We were fortunate enough to get tickets to the finals of the PBR which is held in Las Vegas every year. The Professional Bull Riders (PBR) is an international professional bull riding organization based in Pueblo, Colorado, USA. The organization began in 1992 through the efforts of 21 professional bull riders, who gathered in a hotel room in Scottsdale, Arizona and each contributed $1000. Since that time, the organization has grown to include two tours (the Built Ford Tough Series and Lucas Oil Touring Pro Division) which collectively stage over 100 events in the United States every year. More than 800 cowboys from the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Australia, and Mexico hold PBR memberships. The season culminates in Las Vegas, where the PBR World Finals are held. In 2008, over 100 million people watched the PBR on television, and over 1.7 million attended a live event.
The rodeo was not originally a sporting event, but an integral part of cattle-ranching in areas of Spanish influence. The working rodeo was retained in parts of the US Southwest even after the US-Mexico War. Rodeo itself evolved after the Texas Revolution and the U.S.-Mexican War when Anglo cowboys learned the skills, attire, vocabulary, and sports of the vaqueros. Ranch-versus-ranch contests gradually sprang up, as bronc riding, bull riding, and roping contests appeared at race tracks, fairgrounds, and festivals of all kinds. William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) created the first major rodeo and the first Wild West show in North Platte, Nebraska in 1882. Following this successful endeavor, Cody organized his touring Wild West show, leaving other entrepreneurs to create what became professional rodeo. Rodeos and Wild West shows enjoyed a parallel existence, employing many of the same stars, while capitalizing on the continuing allure of the mythic West.
Riders attempt to stay on a bucking bull for eight seconds, and rides are judged based on both the rider's and the bull's performance, with two judges scoring the rider and two scoring the bull. At the end of each event, the top 15 riders compete in the short round, or “short go”; the rider with the highest point total from the entire event becomes the winner. Since 2003, the PBR has awarded its annual world champion a $1,000,000 bonus. This year J.B. Mauney went 6 for 6 to win the Built Ford Tough Championship with $1,385,500.00 in prize winnings.
When I was growing up in Denver, we always went to the annual stock show. In the early years of the 20th century, western stock growers faced a problem. They lacked a large market center in the West to receive their animals and the cost of shipping to eastern markets cut into already lean profits. Though there was a small meat packing industry in Denver, it was a poor cousin to its larger rivals in Chicago and Kansas City. There was also the feeling among western stockmen that they weren’t getting fair prices for their cattle, sheep and hogs. In 1906 the first six day show under a circus big-top tent left little doubt as to the success of the event. By 1929 almost three and a half million head of cattle, sheep, and hogs, with a total value of sixty-five million dollars, were received annually at Denver’s expanding stockyards and packing houses, showing conclusively that the organizers of the National Western had realized their goal of making Denver a major livestock market center. Youth divisions first came to the National Western in 1919 and today hundreds of youngsters compete with lambs, hogs, goats, and steers. As the National Western rounds out a century of growth, in 2006, well over 600,000 folks attended and 12,000-plus entries delighted visitors while facing the scrutiny of judges and prospective buyers. Some 18,000 school kids came on field trips and the rodeos and bull riding attracted 700 cowboys and cowgirls. The show offered over 40 ticketed rodeos, horse shows, and other entertainments and there were banquets, luncheons, breed association meetings and other gatherings.
I hope this introduction to the rodeo has convinced you that the rodeo tradition of the west is alive and well. Las Vegas is a great place to experience rodeo events with the Professional Bull-riders Finals and the National Finals Rodeo. If you have an interest in rodeo, consider a trip to Las Vegas for the PBR in October, the NFR finals in December or visit Denver during the annual Stock Show in January.
Professional Bull Riders: http://www.pbr.com
National Western Stock Show: http://www.nationalwestern.com
National Finals Rodeo: http://www.prorodeo.com