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The History of Rodeo

Author: Teresa McEachern

Rodeo history traces back to the 1700's when Spain ruled the land that is now America's West. Missions were created by padres who were of Spanish nobility, trained in the horsemanship of the conquistadores. They raised cattle to sell on the market to make an income for their missions. There was a need for 'vaqueros',
to manage the herds, so the padres trained men in riding, herding, roping, horse breaking, branding - everything they needed to know. When the mission land was taken over by the ranchos, the men found work. The vaqueros held an annual roundup called a rodeo, meaning 'to surround' in Spanish, after which they held a competition to see who was the best at various skills.

history of rodeo horsemanship
calf roping steer doggin bull riding rodeo history

With the "Manifest Destiny" governmental policy, the American border moved farther & farther west until they took the land in 1848. Americans from the east were influenced by the vaqueros in clothing, language & traditions, who adapted them into their own
cowboy culture. After the Civil War, the cattle from the west fed the east and the 'cowboy age' began, with cowhands traveling on the famous cattle trails such as Chisum, Goodnight-Loving, & the Santa Fe. At the end of these trails cowboys were paid. With money burning holes in their pockets & whiskey burning in their throats they challenged each other to see who was the best at each cowhand skill. It was at this time that records were first kept.

Toward the end of the century the open land became closed by the invention of barbed wire as settlers divided up the land. Long cattle drives were no longer a necessity with the railroad development. Many cowhands lost their jobs, and in search of an income began to join stock horse shows to cash in on America's
fascination with the "wild west". Buffalo Bill Cody was one of the most successful showmen of the day, organizing a show that was part competition, part pageantry, that played to the thrill of the western frontier. Today, rodeos are still called shows.

Cowboys would gather annually in the frontier towns to compete. Money from an entry fee for the cowboys & spectator fee for the fans would be pooled for the prizes. Those that competed soon realized that they needed to establish rules for the safety of
competitors, spectators & animals alike. In 1936 a group of cowboys walked out on a rodeo show in Boston because the organizer refused to pool their entry fee as part of the prizes. With this success they formed the "Turtle Association", so called because they were as slow as turtles to form, but finally stuck their necks out! In 1945 they became the Rodeo Cowboys Association, & in 1975 the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

In these early years, many cowboys were also boxers, which spawned the idea for the rodeo buckle. Today, rodeo events are a celebrated national sport with winnings in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

About the author:
Teresa McEachern has founded two e-commerce sites:
Photography Gift Shop with professional photos of travel sights & wildlife on t-shirts & gifts, as well as Lingo T-shirts which features t-shirts that talk for you about
your passion for sports, hobbies, babies & family, holidays or wildlife.


Page Last Updated May 1, 2007
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