Rodeo Animal Welfare

Jun 30, 2009Updated 1 month ago

Understandably, many animal rights activists and more casual animal lovers are concerned about the well-being of the horses and cattle that participate in rodeos. The animals have a rough job, being chased and roped or ridden while they buck. To the uninformed observer, this might almost seem like animal abuse.

Rodeo Animals’ Welfare is Important for the Show

Without the animals, there could be no rodeo. The human rodeo stars partner with the bovine and equine ones to compete in the various events, all of them possessing a specialized skill. As such, typical rodeo animals bring price tags of $30,000 to $50,000. In addition to the considerable economic investment, none of the athletes would be able to perform if they were not in top shape.

The Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) takes the welfare of rodeo animals very seriously. They have about five dozen rules in their handbook that discuss the humane treatment of the livestock, including provisions for fines and suspension for disregarding the rules

According to the PRCA website, “Anyone who attends a PRCA rodeo can be assured that the greatest care has been taken to prevent injury to animals or contestants.”

Of course, there are some rodeos that are not as ethical as the PRCA. Some may treat their livestock very poorly, but professional rodeo associations like the PRCA insist on the ethical treatment of the animals. As part of their duties, professional rodeo judges inspect the animals before the events to ensure that they are healthy enough to perform.

As an added measure, there are veterinarians on site to treat injuries and illnesses in a timely manner. In fact, the PRCA reports that there are several veterinarians who compete in rodeos because they believe the animals are treated well. PRCA veterinarians have determined that only five-hundredths of one percent of rodeo animals are injured during the course of their work.

Equipment Used on Rodeo Animals

There are several pieces of tack used on rodeo animals that are important to the sport. However, these may seem cruel to someone who does not know anything about them.

Buck straps, or flank straps are used to encourage horses to buck, but they do not hurt the horse. They are made of leather lined with fleece and placed behind the horse’s ribcage. In PRCA and other professional rodeos of the same caliber, sharp objects are never placed on the flank strap. As a safety measure, there is a quick-release buckle on the strap so it can be removed quickly.

Rodeo cowboys usually wear spurs when they ride bucking broncos and bulls. Although the spurs have rowels that may seem cruel, they are actually quite dull. The rowel is actually kinder than a spur without it, because the rowel rolls along the animal’s side without hurting it. The cowboy is not allowed to jab the spur in to his mount.

Although being a rodeo animal may seem like a rough, hard job, the animals are actually treated very well. In fact, closer attention is paid to them by judges and veterinarians than many horses and cattle that live in pastures without jobs. Knowing the animals are safe can make attending a rodeo much more enjoyable for everybody.


Start the first conversation about this story.

Discuss it