Rodeos: Letting Go of Barbaric Traditions

Rodeos involves provoking frightened and stressed bulls, calves or horses into ‘wild’ behaviour, and are pitted against a ‘cowboy’ in a display of extreme animal cruelty. Rodeos originated from the practices of cattle herders in Spain and Mexico, coming to popularity as a ‘sport’ in Australia, the United States and Canada.

Due to their cruelty, rodeos have been banned in Britain since 1934. They are also banned in several European countries and American states. Unfortunately, rodeos are legal everywhere in Australia except the ACT.

Rodeos inflict massive harm on animals, from broken legs and backs, to stress, and often death.



Contrary to the popular legend of a ‘brave person versing a wild beast’ the animals have to be physically provoked into the frenzied ‘bucking’ movements that create the spectacle that audiences come to see.

There are several cruel methods cowboys use to provoke the animals into action:

  • Flank straps, that are placed around the girth and pulled tightly just before the animal is released into the arena, inflicting distress and pain and causing the animal to buck.
  • Electric prods, are used to shock the animals to move out of the shoot. While against the law it is not uncommon to witness hand-held prods.
  • Spurs are metal spikes on the back of riders’ boots, which are dug into the animals’ flank to compel the animal to move.
  • Tail Twisting, Raking, and Pulling, are three methods that inflict pain upon the bull, calf and horses. Twisting is where the workers curl the tail, raking is where the tail is pulled back and forth along the fence, whilst pulling is where the tail is pulled away from the animals body.

Without these provocations animals would not display the behaviour necessary for this cruel ‘sport’.

The Events

There are several events in a rodeo that horses and cattle are forced to participate in:

  • The animal is provoked into bucking while a rider holds the reins with one hand and attempts to stay on for eight seconds. The unnatural bucking movement has caused animals to break their legs, necks and backs, all while suffering the effects of the vicious provocation.
  • Calf roping. A calf is chased by a rider on horseback. The rider lassoes the calf around the neck, and then has 30 seconds to jump off the horse and tie three of the calf’s legs. Neck bruising and snapping is common in these events for the terrified calves.
  • Steer wrestling. Steers are grabbed by the horns and wrestled to the ground in a timed competition. The steers suffer stress, as well as neck, muscle and tendon injuries as a result.