In rodeo events, such as calf roping, steer wrestling, bareback horse and bull riding, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, steer roping, and barrel racing, normally docile animals are physically provoked into displaying "wild" behavior in order to make the cowboys look brave.

Electric prods, spurs, and bucking straps are used to irritate and enrage animals used in rodeos. Before entering the ring, cows and horses are often prodded with an electrical "hotshot" so that the pain will rile them.

The flank (or "bucking") strap is tightly cinched around the animals' abdomens, causing them to buck vigorously in an attempt to escape the pain. The flank strap can cause open wounds and burns when the hair is rubbed off and the skin is chafed raw. Former animal control officers have found burrs and other irritants placed under the flank strap.

Injuries and Deaths

Rodeo cowboys voluntarily risk injury by participating in events, but the animals they use have no such choice. Countless animals in rodeos have suffered broken ribs, backs, and legs; punctured lungs; deep internal organ bruising; hemorrhaging; ripped tendons; torn ligaments and muscles; snapped necks; and agonizing deaths.

The following are just a few examples of casualties that have occurred at rodeos:

  • A terrified, screaming young horse burst from the chutes at the Can-Am Rodeo, slammed into a fence, and broke her neck.
  • By the end of one of the annual, nine-day Calgary Stampedes in Alberta, Canada, six animals were dead, including one horse who died of an aneurism and another who suffered a broken leg and had to be euthanized. The following year, six more animals died at the same event. In 2005, fear caused a stampede as horses destined for the event were being herded across a bridge. Some jumped and others were pushed into the river, resulting in nine deaths.
  • During the National Western Stock Show, a horse crashed into a wall and broke his neck, and another horse broke his back after being forced to buck.
  • During Rodeo Houston, a bull with a broken neck was left to suffer for a full 15 minutes before he was euthanized following a steer-wrestling competition.

The End of the Trail

The late Dr. C.G. Haber, a veterinarian who spent 30 years as a federal meat inspector, saw many animals from rodeos sold to the slaughterhouses he inspected. He described seeing animals "with 6-8 ribs broken from the spine, and at times puncturing the lungs." Haber saw animals with "as much as 2-3 gallons of free blood accumulated under the detached skin." These injuries occur when animals are thrown in calf-roping events or jumped on by people on horseback during steer wrestling.

What You Can Do

  • If a rodeo comes to your town, protest to local authorities, write letters to sponsors, leaflet at the gate, or hold a demonstration. Contact PETA for posters and fliers.
  • Click here to check state and local laws to find out what types of activities involving animals are illegal in your area. For example, after a spectator videotaped a bull breaking his leg during a rodeo event, a Pittsburgh law prohibiting bucking straps, electric prods, and sharpened or fixed spurs effectively banned rodeos altogether, since most rodeos currently touring the country use bucking straps.
  • Another way to ban rodeos is to work to institute a state or local ban on calf roping, the event in which cruelty is most easily documented. Since many rodeo circuits require calf roping, eliminating it can result in the overall elimination of rodeo shows.