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What are ranch rodeos?

Ranch rodeos are a traditional type of rodeo which involve teams of cowboys or cowgirls from different ranches. The teams compete against each other in a number of events based on the sort of work they do day-to-day. Some of this work includes riding, roping, branding and horse breaking.

Ranch rodeos are held all over the country. The teams of cowboys and cowgirls travel throughout the country to compete for bragging rights. They are usually held on weekends with sometimes two or three occurring on the same day. Some teams will travel to only a few rodeos a year and others try and make it to all of them. The teams prize winnings and ability to continue to get work done back at the ranch are determining factors for the number of rodeos a team can travel to and participate in.

Ranch rodeos vary in size and competitiveness. In some instances, they are local competitions that are help during the county fair and others are state competitions. These state competitions can be open for everyone to compete or by invite only. In order to compete in some of the bigger rodeos, including the World Championship, teams must qualify by competing at sanctioned rodeos. 

Most ranch rodeos consist entirely of timed events, with the goal being to complete the assigned task in the shortest possible time. Let’s take a look at some ranch rodeo events:

  • Calf Branding – Teams have to find and rope specific calves (identified by randomly-assigned numbers) out of a larger herd of cattle, bring the calves to the branding area, and “brand” them by marking the calves with chalk.
  • Ranch Doctoring – Similar to calf branding, except the cattle are older and larger, and the event simulates bringing a sick animal in from the herd for veterinary care.
  • Bronc Riding: The contestant sits in a standard saddle attached to the back of a horse – but with no saddle horn. For leverage, he holds a thick “rein” that is attached to the horse’s halter, which can only be held with one hand.  
  • Herd Counting – The objective is to throw a rope with a loop around the head, horns or legs, based on the size and age of the animal, and prevent it from moving.
  • Calf Roping – a lasso-wielding cowboy or cowgirl moves from horseback to foot in pursuit of a calf. The contestant chases the calf on horseback, lassoes it, and dismounts to “throw” it down by hand

As you can see many of the events are team-oriented and reflect the cooperative effort needed to perform ranch duties. The nearly 200-year evolution of ranch rodeos has seen the sport evolve from localized roundups to formal associations and events.  One thing remains unchanged: Ranch rodeos are integral in keeping the Western culture alive for generations to come.

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