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“It’s Rodeo!” The mere words would bring excitement to cattlemen from the Mexican to Canadian border. It was a time for festivities and cowboy challenges. The CCPMG continues the festivities in 2015!

Rodeo competitions emerged after the Civil War. But who has the bragging rights for the first one? Well, lots of places; including Pecos, TX; Payson, AZ; Cheyenne, WY; and Prescott, AZ. Cheyenne started theirs in 1872.  In 1888 Prescott, Arizona claimed the distinction of holding the first professional rodeo, charging admission and awarding trophies. However Deer Trail, CO holds the distinction of having the earliest documented, organized competition on July 4, 1869.

Between 1890 and 1910, rodeos became popular public entertainment and sometimes combined with the Wild West Shows featuring Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, and other charismatic stars.  By 1910, several major rodeos were established in North America, including the Calgary Stampede, Pendleton Round Up, and Cheyenne Frontier Days.

Rodeo was first introduced into English around 1834 in reference to cattle round ups. The word "rodeo" is taken directly from the Spanish word rodeo, which roughly translates into English as "round up." In Mexico, the rodeo was the process used by vaqueros to gather cattle -- moving them to new pastures, separating by ranch, or gathering for slaughter. The term was also used to refer to exhibitions of skills used in the working rodeo. It was this latter usage that was adopted into the North American cowboy tradition.

Early rodeo-like affairs of the 1820s and 1830s were informal events in the western United States and northern Mexico. Cowboys and vaqueros tested their working skills against one another. Events were based on ranching tasks and skills and were as varied as the terrain and climate of the American west. The skills for managing cattle and horses date back to the Spanish traditions of the vaquero.

Rodeos were popular in big Eastern cities, and large venues like Madison Square Garden popularized them for new crowds. Associations formed in 1929 began the event standardization process and defined racing, roping, riding, tying, and wrestling (yup, steer wrestling).

Rodeo saw unprecedented growth in the 1970s. "New breed" contestants brought rodeo increasing media attention. These contestants were young, often from an urban background, and chose rodeo for its athletic competition, media recognition, and financial rewards. By 1985, one half of the competitors had never worked on a cattle ranch but one third of PRCA members could boast a college education.

“Modern” rodeo is usually a competitive and public exhibition of cowboy skills. Today, a professional rodeo might be staged in large, air-conditioned arenas; or held outside, in the cold, dust or mud, of the original events. But either venue is likely to offer large purses or be telecast internationally. Common to either environment though, is the thrill of a cowboy pitting his skills against a four-legged competitor intent on following instincts ingrained in freedom and wilderness survival!


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