We know and love rodeo, as a sporting event, but that was not how our favorite sport began. Here are some the top moments in rodeo and roping history that brought us to where we are today:
- 1. The Old West
- 2. The First Official Roping Event
- 3. The Western Saddle
- 4. Wild West Exhibitions
- 5. Mobility
Rodeo as we know it began as an essential part of the lives of the early Spanish settlers in the western United States. Their skill in herding cattle was noticed by the new American cowboys. The specific form of calf roping was first utilized as an efficient way to pick out the sick or injured calves from the herd. The ranch hands turned the task into a contest to see who could rope the fastest. This thrill of competition would eventually inspire the event we love today.
Informal contests took place in a variety of places in the 1880s. Many consider Prescott, Arizona as the birthplace of modern rodeos. The area’s first rodeo was held on July 4th, 1888, but it wasn’t until 1917 that calf roping appeared on the list of events. The familiar traits of rodeos today can be traced back to this Prescott Rodeo. They began awarding prizes, establishing rules for the competition, charging admission fees, inviting specific cowboys to the event to compete as well as forming committees to organize the rodeos. Fun Fact: The first rodeo held at night with electric lights was on September 24, 1935 in Columbia, Mississippi. Who doesn’t love a night rodeo?
In order to be the best team roper, you must have the proper equipment. The western saddle is again attributed to the influence of the Spanish settlers. Their saddles were based on those found historically in Spain. The most distinguishing trait of a western saddle in comparison to any other saddle is the horn. A saddle horn was first used for roping cattle. The rope can be tied conveniently close to the rider who in turn can control the animals with more ease. The western saddle used in roping is very specific. They must have a strong and durable design with double rigging, rubber wrap around the horn and a rawhide-covered or reinforced fiberglass saddle tree.
Buffalo Bill, Will Rogers, and Calamity Jane are names that have become synonymous with the Wild West. During the end of the 19th century, western themed exhibitions grew wildly popular. These performing groups travelled across North America and Europe displaying daring feats with lassos and livestock. The popularity of these tours has translated into the widespread love of rodeo we have.
The popularity of rodeo is thanks to the wide availability of the event. Professional rodeo members are accustomed to life on the road. Traveling to events across the country is the norm for these cowboys. The ability to travel with your horses in comfort is an important aspect of the rodeo lifestyle. Roping has become a beloved sport for many people today, and it’s all thanks to the commitment many make to life on the road.
"A Brief History Of Roping (from Cowboys to the Modern Rodeo)." Ropingcom Bringing the Roping Community Together RSS. Web. 12 Feb. 2015
"Rodeo Education | Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame." Rodeo Education | Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. Web. 12 Feb. 2015.
"The Saddle Tree." The Saddle Tree. Web. 13 Feb. 2015.
Applebome, Peter. "Wrangling Over Where Rodeo Began." The New York Times. The New York Times, 17 June 1989. Web. 13 Feb. 2015.