps to the ground, grabs the steer by the horns and wrestles it to the ground.
Unsurprisingly, steer wresters tend to be big and brawny.
- Barrel racing is largely a women's sport. The cowgirl races a well-trained horse
around a course set with barrels with the aim of completing the course in the quickest time
without knocking any of the barrels over.
A number of animal protection groups have often generated controversy by calling various
rodeo events cruel and lobbying for better treatment of the animals involved in the sport. By
contrast, public concern for the human participants injured or even killed in the sport is
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