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The Fundamentals Of Calf Roping

Calf roping is one of professional rodeo's authentic events. That is, it's actually performed by cowboys as part of their jobs. On a ranch, it's often necessary to gather calves to brand them, provide medical care, or examine them for disease. Cowboys typically gather the calves by throwing a lasso around their neck and restraining them. By doing so, they can keep the calf relatively still while performing their duties.

Today, calf roping is performed in rodeos competitions. Cowboys and cowgirls compete (within gender-specific categories) for the fastest time. It's a popular event and attracts a base of fans that spans age and gender. Below, you'll discover how calf roping works and why time is a critical factor in this event.

The Goal Of Calf Roping

The goal is simple. The rider must throw a lasso around a calf, then tie 3 of its 4 legs together in the least amount of time possible. Though it may sound like an easy task, it actually requires a high level of skill and timing. Throwing a lasso around the neck of a bolting calf is difficult. Then, once the calf has been roped properly, the rider must quickly flip and tie its legs. Doing so requires strength as calves used in professional rodeo tournaments can weigh up to 280 pounds. Once the calf's legs have been secured, the rider raises his hands to alert the judge of his success.

The Importance Of Timing

At the time of writing, the world record for calf roping is slightly more than 6 seconds. Most top-scoring calf ropers can lasso their quarry, flip and tie it in less than 7 seconds. The margin for error in this event is very small. A delay in action or the slightest hesitance can add time to the rider's score, potentially knocking him out of the top spots. Throwing a lasso one moment too soon (or too late) can be devastating to the rider's finishing time. Calf roping is largely about timing. The riders who have it can compete more aggressively.

Losing Precious Time

Not only is the timing of the rider's actions critical, but there are also penalties to avoid. For example, if the rider's horse crosses the initial barrier before the calf has run the course of the rope tied to its neck, the rider is given a 10-second penalty. Also, once the rider has successfully thrown the lasso around the calf's neck and stopped his horse, the calf cannot be thrown to the ground as a result of the tension in the rope. If the calf does fall because of the rope, the rider cannot approach it until it has gotten back up, wasting precious time.

Animal Cruelty Concerns

Animal rights activists have expressed concern about the safety of calf roping to the calves. They claim the treatment that the calves undergo during the event (as well as during practice routines) presents a clear danger to the calf. In response, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and other organizations penalize ropers who treat the calves with an unnecessary amount of force. But, that move is not enough to satisfy many activists. Though calf roping is very popular on the rodeo circuit, the event faces constant attack from those who believe the animals are treated cruelly.