Rodeo animals are generally tame creatures who must be provoked into battle. They live lives filled with stress and fear. Contestants practice their games on numerous calves, bulls, and so forth, therein injuring and killing many animals before even entering the ring. A contestant's score is based on how long he can ride a struggling animal or how quickly he can overpower an animal. Sprains, broken bones, muscle pulls, saddle blisters, spur wounds, flank strap wounds, punctured lungs, broken ribs, hematomas, bruising, and broken necks are common. Wounded animals are quickly removed while the rodeo announcer distracts the public. The animals that become too injured to participate are sent to slaughter.
Three to four month old calves are tormented in the holding pen. Their tails are frequently scraped across the pen’s metal bars until they bleed. Other times, their tails are twisted, or the animals are shocked with electric prods until the gate opens. As a result, they run quickly into the ring. The contestant, who is mounted on a horse, chases a calf, then lassoes him by the neck. The rope often jerks the calf into the air, snapping his head back and causing him to gasp for air. He then falls to the ground where the roper ties three of the calf’s hind legs together so that he cannot move.
- Broken legs
- Back injuries and broken backs
- Spinal cord paralysis
- Neck injuries and broken necks
- Severed tracheas
- Internal hemorrhaging
- Damage to internal organs
- Torn ligaments
The contestant, mounted on a horse, chases the steer out of the holding chute. He grabs the steer’s horns while dismounting, twists the animal’s neck, and slams him to the ground.
- Broken necks
- Torn ligaments
- Broken bones
- Severed spinal cords
- Severed tracheas
- Internal bleeding
The “flank” is the area of the animal’s body behind his rib cage. An adjustable belt called a “bucking strap” or “flank strap” is placed around the horse’s flank. The contestant tightens the belt, which pinches the animal’s groin and genitals, causing him to buck from the pain. He also spurs the horse.
- Broken neck
- Snapped spine
- Back problems
- Tears in leg tendons
In the holding chute, handlers may incite the bucking horse by shocking her, pulling her mane or tail, or slapping her face. The bucking strap and spurs cause her great pain and sometimes produce bloody wounds in the flank area. She will buck uncontrollably as a result, sometimes slamming into fences, posts, or chutes. Eventually she will trip and fall.
- Back injuries
- Leg injuries
Rodeo handlers often shock the bull repeatedly while he is trapped in the bucking chute, in order to torment him. In the ring, the bull bucks and struggles because of the pain inflicted by the flank rope while the participant attempts to control him. Bucking straps and spurs can cause the bull to buck excessively, thereby injuring him.
- Broken legs
- Broken back
A steer is forced to run while the mounted contestant throws a rope around his horns. He then flips the rope to the right side of the steer, while turning his horse, who is galloping, to the left. The steer’s head and neck are jerked, causing him to be tripped, rolled, and dragged. His legs are then tied. If the steer does not stay down the first time, he will be tripped and dragged until he does so.
- Fractured horns
- Neck injuries
- Back sores
- Hip sores
Mexican-style rodeos include horse tripping events and sharpened spurs which even most U.S. rodeo organizers find to be excessively cruel.
Tricks of the Trade: Painful tools used to incite rodeo animals.
- Electric prods are used primarily on bulls to prepare them for bucking. The prod is placed on the animal’s shoulder and hip; it emits 5,000 volts of electricity.
- Sharp sticks
- Caustic ointments
- Flank straps
- Raking spurs
Rules and Regulations
There is no overall code of rules applicable to all rodeos. The rules that do exist are inadequate and leniently enforced, and penalties are very weak. Rodeo contestants are rarely disciplined for injuring or even killing an animal. Rules requiring a veterinarian to be present at every event and to provide immediate veterinary attention to injured animals must be established and enforced at once.
Rodeo animals travel constantly in cramped, double-deck trailers or pens. The trailers are frequently inadequately ventilated, and the animals are often fed and watered erratically. They do not receive proper veterinary care. Animals that break free from their pens are commonly shot by police.
Rodeo calves, cows, and steers are seen as expendable. Thus, most live rather short lives. Almost all rodeo animals end up in the slaughterhouse.
You Can Help
- Encourage rodeo sponsors to stop supporting rodeos.
- Protest rodeos that come to your area and distribute fliers outside of the gate.
- Explain your objection to rodeos to your local officials, ask that veterinarians be on site during the events, and urge them to ban calf roping and enact stricter rodeo laws.
- Educate others about the cruelties inherent in the rodeo.
From July 16 to July 19, 2015, LCA and SHARK released four television ads alerting consumers about animal cruelty in rodeos. The ads coincided with the Salinas Rodeo, and aired on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and other major networks. Click here to read the press release.