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History of the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale

Held the third full weekend of May each year, the World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale is a tradition that holds Miles City, Montana true to its roots. What officially began in 1951 as strictly an auction has grown to be a three-day event that consists of a kick-off concert, bull riding, horse racing, and an auction that brings some of the finest bucking stock on the continent.

Credit to Miles City Bucking Horse Sale Facebook Page

History of Miles City

In 1877, Fort Keogh was built after the Battle of Little Bighorn. Old Milestown, which was established in 1876, disbanded and re-established itself closer to the fort. However, because of his hope to keep young soldiers away from town and its less reputable elements, General Nelson A. Miles requested that Miles City be built across the Tongue River.

Almost a century later, in 1881, the Northern Pacific Railroad was constructed in the area, which led to greater opportunities for the agriculture-focused town. Agriculture has always been central to the success of Miles City, beginning with buffalo hunting and cattle ranching.

The town was incorporated in 1887, but ranchers soon realized that cattle were not as tolerant of the harsh Montana winters. Ensuring that cattle were fed during these months proved to be a challenge; however, horses were much easier to raise in this area. During World War I, Miles City served as the largest cavalry remount station in the United States; and it quickly became home to one of the largest horse markets in the world.

While cattle still contribute greatly to the agriculture industry in the area, horses have been the city’s claim to fame. The western lifestyle and culture have built Miles City into what it is today, and it continues to be one of the city’s biggest successes. 

Miles City, Montana

History of the Sale

Unofficially, the first bucking horse sale took place in 1950. That year, Les Boe purchased yearling steers for the Miles City Livestock Commission from another man known as Heavy Lester. Lester threw in approximately 35 head of bucking horses. With no clue what to do with these horses, someone suggested having a sale.

After this was a success, the decision was made to host this event annually; and in 1951, the first official World Famous Bucking Horse Sale was put on. Word got around quickly in the horse community, and it didn’t take long before it was well-known across the country. 

Credit to Northern Ag Network

The Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 established that wild horses could not be sold. All horses consigned to the sale are those that have been selectively bred as bucking stock, did not fit what was needed on a ranch, or have become horses that actively try to buck off their riders.

Each year, people join together to watch very talented and athletic cowboys ride these talented and athletic bucking horses prior to being auctioned off. It has become the premier social event of the community, and it is now accompanied by a variety of other events that promote western culture.

Today, Miles City sees a $10-$12 million impact each year resulting from the event. In 2021, the sale had its largest trade show with 120 vendors, and it hosted its first PRCA sanctioned event. Last year, 26 of the top 30 saddle-bronc riders traveled to Miles City to compete on PRCA saddle-bronc horses.

Credit to Miles City Bucking Horse Sale Facebook Page

The 2022 Event Going on Now

The 2022 World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale will again feature not only the bucking horse auction but the horse races, kick-off concert, mutton bustin’, street dance, parade, trade show, and multiple bronc riding competitions. 

Friday, May 20, the trade show will open at 4:00 p.m. with the first of four-horse races beginning at 4:30 p.m. Beginning at 4:45 p.m., the rodeo grand entry will start an evening full of horse racing, ranch bronc riding, PRCA sanctioned bronc riding, and mutton bustin’.

Credit to Miles City Bucking Horse Sale Facebook Page

Starting early Saturday morning, the Range Riders Museum will host its annual breakfast at 6:00 a.m., and the parade will begin at 9:30 a.m. Horse races, the bucking horse sale futurity, and the open bucking horse sale will start at 12:00 p.m. and continue until 9:00 p.m. After the event on both Friday and Saturday, visitors will have the chance to head to town for street dances. 

Sunday, May 22, will begin with the Custer Co. Art Center brunch and cowboy church at the fairgrounds. Horse races, ranch bronc riding, a ranch bronc Calcutta and the PRCA sanctioned match bronc ride will begin at 12:00 p.m. and continue through 7:00 p.m.

Tickets for all three days can be purchased for $60, and single-day tickets are available for $20. An all-event general admission pass, which includes the kick-off concert, can be purchased for $90. Children ages 6-12 years old can attend for the discounted ticket price of $5. 

Credit to Miles City Bucking Horse Sale Facebook Page

Click here to purchase tickets online. 

An event that does an exceptional job of preserving and promoting the western lifestyle, we at Cowboy Lifestyle Network hope that you will make the trip out to Miles City, Montana to experience the annual World Famous Bucking Horse Sale!

CLN Community & Event Sponsor

Originally from Earth, Texas, a small town in the Texas panhandle, I was raised around rodeo, agriculture, and the western lifestyle. With a degree from Texas A&M University, I have found a passion for promoting the lifestyle that made me who I am today. I am an experienced writer, marketer, and event professional with a strong desire to share the stories of those in our industry. When I’m not busy seeking out ways to promote the western way of life, I enjoy following those I care about around to rodeos, hunting, and going on runs with my blue-eyed, blue-merle Australian Shepherd.

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