Riding the Old West into the Modern West

Riding the Old West into the Modern West

Part 2 in the History of Rodeo

This is part two in a three part series about the history of rodeo.

The Changing West

Little by little, the wild frontier was tamed as fences started to slowly partition off the West. This brought an end to many of the long cattle drives and several aspects of the roaming cowboy’s way of life began to change.

When the Wild West shows started to die out, only the “Cowboy Competitions” part of the show remained and was adopted by towns. Once free, towns started charging an entry fee for spectators and competitors alike, this garnered the attentions of more would-be competitors. With pay and prize money being added to shows, cowboys started to travel to different rodeos to compete.

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As time has passed, cowboys may have found most rides last around eight seconds; however, one ride is still going, it is the ride that started in the old West and has continued on into the modern West.

History of Rodeo

Breaking Unfair Promoters

In 1929, many larger rodeo promotions came together to create rules for the growing sport. This caused the creation of the Rodeo Association of America (RAA). However, promoters taking advantage of cowboys, unfair judging, and problems with prize money eventually led to a group of several cowboys taking a stand that would change the future of rodeo.

In 1936, cowboys that would be competing in the Boston Garden Rodeo grew angry with how promoter W.T. Johnson’ treated them. When their demands weren’t met, they decided not to compete in the event. When Johnson couldn’t replace them, he gave in to their demands.

The actions of this group of cowboys led to the creation of the Cowboy Turtles Association (CTA). These cowboys, brave enough to try and break wild animals, did not think they could break the unfair promoters. However, turns out they were just as good at that. In 1945, the CTA changed its name to the Rodeo Cowboys Association.

For a long time, belt buckles have been the prize at rodeos. But how did that come about? According to Ralph Clark in his article Rodeo History, “Many early cowboys such as Fritz Truan, were also boxers, which is how the rodeo buckle became the preferred trophy of rodeo events.”

In 1975, the Rodeo Cowboys Association became the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), the largest sanctioning body of rodeo in the United States and Canada.


Daring to Ride Alone – The PBR

In 1992, 20 bull riders gathered in Scottsdale, AZ and decided to buck on alone. Each of those men staked $1000 of their own money on the belief that bull riding was popular enough to stand alone. They were right.

Last season the organization they started paid $9 million to riders, $2 million to stock contractors and the world champ brought home $1,464,775 in winnings. There are more than 1200 registered members and 300 events around the country because of the association those 20 men started. That association is known as the Professional Bull Riders (PBR).

According to PBR.com, PBR broadcasts reach over half a billion households in 50 nations and territories. Annual fan attendance of PBR’s season events is more than 2.5 million people.

While it is great to see the growth of rodeo and organizations around rodeo have made, two things must be remembered: Rodeo is probably the only sport created out of the working man’s industry and every time there is a rodeo it offers people a brief glance into America’s past. Rodeos offer us a ride from the old west that has lasted on into the modern west.

Check out part 1 The Bucking Started Somewhere and part 3 Bulldogging, Barrel Racing, and Big Cities in this series on the history of rodeo.