Horses and History: The Connection Between Rodeo and Ranching

By Kennadee Riggs, AZFB Communications Intern

The chute swings open… his heart is pounding as beads of sweat roll down his forehead under the caged helmet he wears for protection. He holds on with just four fingers for eight seconds of pure adrenaline. This is the life of the almighty bull rider. He stands alongside other brave cowboys and cowgirls who compete in what is known today as the sport of rodeo. But what is rodeo? Where did it come from? Welcome to Fill Your Plate’s first feature article on America’s heart and soul!


To the professional cowboy or cowgirl, rodeo is a source of income. To the spectator or fan, rodeo is a fun weekend activity. And to many, rodeo is a lifestyle and passion. Aside from the many roles that rodeo plays in different lives, it is actually a fantastic history teacher. Dating all the way back to 1872, the sport of rodeo has deep connections to the backbone of America; our own farmers and ranchers. 


If you take a close look at each rodeo event, you will see clear traces of daily ranch responsibilities. The competitive levels between cowboys in early ranching days pushed them to create competitions to determine who was the toughest of them all. This is where today’s rough stock events sprouted from. Saddle bronc, bareback, and bull riding all originated in this very same way. Calf roping, otherwise known as tie-down roping, is a common ranching necessity when herd animals are in need of individual care such as branding or vaccinations. Steer wrestling (or bulldogging) and team roping come from similar responsibilities. On top of all of these events, there are also the competitive barrel racing and breakaway roping as well. 


Our own beloved state of Arizona claims the world’s oldest professional rodeo, Prescott Frontier Days, as well as the world’s oldest continuous rodeo in the hills of Payson. The Sweetheart State surely has rich roots running in the ranching and rodeo industries!


Today, Arizona hosts nearly three dozen rodeos each year. Some of its most well known, sanctioned by the great Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, include the Payson Pro Rodeo, Prescott Frontier Days, Tucson, Flagstaff, Roots N’ Boots, Parada Del Sol, Turquoise Circuit Finals, and many more!


If you’d like to take part in the excitement, visit and look for upcoming rodeos in your area. For more articles like this, check out Fill Your Plate’s blog

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