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The Rough Stock Events Of Professional Rodeo

Some of the biggest draws of professional rodeo tournaments are the "rough stock" events. These include bronc riding and bull riding. There's an imminent sense of danger that pervades the stadium during these events as contenders struggle to maintain their grip on the animals and avoid being thrown from the animals' backs. Even when a rider successfully manages to stay mounted on the animal for the duration of his ride, another rider must assist his dismount from the animal. Below, you'll learn more about both types of events as well as the use of rodeo clowns (they're not there merely to entertain the audience).

Bronc Riding

Though many people instantly think of a wild, untamed horse when "bronc riding" is mentioned, the horses aren't wild. They're bred and trained for bronc riding tournaments. That is, they're raised specifically for this event. That said, they present an enormous challenge to even the best-trained bronc riders.

Bronc riding is performed in 1 of 2 ways: with a saddle (called saddle bronc riding) or without (called bareback bronc riding). The goal of the rider is to stay on his bronc for 8 seconds without allowing his free hand to make contact with the bronc. At the end of the rider's run, both rider and bronc are given a score between 0 and 50. The highest combined score wins the event.

Bull Riding

Bull riding is considered by many rodeo enthusiasts as the most dangerous event currently sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and the Professional Bull Riders (PBR). Similar to bronc riding, the rider's goal is to avoid being thrown for 8 seconds. The scoring system is also similar. The rider and bull are each assigned a score between 0 and 50 with the highest combined score winning the event. The rider is forbidden to touch the bull with his free hand. If his hand touches the bull during his 8-second run, no points are awarded to the rider. It's also worth noting that bull riders do not use a saddle for this event.

Who's The Clown?

Because bulls can often attack a thrown rider, rodeo clowns are used during the event. The clown's presence distracts the bull from its primary target (the thrown rider). An effective rodeo clown will provide the bull with substitute targets. When a rider is injured, a rodeo clown's job becomes critical. He, along with 2 other clowns (rodeo clowns typically work in teams of 3), use a variety of methods to distract the bull long enough for the injured rider to be removed from the arena. By tossing his hat, shouting, running at an angle to the bull's line of vision, the rodeo clown provides an element of safety for the bull riders.

The Sturdiest Of The Lot

Because of the danger inherent in both bronc and bull riding events, they're usually reserved for the sturdiest cowboys. Staying mounted atop the bronc or bull requires immense athleticism, strength and agility. If a cowboy is thrown by the bronc or bull, he must be able to fall in a way that prevents long-term damage to his body. Plus, he must be able to quickly recover from his fall to leave the arena and remove himself from harm's way. Indeed, the "rough stock" events attract some of the most rugged cowboys in professional rodeo.