Rodeos in Arizona

Rodeo is a sport that originated in Spain by Spanish cattle herders.  Spanish cowboys (or vaqueros) would challenge each other in a competition to see who had the best roping, riding and herding skills.   Much like today, early ranch duties included roping, riding, herding, branding and horse breaking.

Bucking Rodeo Horse

Rodeo exhibits the talents used in everyday life on the ranch. The athletic ability, knowledge, and steadfast spirit are fundamental in the rancher’s way of life and are demonstrated in the uncompromising rodeo arena.

The first formal rodeo or “cowboy tournament” offering cash prizes was held on July 4, 1888, in Prescott, Arizona. The early rodeos were popular amongst cowboys and local ranchers as it offered them the opportunity to show off the skills used on the ranch to the townspeople.

The earliest rodeo arenas in the late 1800’s were simply a swathe of land that was unaltered and roped off to stop any escaping broncs. Fancy rodeo arenas that we know today were nonexistent. The main cowboy events included steer roping and tying, cow pony racing, and bronco riding. It was a cowboy named Juan Leivas who won the rodeo’s first “professional” title. The Prescott rodeo has not missed a single year since its beginnings in 1888. It has grown into what is now known as “The World’s Oldest Rodeo” and has become a family tradition for many Arizonans.

Rodeo is now a multimillion dollar industry.  There are around 700 professional rodeos across the US. Given Arizona’s rich ranching background it comes as no surprise that we are offered a copious amount of opportunity to enjoy the rodeo. This is a list of just a few of our local rodeo events. (These and more can be found on the Visit Arizona webpage.)


A part of the Prescott Frontier Days celebration, this event takes place annually the week of July 4th.


This all-African American event takes place at Rawhide, a Western theme park, in early March.


This early February event is part of Wickenburg’s annual Gold Rush Days. This event is for cowhands aged 40 and older.


This event had been put on annually in early February since the mid-1940’s by the Yuma Jaycees. This is a three-day affair taking place at the Yuma County Fairgrounds.


This is a nine-day, mid-February event, also known as the Tucson Rodeo. It is one of North America’s top 25 pro rodeos.


This PRCA-sanctioned rodeo emphasizes the adrenaline rush of bull riding and takes place in early March and is the last of the big-time rodeos in the Phoenix area.


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