History of rodeo

History of rodeo

History of Rodeo tracks the the lineage of modern Western rodeo.

Early history of rodeo

Rodeo stresses its western folk hero image and its being a genuinely American creation. But in fact it grew out of the practices of Spanish ranchers and their Mexican ranch hands ("vaqueros"), a mixture of cattle wrangling and bull fighting that dates back to the sixteenth-century conquistadors.

One of the activities introduced by the Spanish and incorporated into rodeo was bull riding. Another was steer wrestling, involved wrestling the steer to the ground by riding up behind it, grabbing its tail, and twisting it to the ground. [LeCompte, Mary Lou, "The Hispanic Influence on the History of Rodeo, 1823-1922," Journal of Sport History, 12 (Spring 1985): 23. Guarner, Enrique, "Historia del Torreo en Mexico, (Mexico, Editorial Diana, 1979; "Historical Synthesis of Charreria,"Artes de Mexico 90/91, 1967; Steiner, Stan, Dark & Dashing Horsemen, Harper & Row, 1981; Slatta, Richard, Cowboys of the Americas, Yale University Press, 1990.] Bull wrestling had been part of an ancient tradition throughout the ancient Mediterranean world including Spain. The ancient Minoans of Crete practiced bull jumping, bull riding, and bull wrestling. Bull wrestling may have been one of the Olympic sports events of the ancient Greeks. [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0009-840X(1989)2%3A39%3A2%3C297%3ATOG%3E2.0.CO%3B2-T]

The events spread throughout the Viceroyalty of New Spain and was found at fairgrounds, racetracks, fiestas, and festivals in nineteenth century southwestern areas that now comprise the United States. However, unlike the roping, riding, and racing, this contest never attracted a following among Anglo cowboys or audiences. [LeCompte, "Hispanic Influence , 23-30.] It is however a favorite event included in the "charreada", the style of rodeo which originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco. There would probably be no steer wrestling at all in American rodeo were it not for a black cowboy from Texas named Bill Pickett who devised his own unique method of bulldogging steers. He jumped from his horse to a steer’s back, bit its upper lip, and threw it to the ground by grabbing its horns. He performed at local central Texas fairs and rodeos and was discovered by an agent, who signed him on a tour of the West with his brothers. He received sensational national publicity with his bulldogging exhibition at the 1904 Cheyenne Frontier Days. This brought him a contract with the famous 101 Ranch in Oklahoma and its traveling Wild West exhibitions, where he spent many years performing in the United States and abroad.

Pickett attracted many imitators who appeared at rodeos and Wild West shows, and soon there were enough practitioners for promoters to stage contests. [LeCompte. “Bill Pickett,” in Encyclopedia of the American West, ed. Alan Axelrod and Charles Phillips, Macmillan Reference USA. 1996, Vol.3, pp.1291-1292; LeCompte,. “Pickett, William,” in Vol. 5 of The Handbook of Texas, Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1996, 191; "The Story of The Billboard, and Col. W. T. Johnson's Rodeos," The Billboard, 29 October 1934, 75.] The first woman bulldogger appeared in 1913, when the great champion trick and bronc rider and racer Tillie Baldwin exhibited the feat. [LeCompte. “Tillie Baldwin: Rodeo’s Original Bloomer Girl”, in International Encyclopedia of Women and Sports” ed., Karen Christensen, Allen Guttmann, and Gertrud Pfister, Macmillan Reference USA, 2001, 939. ] However, women's bulldogging contests never materialized. But cowboys did take up the sport with enthusiasm but without the lip-biting, and when rodeo rules were codified, steer wrestling was among the standard contests. [LeCompte, Hispanic Influence, 37; Wayne S. Wooden, and Gavin Earinger, Rodeo, in America,Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1996, pp. 20-21. ] Two halls of fame recognize Bill Pickett as the sole inventor of bulldogging, the only rodeo event which can be attributed to a single individual. [National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum," Rodeo Inductees and Honorees: Bill Pickett," sv: http://www.nationalcowboymuseum.org/i_rode.html ( accessed February 13, 2007); e-mail, Tanna Kimble (Prorodeo Hall of Fame) to LeCompte, February 12, 2007]

Rodeo itself evolved after the Texas Revolution and the U.S.-Mexican War when Anglo cowboys learned the skills, attire, vocabulary, and sports of the "vaqueros". Ranch-versus-ranch contests gradually sprang up, as bronc riding, bull riding, and roping contests appeared at race tracks, fairgrounds, and festivals of all kinds. William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) created the first major rodeo and the first Wild West show in North Platte, Nebraska in 1882. Following this successful endeavor, Cody organized his touring Wild West show, leaving other entrepreneurs to create what became professional rodeo. Rodeos and Wild West shows enjoyed a parallel existence, employing many of the same stars, while capitalizing on the continuing allure of the mythic West. Women joined the Wild West and contest rodeo circuits in the 1890s and their participation grew as the activities spread geographically. Animal welfare groups began targeting rodeo from the earliest times, and have continued their efforts with varying degrees of success ever since. [LeCompte, Hispanic Influence, 37; Wooden, and Earinger, Rodeo, in America, 7-16 and 125-134; Kristine Fredriksson, American Rodeo, Texas A&M University Press (1985),134-170]

The word rodeo was only occasionally used for American cowboy sports until the 1920s, and professional cowboys themselves did not officially adopt the term until 1945. Similarly, there was no attempt to standardize the events needed to make up such sporting contests until 1929. From the 1880s through the 1920s, frontier days, stampedes, and cowboy contests were the most popular names. Cheyenne Frontier Days, which began in 1897, remains the most significant annual community celebration even today. Until 1922, cowboys and cowgirls who won at Cheyenne were considered the world’s champions. Until 1912, organization of these community celebrations fell to local citizen committees who selected the events, made the rules, chose officials, arranged for the stock, and handled all other aspects of the festival. Many of these early contests bore more resemblance to Buffalo Bill's Wild West than to contemporary rodeo. While today's PRCA-sanctioned rodeos must include five events: calf roping, bareback and saddle bronc riding, bull riding, and steer wrestling, with the option to also hold steer roping and team roping, their Pre-World War I counterparts often offered only two of these contests. The day-long programs included diverse activities including Pony Express races, nightshirt races, and drunken rides. One even featured a football game. Almost all contests were billed as world's championships, causing confusion that endures to this day. Cowboys and cowgirls often did not know the exact events on offer until they arrived on site, and did not learn the rules of competition until they had paid their entry fees. [LeCompte, "Wild West Frontier Days, Roundups and Stampedes: Rodeo Before there was Rodeo," Canadian Journal of History of Sport, 12 (December 1985): 54-67; LeCompte, Cowgirls at the Crossroads: Women in Professional Rodeo, 1889-1922," Canadian Journal of History of Sport, 14 (December 1989): 27-48]

Before World War II, the most popular rodeo events included trick and fancy roping, trick and fancy riding, and racing. Trick and fancy roping contestants had to make figures and shapes with their lassos before releasing them to capture one or several persons or animals. These skills had to be exhibited on foot and on horseback. Fancy roping was the event most closely identified with the vaqueros, who invented it. In trick and fancy riding, athletes performed gymnastic feats on horseback while circling the arena at top speed. Athletes in these events were judged, much like those in contemporary gymnastics. The most popular races included Roman standing races wherein riders stood with one foot on the back of each of a pair of horses, and relays in which riders changed horses after each lap of the arena. Both were extremely dangerous, and sometimes fatal. [LeCompte. Cowgirls the Rodeo: Pioneer Professional Athletes, Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2000, 48, 53, 59]

Another great difference between these colorful contests and their modern counterparts was that there were no chutes or gates, and no time limits. Rough stock were blindfolded and snubbed in the center of the arenas where the riders mounted. The animals were then set free. In the vast arenas, which usually included a racetrack, rides often lasted more than 10 minutes, and sometimes the contestants vanished from view of the audience.

During this era, women rode broncs and bulls and roped steers. They also competed in a variety of races, as well as trick and fancy roping and riding. In all of these contests, they often competed against men and won. Hispanics, blacks and Native Americans also participated in significant numbers. In some places, Native Americans were invited to set up camp on the grounds, perform dances and other activities for the audience, and participate in contests designated solely for them, Some rodeos did discriminate against one or more of these groups, but most were open to anyone who could pay the entry fee. [LeCompte, “Cowgirls of the Rodeo”, 40-61; LeCompte, "Wild West Frontier Days, Roundups and Stampedes, 54-67; LeCompte, Cowgirls at the Crossroads, 27-48.]

All this began to change in 1912, when a group of Calgary businessmen hired American roper Guy Weadick to manage, promote, and produce his first Stampede. Weadick selected the events, determined rules and elegibility, chose the officials, and invited well-known cowboys and cowgirls to take part. He hoped to pit the best Canadian hands against those of the US and Mexico, but Mexican participation was severely limited by the civil unrest in that country. Nonetheless, the Stampede was a huge success, and Weadick followed with the Winnipeg Stampede of 1913, and much less successful New York Stampede of 1916. [LeCompte, "Wild West Frontier Days, Roundups and Stampedes, 54-67; LeCompte, “Cowgirls at the Crossroads,” 27-48.] Although Weadick’s last production, the 1919 Calgary Stampede, was only a minor success, he led the way for a new era in which powerful producers, not local committees, would dominate rodeo and greatly expand its audience.

Rodeo enjoyed enormous popularity in New York, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia, as well as in London, Europe, Cuba, South America, and the Far East in the 1920s and 1930s. [Archives. National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, Ft. Worth, Texas;Archives, National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma] Today, none of those venues is viable. Despite numerous tours abroad before World War II, rodeo is really significant only in North America. While it does exist in Australia and New Zealand, top athletes from those countries come to America to seek their fortunes. Some Latin American countries have contests called rodeos but these have none of the events found in the North American version.

Rodeo after World War I

World War I nearly killed rodeo, but three men and two organizations brought it back to greater prominence, not in the West where it was born, but in the big cities of the East. Tex Austin created the Madison Square Garden Rodeo in 1922. It immediately became the premier event. Overshadowing Cheyenne Frontier Days, its winners were thereafter recognized as the unofficial worlds champions. In 1924, Austin produced the London Rodeo at Wembley Stadium, universally acknowledged as the most successful international contest in rodeo history. [LeCompte, “Cowgirls of the Rodeo”, 18] However, despite his triumphs, Austin lost control of the Madison Square Garden contest, and his influence dwindled. A Texan, Col. William T. Johnson, took over the Garden rodeo. He soon began producing rodeos in other eastern indoor arenas, which forever changed the nature of the sport. There was no room indoors for races, and time constraints limited the number of events that could be included. Rodeos no longer lasted all day as they did under the western sky. Nonetheless, Johnson was a major figure in modernizing and professionalizing the sport. He also enabled big-time rodeo to thrive during the Great Depression. Prior to WWI, cowboys and cowgirls could not earn a living on rodeo winnings alone. Most were also Wild West show performers, and exhibition or "contract acts" at rodeos. The top names could appear in vaudeville in the off-season. Others found whatever jobs they could. But with the advent of the producers, and the expansion of the eastern circuit, rodeo gradually became a lucrative career for the best contestants, even as Wild West shows diminished and vanished. During the depths of the Depression, the rodeo publication "Hoofs and Horns," estimated the average cowboy's earnings at $2,000-$3,000 annually. This placed them well above teachers, and near or above dentists in income. A few superstars earned far more. [Fredriksson, American Rodeo, 37-39; LeCompte, “Cowgirls of the Rodeo”, 9]

By 1934, every rodeo that Johnson produced had set attendance records. A typical Johnson rodeo featured sixteen events, of which six were contests: cowboys bareback and saddle bronc riding, cowgirl bronc riding, cowboys steer riding, steer wrestling, and calf roping. Steer riding has now become bull riding, but other than that, Johnson's cowboy contests are the same as those mandated by the PRCA today. On the other hand, entertainment features such as basketball games on horseback and horseback quadrilles have largely disappeared. LeCompte, International Encyclopedia of Women and Sports. 941; "The Story of The Billboard, and Col. W. T. Johnson's Rodeos," The Billboard, 29 October 1934, 75, LeCompte, Cowgirls of the Rodeo, 109.]

In 1929 two events occurred which split rodeo down the geographic middle: superstar cowgirl Bonnie McCarroll died as a result of a bronc riding accident at Pendleton, Oregon. Her death caused many western rodeos to drop women’s contests. That same year, western rodeo producers formed the Rodeo Association of America (RAA) in an attempt to bring order to the chaotic sport. Largely as a result of McCarroll's death, the RAA was organized as an all-male entity. Despite pleas to do so, they refused to include any women’s contests. The RAA hoped to standardize rules and events, and eliminate the unscrupulous promoters who threatened the integrity of the sport. The RAA also set out to determine the "true world's champion cowboys," based on a system of points derived from on money won in their sanctioned rodeos. This remains the basic system used today, but the dream of having only one "world's champion" would not be realized for decades. If not for the McCarroll tragedy, the rest of rodeo history might have been very different. It is unlikely there would ever have been a need for the WPRA, and barrel racing would probably not exist. Eastern producers did align themselves with Col. Johnson who ignored the RAA, and continued include lucrative cowgirl contests at their rodeos. But that was short lived. The cowboys hated Col Johnson, whom they felt distributed prize money unfairly, and mostly to himself, while treating them with disdain. In 1936, they went on strike at his Boston Garden rodeo, demanding a bigger share of the gate as prize money. Garden management finally forced Johnson to relent, and the jubilant cowboys formed the Cowboys Turtle Association (CTA), which is now the powerful PRCA. A defeated Johnson sold his company and retired, never again to be seen or heard from in the rodeo business. Like the RAA, the CTA sanctioned no women's contests. The original board of the CTA included some of the top cowboys in the business: Hugh Bennett, Everett Bowman, Bob Crosby, Herman Linder, and Pete Knight. The CTA and RAA had a long and contentious relationship, but the cowboys ultimately prevailed. [LeCompte, Cowgirls of the Rodeo, 114-115; Fredriksson, American Rodeo, 40-64. Interviews: Alice Greenough and Marjorie Greenough, Tucson, Arizona, 19 May 1988; Tad Lucas, Ft. Worth, Texas, 26 February 1988;and Isora De Racey Young, Stephenville, Texas, 27 February 1988. Cowboys' intense dislike of Johnson never abated, and was passed down to succeeding generatiosns. Every rodeo producer mentioned in this article has been enshrined in one or more halls of fame excepting Johnson, who has never been nominated. At last check, neither rodeo hall of fame even included Johnson in their archives. ] Meantime, in 1931, promoters of the Stamford Cowboy Reunion invited all local ranches to send a young woman at least sixteen years old to compete in a Sponsor Contest designed "to add femininity to the all-male rodeo." The women were judged on who had the best horse, the most attractive outfit, and on horsemanship as they rode a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels. The contest was a huge success, and was widely copied. [LeCompte, "Home on the Range: Women in Professional Rodeo: 1929-1947," Journal of Sport History 17 (Winter 1990): 335-337.] In 1939, Johnson’s replacement at Madison Square Garden, Everett Colburn, invited a group of Texas Sponsor Girls to appear at his rodeo as a publicity stunt. A second group appeared at the 1940 rodeo. It featured Hollywood singing Cowboy Gene Autry, and the women rode while he sang, “Home on the Range.” It was a tradition that continued for decades.LeCompte, "Home on the Range," 335-344.] Soon thereafter, Autry formed a rodeo company and took over not only Madison Square Garden, but also Boston Garden and most of the other major rodeos from coast-to-coast. One of his first actions was to discontinue the cowgirl bronc riding contest, which had been a highlight of the Madison Square Garden Rodeo since its inception in 1922. There was nothing left for cowgirls but the invitation-only sponsor girl event. Because of Gene Autry, real cowgirl contests disappeared from rodeos nation wide. Sponsor contests are the genesis of barrel racing, which is today the premier women’s rodeo event. However, Autry’s influence was far more vast and long-lasting. His popularity was such that producers nationwide found they could no longer attract a crowd without a western singer to headline their rodeos. Still today, rodeo is the only professional sport in which the athletes are not the featured performers. Autry is also credited with keeping the sport alive during World War II, thanks to his business acumen, and the heavily patriotic themes that permeated his productions. [LeCompte, "Home on the Range," 344.]

Rodeo after World War II

Following the War, a merged CTA and RAA became the PRCA, and took complete control of the sport. Men like Austin, Johnson, and Autry could no longer wield the power they previously maintained. Consequently, the Madison Square Garden rodeo lost its luster, and the PRCA established the NFR, to determine for the next half century who were the true worlds champion cowboys. In forming their organization, cowboys were decades ahead of athletes in other professional sports. By 1953, the first year for which such information is available, the total prize money available at PRCA rodeos was $2,491,856. Thirty years later, the figure had risen to just over $13 million. As prize money rose, of course, so did individual earnings. In 1976, Tom Ferguson, competing in all four timed events, became the first cowboy to exceed $100,000 winnings in a single year. Only six years later, that figure was surpassed by a single-event contestant. Bareback bronc rider Bruce Ford, amassed $101,351 before the NFR. In 2006, all contestants coming into the NFR as leading money-winners in their events had earned at least $100,00, except team ropers, who had a little over $90,000 apiece. When the NFR began in 1959, the total purse was $50,000. Today, the figure is $5,375,000. [Fredriksson, American Rodeo, 182-83; http://www.prorodeo.org/Records_NFR.aspx?su=7&xu=7 (accessed May 3, 2007), LeCompte, “Hispanic Roots,” 66-67.]

However, the PRCA benefited primarily white males, as the diverse groups who had once competed in rodeo were largely absent from the arena. Native Americans now have their own rodeo organization, and have shown little interest in PRCA activities. Records give no indication of institutional racism on the part of the PRCA, although anecdotal evidence suggests that individual rodeo committees sometimes did discriminate against African Americans and Hispanics in the fifties and sixties. Nonetheless, black and Hispanic cowboys have won the PRCA worlds championships, with Leo Camarillo taking the team roping title five times, and earning fifteen consecutive trips to the NFR. [ Archives. Prorodeo Hall of Fame, LeCompte, Hispanic Roots, 67; LeCompte, Cowgirls of the Rodeo, 148-171.]

Women realized it would be up to them to get back into the mainstream of the sport. Following a successful all-girl rodeo, many of the participants met in 1948 to form what is now the WPRA. The organization aimed to provide women the opportunity to compete in legitimate, sanctioned contests at PRCA rodeos and in rough stock and roping events at all-girl rodeos. While prize money from all-girl rodeos never provided participants with enough money to meet expenses, the WPRA was highly successful in restoring cowgirl contests to PRCA rodeos. Barrel racing was the most popular WPRA contest and it spread rapidly throughout the country. In 1955, PRCA president Bill Linderman and WPRA president Jackie Worthington signed an historic agreement that remained in effect for half a century. It urged the inclusion of WPRA barrel racing at PRCA rodeos, and required that women’s events at PRCA rodeos conform to WPRA rules and regulations. Following a lengthy campaign, barrel racing was added to the NFR in 1968. [Interviews with Nancy Binford, Dixie Reger Mosley, and Mary Ellen Barton, Hereford, Texas, 15 March 1988; Binford’s scrapbooks and files located in Archives, National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, Fort Worth, Texas; "All Girl Rodeo a Knockout," clipping, n.p. n.d., Binford scrapbook; "Rodeo Spectators Stetsons Off to Feminine Bulldogger," Amarillo Daily News, 24 September 1947, 1;. Amarillo Daily News, 21 September 1947,7 & 20; Hoofs & Horns, September 1943, 4; "Girls Rodeo Aces Ride Tonight for $3,000 in Prizes," Amarillo Daily News, 25 September 1947, 1; "Record Crowd Hails Champion Cowgirls," Amarillo Daily News, 26 September 1947, 1 and 8; Willard Porter, "Dixie Lee Reger," Hoofs & Horns, September 1951, 6; "Girl's Rodeo Association," Hoofs & Horns, May 1948, 24; "Cowgirls Organize Group Here," n.p., n.d., Binford Scrapbook; "Girl's Rodeo Association," 24. Mrs. B. Kalland, "Rodeo Personalities," Hoofs & Horns, December 1951, 17; WPRA/PWRA Official Reference Guide, (Blanchard: Women's Professional Rodeo Association, 1990), vol. 7, 72; Margaret Montgomery files, National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame; "GRA," Western Horseman, July 1959, 10-13. (Sanctioned events were as follows: Races: flag races, figure eight and cloverleaf barrel races, line reining. Roping events: catch as catch can, team tieing, figure eight catch. Rough stock events: bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding); Jane Mayo, Championship Barrel Racing (Houston: Cordovan, 1961), 9; RCA Minutes, Prorodeo Hall of Fame; Mary King, "Cowgirls Have the New Look Too," Quarter Horse Journal, November 1948, 28-9; Hooper Shelton, Fifty Years a Living Legend (Stamford: Shelton Press, 1979), 31-32, 94; Houston Post, 2-13 February 1950; BBD, 11 September 1954, 62 & 16 October 1954, 48; New York Times, October 1954; WPRA/PWRA Official Reference Guide, vol. 7, 4; Powder Puff and Spurs, July and August 1950; Fog Horn Clancy, Rodeo Histories and Records (n.p.:n.p. 1949, 1950, 1951; Quarter Horse Journal, May 1954, 22; PRCA Official Media Guide (Colorado Springs: Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, 1987), 184; Copy of "AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE RODEO COWBOYS' ASSOCIATION, INC. AND THE GIRLS" RODEO ASSOCIATION," WPRA files, Colorado Springs, CO. Billie McBride Files, National Cowgirl Hall of Fame; NFR Committee Minutes, 14 January 1959, 5 May and 16 September 1959, March 16-18, 1960, 115 March 1968, Prorodeo Hall of Fame; WPRA/PWRA Official Reference Guide, vol. 7, 22-32; PRCA Official Media Guide (1987), 220; RCA Board minutes, 16 March, 24-27 November 1960, 6 January 1962, 10 August 1965, and 30 January, 13 May 1967. (Unfortunately, it is not possible to chronicle this achievement from the women's point of view. Although it is known that many WPRA representatives spent countless hours and traveled thousands of miles pleading their case to the PRCA before finally succeeding with the help of the Oklahoma City promoters, their names will never be known. Alone among all of the organizations and agencies involved with this project, the WPRA refused to allow this writer access to of any of its files, documents or minutes); PRCA Official Media Guide (1987), 195-217.]

Although the barrel race was in the NFR, cowgirls’ prize money was far below that of cowboys. The gender equity movement led the WPRA in 1980 to send an ultimatum to 650 rodeo committees nationwide that if prizes were not equal by 1985, the WPRA would not participate. There was almost universal compliance, except for the NFR. The WPRA obtained corporate sponsors to increase their NFR purse to that of the team ropers, the lowest paid cowboy participants, whose already small purse had to be split between the two team members. At the 1997 NFR, cowboys and cowgirls led by team roper Matt Tyler threatened to strike unless they received equal prize money. This cooperative effort resulted in successful negotiations. Since 1998, the NFR has paid equal money to all participants. The additional funding comes from the sale of special luxury seats. [LeCompte, “Rodeo,” in” International Encyclopedia of Women and Sports,” 942.]

In 1923, Tex Austin hired the New Yankee Stadium for 10 days and intended to offer $50,000 in prize money, double of what was offered at the previous Madison Square Garden rodeo the year prior. Tickets for the event were between $2-3. Tex Austin planned to pay the cowboys 100 cents on the dollar. Events offered were "bronk" riding, bulldogging, calf roping, trick and fancy riding, "steer" riding, relay race and the cowgirl's bronk riding. Famous bad horses: Mystery, Nose Dive, P.J. Nutt and Peaceful Henry were at the contest in the prior year. Riders included Mike Hastings, Mabel Strickland, Roy Quick, Ike Rude, Powder River Thompson, Bonnie McCarroll and Bonnie Gray, as well as many others.

Formation of rodeo associations

In 1929 the Rodeo Association of America (RAA) was formed bringing promoters and managers together.Groves, Melody, (2006). - "Ropes, Reins, and Rawhide: All About Rodeo" . - Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. - p.4-5. - ISBN 0826338228] It compiled scores from rodeo events at the 50 some rodeos across the country including Cheyenne, Wyoming; Pendleton, Oregon; Calgary, Alberta; and Salinas, California. The RAA sanctioned events, selected judges, and established purse awards and point systems. Their judges documented and determined champions in each event. The new organization was far from perfect. Often, prize money was not as advertised and judging was sometimes unfair.

The RAA inaugurated the first national champions in 1929. However, they didn't include any women's events. Bonnie McCarroll was killed after being thrown from a bronc at the Pendleton Round-Up which started an outcry against women competing in rodeo events.

In 1930, rain spoiled a rodeo at Miller's 101 Ranch in Ponca City, Oklahoma. Turtles came out and someone had an idea to race the turtles instead of horses. With a whopping 10,000 entries, most watched as most of the turtles laid still while just a few plodded along. First place went to the owner of turtle Goober Dust taking home $7,100. Second place took home $1,250. These turtles, however, were not attributed to the Cowboy Turtles Association (CTA) which was started several years later in 1936.

In 1934, the World Series Rodeo arrived in Madison Square Garden. The rodeo offered $40,000 in prizes. The World Series Rodeo promoter, Colonel William T. Johnson, had lost $40,000 promoting a Wild West Show in Texas six years prior and decided to promote his money back. He put on 5 rodeos a year and expected to make $1,000,000, with his contract in New York expected to make $75,000. He estimated losing $6,000 a year to bad loans to cowboys. Johnson was not a member of the Rodeo Association of America but his events offered more prize money and cowboys seemed to find his events the most enjoyable. But by 1939, William Johnson had sold all of his rodeo stock and was not in attendance at the World Series Rodeo. Instead, he went back to ranching after completely selling out of his highly speculative business.

In 1936, however, during the Boston Garden Rodeo, William Johnson refused to add entry fees into the prize money. A group of angry cowboys formed the Cowboy Turtles Association. It was the first association of contestants. They called themselves turtles because they were slow to organize but eventually stuck their heads out.

That same year, Tex Austin, Wild West Promoter, was charged with "permitting an animal to be terrified" when a steer accidentally crashed into the exit gate of the arena.

In 1937, Pete Knight died after suffering from internal injuries after being thrown from the horse "Duster" at a rodeo in Hayward, California. At the time of this death, he had more champion titles and prize money than any other bronc rider in the world.

Walter Cravens, steer rider, was thrown and trampled and died one day later of a punctured lung at the World Series Rodeo in New York City.

By 1939, rodeos attracted twice as many spectators as auto racing and baseball.

In 1940, the Cowboys Amateur Association (CAA) formed in California. Its purpose was to allow amateurs to compete and gain more experience before moving up to the Rodeo Cowboys Association (RCA). Members were required to move up to the RCA once their earnings reached $500. The CAA also encouraged participation from women in barrel racing and cutting contests.

In 1945, the Cowboy Turtles Association changed their name to the Rodeo Cowboys Association (RCA) which later in 1975 changed to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA).

In 1947, movie star Gene Autry signed a contract to star in the Madison Square Garden Rodeo. He got a salary of $1,500 a day for a 33 day run as a performer.

In 1948, the Girl's Rodeo Association was started by a group of Texas ranch women. Today, the organization has two sister associations - The Professional Women's Rodeo Association (PWRA) and the Women's Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA).

In 1949 the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association was formed and grew extremely quickly. The first College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) was held the same year in San Francisco, California. By 1951, the association had 41 participating colleges.

By 1955, it was estimated that there were over 600 rodeos in the country. The Miss Rodeo America pageant was organized with the first pageant held by International Rodeo Management in Casper, Wyoming.

The first National Finals Rodeo was held in Dallas, Texas in 1959. The top 15 money-earners in each event were invited to compete and winnings from the NFR were added to their winnings from the rodeo circuit to determine a world champion. In 1960, the National Finals Rodeo was shown on TV broadcasted by CBS.

In 1961, rodeo interest further branched out to include high school students with the formation of the National High School Rodeo Association.

The NFR moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1962 and then settled in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for a 30 year stay from 1965-1984. Since 1985, the event has taken place in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In 1979 the PRCA established the ProRodeo Hall of Fame located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It is the only museum in the world devoted to the sport of rodeo and the rodeo cowboy. The statue in the front of the hall depicts Casey Tibbs riding the bronc Necktie.

In 1987 - The National Circuit Finals Rodeo began in Pocatello, Idaho. The top 2 contestants in each event from the 12 different PRCA regional circuits compete for the title of national circuit finals champion for each event. Dodge became a title sponsor for the event in 1991.

With all of the attention rodeo began to get from the media, animal rights concerns escalated. Friends of Rodeo was formed in 1992 as an organization to protect rodeo. That same year, a group of 20 professional bull riders, each of which contributed $1,000 formed Professional Bull Riders, Inc (PBR) based in Colorado Springs. The organization aims to take one of the most famous events in rodeo into a stand-alone sport. They have flourished and today the Built Ford Tough Series is a 29 city, $10 million tour that attracts more than 100 million viewers on televised events.

ee also

*National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum


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  • Rodeo, California — Infobox Settlement official name = Rodeo, California settlement type = CDP imagesize = image caption = image imagesize = image caption = image mapsize = 250x200px map caption = Location in Contra Costa County and the state of California mapsize1 …   Wikipedia

  • Rodeo Cheeseburger — Foodbox name = Rodeo Cheeseburger caption = serving size = 1 sandwich (139 g) calories = 380 calories from fat = 180 total fat = 19 g ( %) saturated fat = 8 g ( %) trans fat = 1.5 g cholesterol = 30 mg ( %) sodium = 630 mg ( %) total carbohydrate …   Wikipedia

  • Rodeo Lagoon — is a coastal lagoon located in the Marin Headlands division of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which is in southern Marin County, California. [ [http://www.topozone.com/map.asp?lat=37.82893 lon= 122.53841 datum=nad83 u=4 layer=DRG… …   Wikipedia

  • Rodeo (Copland) — Rodeo is a ballet scored by Aaron Copland and choreographed by Agnes de Mille, which premiered in 1942. Subtitled The Courting at Burnt Ranch , the ballet consists of five sections: Buckaroo Holiday , Ranch House Party , Corral Nocturne ,… …   Wikipedia

  • Rodeo Drive — of Beverly Hills, California is a shopping district famous for designer label and haute couture fashion. The name generally refers to a three block long stretch of boutiques and shops but the street stretches further north and south. HistoryFirst …   Wikipedia

  • rodeo — rodeoer, n. /roh dee oh , roh day oh/, n., pl. rodeos, v., rodeoed, rodeoing. n. 1. a public exhibition of cowboy skills, as bronco riding and calf roping. 2. a roundup of cattle. 3. Informal. any contest offering prizes in various events: a… …   Universalium

  • Rodeo bareback rigging — From the early 1900 s up until the mid 1920 s, bareback bronc riding was slowly becoming accepted as a professional rodeo sporting event. The riding equipment riggings or surcingles used during that era were a mixed lot ranging from just holding… …   Wikipedia

  • Rodeo Hall of Fame — The Rodeo Hall of Fame is located within the National Cowboy Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S.A..HistoryNational Cowboy Western Heritage Museum was established in 1955 as the Cowboy Hall of Fame and Museum, from an idea… …   Wikipedia

  • Rodeo Drive — 34°04′00,86″N 118°24′04,57″O / <span class= geo dec geo title= Cartes, vues aériennes et autres données pour Erreur d’expression : caractère de ponctuation « , » non reconnu. Erreur d’expression : caractère de ponctuation… …   Wikipédia en Français

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