The sport of rodeo consists of some main events that working ranch cowboys of the old west invented from activities they did on the range.


Tie Down (Calf) Roping

Tie Down Roping evolved directly from the cowboy's work on the range.  As the cattle roamed free the calves would need to be roped in order to catch them for doctoring, moving, or returning back to their mothers.  Today the rodeo event is a timed event in which the calf, weighing 220 to 280 pounds, gets a head start on the cowboy and his horse.  At the nod of the head by the cowboy (roper), the calf is released from a narrow chute which enters directly into the arena.  This will start the timer.

As soon as the cowboy throws a lariat loop with his 28 foot rope around the calf, the horse will come to sudden stop, the rider jumps off of his horse while holding onto the rope and runs to the calf.  The horse will keep the rope taunt as the cowboy throws the calf down and ties three of his legs with a "pigging string" which is about six feet long.  Once he has the calf tied, the cowboy will throw his hands up to signal he is done and the clock will stop.  He then remounts his horse and rides forward to slacken the rope.  The calf must remain tied for six seconds or the cowboy will get a "no time" for his efforts.

Steer Wrestling or Bull Dogging

This event was started by a cowboy named Will Pickett while working in the Wild West Shows back in the 1930's.  The cowboy positions himself on his horse to the left of the steer in a chute and his partner or "hazer" is on the right on his horse.  The steer will be released from the chute and the bulldogger will chase and drop down on him.  The job of the hazer is to keep the steer close to the bulldogger so that he can lean out of his saddle, while going full speed on his horse, to grasp the steer's right horn and slide his right arm around the horn into the crook of his elbow, much like a half-nelson in wrestling.  The the bulldogger uses his left hand and grabs the steer's left horn as his horse veers left so that the cowboy's feet are on the ground and in front of the cowboy.  By pushing down with his left hand, pulling with his right elbow, and planting his heels into the ground, the bulldogger slows the steer's forward motion.  He continues this action into a left-hand turn, bringing his hand onto the steers' nose for more leverage and then throws the steer onto his side so that all four of its feet are off the ground and stretched out straight.  The steer or "doggie" weighs 450 to 650 pounds compared the cowboy weighing in at 180 to 250 pounds.  The timing starts when the steer leaves the chute and dogger has the steer completely down.

Team Roping

Team roping is another event that comes from the everyday work of a cowboy on the range.  Cattle often need to be caught and brought in for branding, to doctor or totreat injuries.  They are usually larger animals and so the best way is to have one roper, the header, rope the horns and the other cowboy, or the heeler, will rope the back feet.  This event requires teamwork between both of the ropers and between the roping horses. 

The steer is released from the chute when the cowboy on the left, the header, nods his head.  The header will rope the head of the steer as fast as possible with a legal head catch, meaning around the horns.  After the header makes his catch the other cowboy is right behind him and will throw his rope to catch the two back feet.  Both horses must be turned and facing each other to get a time.

Bareback Riding

This event began in the days of breaking broncs to use as riding horses.  The action begins when the horse comes out of the chute and with the cowboy sitting so that his spurs extend over the horse's shoulders, called "marking the horse out," as the forelegs hit the ground.  The rider is riding the horse bareback.  He uses a "riggin" which is a handhold without stirrups.  The rider can only use one hand to hold on and must never touch anything with his free hand during the 8 second ride.  The cowboy will jerk and twist his knees to match the horse's movements to keep his tailbone up against the riggin'.  The spurs have notched wheels called rowels that must be blunted.

Saddle Bronc Riding

Saddle bronc riding is known as the classic event in rodeo because it began long before rodeo was a sport!  When cowboys would get together in the Old West, they would compete against each other by riding horses that hadn't been "broke" or ridden before.  They began drawing crowds and the betting would begin on who could ride the longest.  This was the early beginnings of the sport of rodeo. 

Again with this event, the cowboy, or bronc rider is required to stay on the horse for 8 seconds but he does have a bucking rein to hold onto and he needs to keep his feet in the stirrups without touching anything with his free hand.  He is scored on how hard the horse bucks and how well he rides.


Bullriding is the most dangerous and most exciting event in the sport of rodeo.  It actually had its beginnings on the early Mexican ranches and was more of a sport than an actual working event.  The bulls are very fast and powerful and weigh as much as 2000 pounds!  Amazingly, the bullriders tend to be the smaller cowboys of the bunch!  The rider must stay on the bull for a full 8 seconds while the bull twists and turns and tries to buck the rider off.  Once on the ground it can be just as dangerous for the bullrider as when he is on the back of the bull.  The job of the rodeo clown is to distract the bull and protect the rider.  Other horses and riders are not in the arena to protect the rider because the bulls will often go after them as well. 

The bullrider uses a bull rope to hold on to during his 8 second ride.  This is a loose rope that is tied around the middle of the bull (and not to the testicles).  The cowboy holds onto the rope with one hand and holds the other up in the air for balance.  He is not allowed to touch the bull, himself or the equipment at anytime during the ride with his free hand.  He will be judged on his control and spurring efforts.