Past Articles

Question from 5th Grade class in Laingsburg, MI: When was the first rodeo?
(They were doing a project on the 100 most important things in U. S. history, and rodeo made the list)
Response from Woerner:

          "As a rodeo historian I am delighted to know your 5th grade class picked rodeo as one of the 100 most important things in U. S. history. I believe that rodeo was more important in history than many people realize in the development of the American west. Until rodeos were started cowboys were forced to lead rather lonesome lives. Many were out on the range with nothing but cattle for days, sometimes months at a time. When rodeo became a happening it gave the cowboy, who usually could excel at riding or roping, and sometimes both, the opportunity to either remain on the ranch or compete in rodeos and travel from place to place, meeting new and different people everywhere he went, and still do what he knew how to do.  We probably will never know just exactly where and when the first rodeo was held. As a historian it is my belief that for every documented event we have, there were probably numerous undocumented similar events happening in various other places in the west -- on a ranch, at a community picnic, or a 4th of July celebration -- one bronc rider, was pitted against a good cowboy from a nearby ranch. Who was the best rider? Broncs were brought in, bets were made, and the cowboys rode, or tried to ride the broncs. Whoever did the best job was considered the winner.

          In 1847 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a roping competition and horse races were held. In 1869 in Deer Trail, Colorado, a bucking contest was held. In 1872 in Cheyenne, Wyoming, a steer roping was held, and in 1893 a bronc riding happened there. In 1882 Buffalo Bill held a roping, riding and bronc riding contest in North Platte, Nebraska. That same year Austin, Texas, had a steer roping contest. Each of these cowboy contests were different in content and there were no organized events as we have in rodeo today. Some paid money to the winner, one contest gave a suit of clothes. Some did it just for the honor of winning.

I do hope this helps your class project. Good luck!