History of Ranch Rodeo
COWGIRL|January/February 2021
A working cowboy’s event, the modern-day version of a rodeo is vastly different from its predecessor, the traditional ranch rodeo. Instead of the glamorous and sometime theatrical performances of today’s professional rodeos, ranch rodeos remain dedicated to the skill and determination necessary to work a ranch. From their grass-roots evolution in the 19th century to the thousands of annual events today, ranch rodeos connect generations of cowboys and cowgirls across the country.

Although community brandings and roundups were commonplace for ranches across North America, formal organization of ranch rodeos grew slowly and organically. The first organized ranch rodeo events in the United States— complete with betting and prizes—occurred in Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. In the springtime, when cattle were gathered and branded, large ranches put on “cowboy contests.” Contestants from other local ranches would compete in roping, riding and horse-breaking. Wagers would be made on which cowboy would be the fastest roper or the best horsebreaker and over time the sport of ranch rodeo evolved.

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