In Texas, there are plenty of chances to go to the rodeo. But every July 4th weekend for the past 66 years the unassuming town of Wimberley, just southwest of Austin, hosts one of the largest outdoor rodeos in the world. If you’re looking to up your Americana quota this year, dust off your boots, gas up the truck, and make sure you know your rodeo basics.
Modern rodeo is as much an event as it is a competition. It usually includes a fair or amusement park-style rides, game booths and food, as well as live music and fireworks. Competition is usually a livestock show or arena-based events.
Even though rodeo is an American icon, its roots lie in Spain and Mexico, where it arose out of the livestock management practices of vaqueros (horse-mounted herders). The word itself is derived from a Spanish verb meaning “to pen in.” Tending large herds of cattle, horses, sheep and other stock required specialized skills, and when herds would gather for sale or slaughter, the hands would often show off skills to each another. Over time, these demonstrations became increasingly competitive and modern rodeo competition evolved.
Depending on the size and prestige of the rodeo you attend, there are different events you can see:
- Bareback riding (no saddles)
- Bronco busting (with saddles)
- Steer wrestling (mounted rider dismounts and pulls a steer to the ground)
- Calf roping (several variants, with or without a tying, and as an individual or a team)
- Barrel racing (women only, horses weave around barrels as quickly as possible)
- Bull riding (signature event, riders try to stay mounted on a bull for 8 seconds)
Today’s rodeo is viewed by much of the public as a sport. Governing bodies like the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), the Cowboys Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) and the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) ensure standards of professionalism within the sport to protect riders, advocate for stock welfare and health, and generate revenue for cowboys through sponsorships and licensing.