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The History Of Rodeo Revealed

Most people mistakenly believe that the sport of rodeo was developed in the United States. Images of bucking horses, steer wrestling and bull riding fill the imagination with the charms and nostalgia of the Wild West. In reality, professional rodeo has its roots on the Spanish frontier. And while the sport has grown to become what many presume to be an American sport, it's enjoyed in many other countries. Below, you'll discover the true origins of professional rodeo and learn how it evolved through the 20th century.

The Spanish Influence

Spanish cowboys and ranchers had an enormous influence on the birth of rodeo as a sporting event. In fact, many of the competitions in today's professional rodeo are variations of the normal chores performed by those cowboys and ranchers during their daily routine. Each day, they would need to break new horses, herd cattle (often wrestling them in order to brand them) and rope steer. Even though many people consider rodeo to be the creation of Americans, it was adopted from the Spanish cowboy culture.

Pickett's Legacy

Bill Pickett is widely-considered the father of modern steer wrestling. Pickett introduced a unique method of bulldogging (jumping from a horse onto a steer and twisting the steer's horns to wrestle it to the ground). At one of his bulldogging events, an agent approached him, impressed with his method and skills. Pickett signed a contract that led he and his brothers throughout the West, performing his bulldogging techniques in front of astonished crowds. In doing so, he effectively popularized steer wrestling. Many rodeo enthusiasts believe that if it weren't for Pickett, today's rodeo would not include steer wrestling.

After World War II

Even before the Second World War, organizations had begun to emerge to govern the sport of rodeo. The Rodeo Association of America (RAA) and Cowboys Turtle Association (CTA) were arguably the most aggressive and powerful of the lot. After World War II ended, RAA and CTA joined forces to create the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). They quickly assumed control of the industry and formed the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) during which the reigning world champions were declared.

Due to the nature of the industry at the time, the rulings and standards set by the PRCA were unbalanced in favor of white males. Splinter organizations began to form including the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA). The purpose of the WPRA was to promote the inclusion of women in the sanctioned rodeo events. Over the next few decades, the WPRA struggled to bring the purse money prizes for women's events to the same level as men's events. In 1997, a threatened strike led the industry to offer equal purse money for both genders.

Modern Rodeo

Today, the industry is led primarily by 3 organizations: the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) PRCA and WPRA. Though tensions have existed between the PRCA and the WPRA, they've succeeded in largely staying out of each other's way. This has cleared the path for promoting all of the events for both genders in professional rodeo. Modern rodeo now enjoys television coverage throughout the year and an ever-growing sponsor base. Despite the fact that fewer people long for the nostalgia of the Old West, the industry continues to reach out in the hopes of attracting new fans.