August 23 - September 2, 2024

The Thrilling World of Rodeo: An Exploration of its History, Events, and Challenges

For decades, rodeo events have thrilled audiences of all ages. With roots in cowboy culture and the settling of the Wild West, rodeo events showcase the people and animals’ skill, strength, and determination. In many events, like barrel racing, animal and humans work together. In others, like in bull riding, it’s a competition and a collaboration.

Learn about the evolution of rodeo through the years, what makes it fun to watch, and how the Colorado State Fair ensures that cattle, horses, and riders are safe and treated well.

A woman rides a horse in an arena holding the American Flag

The History of Rodeo

Rodeo dates to the 16th century with the Spanish conquistadors and became a part of the New World culture when Spanish-Mexican settlers brought it to the Southwest.  In the 1800s, the era of the American cowboy, with long cattle drives across country, high desert and over rivers led to competition among cowhands to see who the best was. Combining the adventure and the history of the American cowboy, modern rodeo was born from informal competitions to showcase cattle handling and horseback skills. Over time, the sport grew from the ranch to small county fairs – and into the professional sport it is today, complete with standardized rules and regulations.

Bull Riding

A man riding a bull in an arena at the Colorado State Fair

One of the main events in rodeo is bull riding, which involves a rider attempting to stay on the back of a bucking bull for 8 seconds, while holding onto a rope tied around the bull with a single hand. Dexterity, strength, and balance are all needed to be successful in bull riding.

Bronc Riding

A man riding a bucking horse

Another popular event is bronc riding, which involves riding a bucking horse for 8 seconds and demonstrating control and style throughout the ride. In this event, the rider holds onto a leather strap called a bronc rein and must show off their ability to control the horse’s movements while maintaining balance and poise.

Steer Wrestling and Team Events

man wrestling a steer

Cowboys show their strength and agility by wresting a steer to the ground — used on the ranch to quickly brand or administer medicine to the steer. Barrel racing involves racing a horse around a set of barrels in a specific order as quickly as possible. Riders are scored by their times. Rodeo at the Fair also features team events, such as roping or relay races, where riders work together to complete specific tasks.

Animal Safety

Animal owners washing and tending to their animals

The health and welfare of animals at the Colorado State Fair are its highest priorities. Humane animal handling and care are paramount to the success of fair events. The Fair has an on-site veterinarian and all animals at the Fair – including those in exhibits, at the rodeo or in competition — are required to receive proper treatment and care before, during and after any event or competition. Contestants are held to the highest standards and strict rules are in place to avoid mistreatment.

See the Rodeo at the Colorado State Fair

A girl riding a horse at a full run

Rodeo is not only an exciting sport, it’s the reminder of wilder, unsettled days in the American West. Part of American culture, the rodeo events test the skill and bravery of modern-day cowboys against some of the toughest animals around.

Buy your tickets for the Colorado State Fair and add the rodeo to your other favorite events: concerts, truck rallies and demolition derbies.

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