Where do we even begin with the History of Rodeo? With how far rodeo has come today, it’s amazing to think back on its roots to where it all began. Before rodeos were even called rodeos, cowboys across the nation were testing their skills and their ponies against their fellow ranchers. Of course, there is room for competition, there will be just that. Fun on the ranch quickly turned to who can do this task with the fastest time. I am sure back then there was a whole lot of “Hey, hold my beer, and watch this.” At least, that’s what I imagine when I see bull riders getting one rode back in the day.
The meaning of rodeo actually dates back to the Spanish word, “rodear” which means “to encircle”. As Americans moved West and were influenced by the Spanish, their culture started to rub off, and soon enough small, informal competitions began popping up between ranches to see who was the best hand.
Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s there still weren’t “set” arenas, so it was pretty common for ranchers to create an arena by parking a bunch of vehicles in a circle and calling it a day. A good example of this is a story I heard about Gunnison Cattlemen’s Days in Gunnison, Colorado. The Gunnison Valley is known for its tight-knit community and ranching roots. Back when their rodeo first began, ranchers would drive their cattle and horses right into town for the rodeo. Talk about getting western!
Fast-forwarding to 1947, we see the formation of the Cowboys Rodeo Association (RCA). This organization was put together to start enforcing rules within rodeo competitions. In 1959 the PRCA had its first Finals Rodeo in Dallas, Texas. That was the home for the finals for the first three years, then moved to Los Angeles for three years, then to Oklahoma City until 1984 when it moved to Las Vegas where it has been home to the finals ever since.
While the values of rodeo haven’t changed a whole ton when you pull up to a rodeo, you won’t be greeted by an arena made of vehicles or wagons. Modern-day rodeos are truly a production. From start to finish, everything is perfectly timed and planned to give the audience the perfect show, the contestants the best run, and the animals their best life. The animals you see on the circuit today are considered athletes and live a life of luxury. Contestants travel the nation, down the rodeo road in rigs that are more like small homes but when you’re in the middle of it, watching the show, your soul bleeds red, white, and blue because one thing will never change, and that is the foundation that rodeo was built on, true American ideals.
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