I learn a lot every time I write a book. Following are a few things I learned about the rodeo - especially about Team Ropers - as I researched information for "My Rodeo Man."
A brief history of rodeo from the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame Website:
Rodeo as we know it did not exist until the late 1800’s, but its roots in North America are traced back to the Spanish settling California and becoming cattle ranchers. The definition of “rodeo” is a Spanish word meaning roundup. The skills of the early Spanish vaqueros were eventually passed along to the American Cowboy after the civil war when the frontier territories were heavily expanding. The difference between Spanish rodeo and American rodeo is that the Spanish version focuses on style, while the American version focuses on speed.
It is very hard to trace the first rodeo in America. Many places make this claim including: Sante Fe, New Mexico in 1847, Deer Trail, Colorado in 1869, and Pecos, Texas in 1883. All early rodeos varied greatly by events and most were free to the public. Prescott, Arizona held their first rodeo on July 4, 1888 . Much of what we know today in the sport of rodeo grew from the Prescott Rodeo. The committee established the following that still hold true today: prizes awarded, rules for competition, admission charged, cowboys invited to compete and a committee to organize. The events included bronco riding, steer roping and cow pony races. In 1889, the first steer riding competition was held, later this event evolved into modern bull riding. By 1917, calf roping was added to the list of events at Prescott.
Did you know? 10 Facts about Rodeos and Cowboys
- All professional rodeos are governed by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association or PRCA.
- The most common injury to Team Ropers is losing a digit, especially the thumb. “As part of this event, the cowboy or cowgirl must wrap the rope around their saddle horn a few times after they’ve roped the steer. Because the steer will pull on and tighten the rope, the competitor’s must wrap the rope around the saddle horn quickly and be sure to get their hands out of the way.”
- The term rodeo means to ‘go around’ or ‘round up’ in Spanish.
- “Cowboy Christmas,” is the unofficial term for the month of July when lots of rodeos and lots of prize money is up for grabs.
- The Team Roping event consists of a team of two riders, a ‘header’ and a ‘heeler.’ The header ropes the steer around the horns and then take a ‘dally’ – he/she wraps the rope around the horn of the saddle. The heeler waits until the header has turned the steer, then as soon as possible, throws a loop of rope under the running steer's hind legs and catches them. The event usually takes between 4 and 12 seconds.
- In 1940, Gene Autry became so popular as a rodeo singer that even today rodeo producers attract crowds with country singers headlining at rodeos.
- Bull wrestling, practiced long ago in Mediterranean countries including Spain, may have been an Olympic event in ancient Greece.
- Cowboys don’t refer to a rodeo as a competition. Generally it’s “the show” or “a rodeo.” If you draw a go after the main show is over, you’re “riding in the slack.”
- Cowboys usually do not ride stallions, they are unpredictable in a pasture and around other animals. Additionally, if a horse is left as a stud (not gelded) generally, he is valuable as a breeding animal and not risked in doing ranch work.
- The most successful cowboys – those who finish in the Top 15 and qualify for the National Finals Rodeo – might travel to as many as 125 rodeos per year, covering perhaps 100,000 miles.
If you would like to see a team roping team in action, check out this video from the 2016 San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo.