Overview

It is thought that the first rodeo was held when two ranchers in Colorado wanted to determine who was better at performing everyday cowboy tasks. Ranchers would break wild horses to ride, rope livestock for branding or for medical attention, and have finely honed horseback skills to ride in rough terrain. All of these skills are tested in rodeo events. There are many events at a rodeo including bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, barrel racing, calf roping, breakaway roping, team roping, and steer wrestling.

A cowboy rides a bucking horse with one hand in the air and the other hand on the saddle. There is a white fence and a cowboy on a horse in the background.

This cowboy is saddle bronc riding in a rodeo.

These are some of the different events (competitions) that are in a rodeo.

History

The first amateur rodeo was held in Deer Trail, Colorado in 1869. These early rodeos were informal events where cowboys would compete with each other to earn pride and, in some cases, a bet amongst the competitors. As rodeos became more popular, an audience would attend to watch. The rodeos became annual events that would happen every year in the same location. Rodeos continued to operate this way until the late 1920s when rodeo associations began to form.

A cowboy rides a large bull with horns that is bucking his back feet into the air. A full stadium stand of people watch in the background.

This cowboy is riding a bull in front of a full audience.

Rodeo Associations

Rodeo associations would charge a fee to cowboys to become members. The associations would use this money to promote rodeos and speak on behalf of the cowboys. Rodeo associations would get better prize money for the cowboys, require that rodeos hire experienced rodeo judges, and obtain media coverage. Many associations have a hall of fame for cowboys, and some have even opened museums.

An illustrated cowboy with a cowboy hat rides a horse with a saddle on it, as it bucks its hind feet into the air.

Rodeo associations promoted rodeos and spoke on behalf of the cowboys.

Rodeos have continued to grow and there are many amateur and professional rodeos that cowboys can participate in.

A cowboy rides a horse and has just roped a calf that is running a few feet ahead of the horse. There is a crowd in the background watching.

This cowboy has roped the calf with a lasso.

It takes a tough and brave person to be a rodeo cowboy or cowgirl!

Wood Mountain Rodeo

The village of Wood Mountain is located in south central Saskatchewan and is home to the oldest rodeo in Canada. They started having a rodeo in Wood Mountain in 1890. The rodeo started off there as an event where the North-West Mounted Police would challenge ranchers to horse races and athletic competitions. The police officers would typically win the athletic challenges, while the ranchers won the competitions where horses were involved. When the rodeo first started, there weren’t any corrals or chutes to hold in the animals and the events would take place on the open Prairie.

A advertisement for the Wood Mountain Rodeo is shown with a group of modern cowboys that have their backs to the camera. On the top of the image is a photo of the people who attended the rodeo in the early 1900s.

The Wood Mountain Rodeo is Canada’s oldest continuous rodeo and has happened every July since 1890.