Friday, September 16, 2016

When was the first rodeo held?

I was just talking about rodeos in fantasy - and that led me to wonder when the first rodeo was held in America.

Santa Fe claims their rodeo was the first, in 1847, but it can't be verified. In California, "rodeos" were required every year from 1851, but these were not sporting events, but the original sense of the term - organized round ups where ranchers met up to sort out their cattle and brand the calves.

In fact, the term rodeo was not used for cowboy sports until the 1920s. The formalization of a rodeo into the five standard events (calf roping, bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding and steer wrestling, with steer roping and team roping optional) did not take place until 1929. In fact, most early rodeos were so disorganized that riders often did not know what the events even were until they arrived on site - which meant their horses had to be good at everything, unlike the specialization of today. And even then, rodeos often contained other events (many still include barrel racing) such as trick roping, trick riding and sprint races.

There was one way in which early rodeos were more progressive though - women competed in all the events alongside the men. In 1929 a female bronc rider was killed and since then women have been essentially disallowed from competing in bronc riding and bull riding. At most modern rodeos, women compete only in barrel racing (and men do not compete in barrel racing, making for an oddly strict divide). The PRCA still does not allow women's events at sanctioned rodeos, other than barrel racing. Women got back into the act in 1948 when the Girls Rodeo Association was formed to allow them to compete in their own segregated events. (It's now the Women's Professional Rodeo Association).

And I got thoroughly distracted and will stop now. Here, have a barrel racer.

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