User:Amcilrick/Rodeo in Australia - Welfare of Animals Used in Rodeo Events

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“Professional rodeo is a unique and spectacular sports entertainment. It is colourful, exciting and rich in the traditions of the Australian outback” (APRA, n.d.).

A Cowboy Taming a Bull


Rodeo in Australia – Animal Welfare[edit]

Australian rodeo has had to deal with Animal Welfare groups and negativity from the RSPCA since rodeo commenced. These groups are naive to the fact that there are Codes of Practices and rules in place for the welfare of rodeo stock. No one enforces these rules more than the rodeo associations.


Rodeo in Australia can be traced back to the arrival of the first horses in New South Wales on January 26 1788 (Hayes, 1982). The First Fleet en route to Sydney Cove took on board a small number of horses (Hayes, 1982). These wild horses were broken in, trained for the New South Wales climate and terrain and used mainly for transport and security.

By the 1800’s the need for horse-breakers was growing, creating buck-jumping. Soon informal matches between stations best horsemen and horses were created and the Bushman’s Carnival contests began (Hayes, 1982).

Bushman’s Carnivals were the bushman’s annual holiday. Stockmen would demonstrate their skill, city slickers would venture out to the bush and family celebrations would occur. Bushman’s Carnivals were not only a time of fun and joy but also the challenge of determining who the best buckjump rider was, which carried the highest honour (Poole, 1977).

In December 1944 the first official rodeo association was formed, the Australian Rough Riders Association (ARRA) (Poole, 1977).

In March 1946 the Bushman’s Carnival became an official association, the Northern NSW Bushmen’s Carnival Association. Today it is known as the Australian Bushman’s Campdraft and Rodeo Association (ABCRA), one of the largest Rodeo and Campdraft associations in Australia (ABCRA, n.d.).

Since then there have been numerous Rodeo organisations and associations formed.

One of the first rules the ARRA put in place was fairness to the animals used in the rodeo arena. Anyone who mistreated an animal would face some sort of penalty (Poole, 1977).

Rodeo Events[edit]

Rough Stock

Ladies Breakaway Roping
  • Bull Ride
  • Saddlebronc
  • Bareback

Timed Events:

  • Rope & Tie
  • Steerwrestling
  • Ladies Breakaway
  • Ladies Barrel Racing
  • Ladies Steer Undecorating
  • 14 - U18 Juvenile Barrel
  • 11-U14 Junior Barrel
  • U11 Junior Barrel
  • Junior Breakaway

Team Draw

  • Team Roping

Chute Draw

  • 14-U18 Juvenile Steer
  • 11-U14 Junior Steer
  • 8-U11 Poddy Ride
  • Novice Bull Ride
  • Novice Bareback
  • Novice Saddlebronc

Animal Welfare[edit]

“The Australian Bushman’s Campdraft and Rodeo Association recognises that animals used in competition must be treated in a humane manner and that the ABCRA does not condone the ill treatment or abuse of any animals whilst competing at campdrafts or rodeos” (ABCRA)

The National Consultative Committee on Animal Welfare (NCCAW), part of The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, are responsible on advising the Australian Government on animal welfare issues. With the help of rodeo associations they have produced a national standard document for managing and controlling rodeos. “The NCCAW Rodeo Standards are designed to address issues specific to rodeos, and complement legislation and national Codes of Practice” (NCCAW, 2008)

Each state has used the national standard and produced a more detailed Code of Practice. The Animal Welfare Advisory Council is responsible for the NSW Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals used in Rodeo events. The Australian Professional Rodeo Association, Australian Bushman’s Campdraft and Rodeo Association and the National Rodeo Association strongly enforce this code.


Barrel Racing

Barrel Racer - Bungendore Rodeo 2011

A report done in 1991 by the Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare titled Equine Welfare in Competitive Events other than Racing found horses used in barrel racing were excessively being whipped and spurred during their run. The ABCRA implanted the rule two whips/contacts between barrels and four whips/contact coming home. An over under action and overuse of the whip would result in disqualification.

The International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) will fine a barrel racing cowgirl if she is dressed inappropriately. Appropriate western attire is tucked in long sleeved shirts, with collars, no jumpers or t-shirts, non worn out jeans, western hats and boots (IPRA) IPRA barrel racers will be disqualified if they recross the finish line before the completion of a cloverleaf pattern. They will be fined $100 for going around a barrel more than once.

Rope and Tie

One of the most controversial events in rodeo is the Rope and Tie. This is where a mounted rider ropes a calf, jumps off and ties three of its legs together. Animal welfare groups hate this event as there is a chance the calf may be victim to a jerk down (pulling the calf backward off its feet) or dragging.

At the Equine Welfare in Competitive Events other than Racing inquiry this was the most criticised event due to the abrupt stopping of the calves. This has been reduced due to the introduction of neck ropes and jerk lines. Evidence shown to the inquiry proved the roping devices “improved the situation” (Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare, 1991).

The amount of time cowboys spend practicing and the amount of money spent on livestock, equipment, and travel the chances of a jerk down occurring decrease every time they step into a rodeo arena. If a jerk down does occur the rider is disqualified and fined $50. If the rider drags the calf they are disqualified (NSW Code of Practice, 1988).

Bungendore Rope and Tie.jpg
Rope and Tie

Use of Stock

All stock used in a rodeo, whether it be rough stock or timed event stock, must be examined by a veterinarian or a person with livestock experience at least two hours before being used and at the end of the event, before being loaded for transport. If the examiner deems the animal unhealthy, injured, having poor eye-sight, over-fat or pregnant they will not be used.

Contract cattle used for steer wrestling and roping may be used no more than three times a day. Non-contract cattle may only be used twice per day (NSW Code of Practice, 1988). Bucking animals can be used no more than four times a day. Bucking animals must be supplied by an approved contractor (ABCRA, n.d.).

  • Cattle used in calf roping events must be 100kg-140kg
  • Steer wrestling and team roping steers must be 180kg-300kg
  • Steer Undecorating must be a minimum of 300kg
  • Cattle used in riding events minimum weight is 200kg with a maximum rider weight of 40kg

Stock contractors need their stock to be healthy. Their livelihood comes from competing stock and if their animals aren’t healthy and meeting the minimum standard they will not be used and the contractor won’t be paid. No contractor wants stock to be treating poorly. As professional stock contractor Matt Adams puts it, “these animals are my livelihood – they’re valuable to me and I love them. Most of them are like pets and there’s no way known I’d mistreat them or deliberately subject them to any cruelty.” (Cowley, 2010)

Electric Prod

The electric prod is used mainly for the transportation on livestock. It is not allowed in the arena at any rodeo in Australia. The electric prod must be powered by dry cell batteries and be of low amperage. It can only be used on parts of an animal covered by hair (DAFF, 2008). The electric prod can only be used by the stock contractor or by a person nominated by the stock contractor (ABCRA & APRA).

“The prod produces 5,000-6,000 volts of electricity, but virtually no current or amperage. Because amperage, not voltage, causes burns, the cattle prod causes a mild shock, but no injury” (APRA).

The electric shock an animal feels from a prod is the same as what they would feel if they touched an electric fence sitting in their paddock.

Violation of this rule results in a $200 fine to the stock contractor (ABCRA).

Flank Strap

An Example of a Flank Strap

Rough stock are bred to buck. Putting a flank strap on them does not make them buck. The flank strap enhances their bucking style but causes no pain (APRA). Dr Ian Gollan, a large animal veterinarian stated “It is untrue to suggest that kick straps are pulled so tightly that they cause pain or restrict the free movement of the animal – such a procedure would inhibit the animal’s bucking prowess not enhance it.”

Flank straps must be lined with sheepskin or another suitable soft flexible material and must be fitted with a quick release (DAFF, 2008). No sharp or cutting objects may be used. If competitors are caught cheating they are fined and disqualified. Flank straps must be placed over the flank and belly of the animal.

Animal Welfare groups claim an animal will only buck because the flank strap has been placed over their genital area and deliberately tightened to cause them pain. Dr Gollan said “It is impossible to position these straps to interfere with the horse’s genitalia” (APRA) A flank strap is just like a human belt: Sitting in about the same position and easy to release.


Spurs are used to assist the rider’s timing and riding position on the animals in rough stock events (DAFF, 2008). They are one of the most closely monitored rules in rodeo. Spur rowels must not lock. They must be blunt and free running. They must be three millimetres thick and two centimetres in diameter. Spurs in bull riding are allowed to have a restricted movement but must not fully lock (DAFF, 2008). This is allowed as more grip is needed on a bull than on a horse.

Spurs that are free running allow the rowel to roll over the horse’s hide rather than cutting or bruising them, as animal welfare groups believe (APRA). Dr Gollan in an article for the Australian Equine Veterinarian named Rodeos said “…having regard to the blunt surfaces of the rowels the thickness of the animals skin, and the absence of any visible damage to the animal, it does not seem likely that significant pain is inflicted."

Riders who violate the spur rule get fined $100, automatically disqualified and may even face expulsion (ABCRA)

Penalties for Breaking Codes of Practice (ABCRA)[edit]

The NCCAW has not ruled that a violation of the code will lead to a punishable action. It is the rodeo associations that have chosen to punish anyone caught mistreating an animal. Penalties include (if not already mentioned);

  • Any contestant, stock contractor, pick up man guilty of mistreatment of livestock, may be fined by the Board of the Association with the fine not to exceed $500.
  • Contestants will be disqualified for any mistreatment of livestock.
  • All contest stock must be numbered by either ear tag or freeze, fire brand after being tried and proven with a minimum of three runs with paint brand numbering. Failure of contractors in possession of livestock to meet this criteria, will result in $10 fine per animal. Fine to progressively double. After 3 infringements in one rodeo year (per rodeo), contractor will be suspended.
  • If animals remain in yards for more than 24 hrs before loading, or if animals are to travel for 24 hrs, feed as well as water, must be provided. Failure to abide by this rule shall subject the stock contractor or person involved to a $250 fine for first offence and a progressive doubling for offences thereafter
  • If a member abuses an animal by any unnecessary non-competitive or competitive action they may be disqualified for the remainder of the rodeo and fined $100 for the first offence with that fine progressively doubling with each offence thereafter.
  • In the event of stock shortage the stock contractor or rodeo committee shall be fined as follows. First offence of the rodeo year - $25 for each animal short. Second offence - $50 for each animal short. Third offence - $100 for each animal short.
  • An event representative may declare particular animals unsatisfactory. Upon notification, either written or verbal, the stock contractor or rodeo committee shall eliminate such animal(s) from competition draw. Continued use of said animal(s) after notification shall result in a $50 fine per competition levied against offending party.
  • An animal used in the contest events of an ABCRA rodeo may not be used in any other way until after the last time that animal has been used in the contest events of that rodeo. Failure to abide by this rule shall result in $25 fine per head per competition, levied against the party concerned.

The following provisions regarding conduct shall apply to any event whether in competition or practice:

Walking away after being involved in the Rope and Tie
  • Inhumane treatment or abuse of a horse in any manner whilst in the arena or on the grounds is prohibited. Inhumane treatment includes, but is not limited to, the following:
  • Riding of a crippled, injured or lame animal
  • Riding of a horse with a health abnormality, which could result in the horse’s undue discomfort or distress
  • Abuse of an animal which includes excessive jerking, spurring, whipping or any other act intended to cause trauma or injury to the animal.
  • Any act of abuse or intent to abuse an animal whilst in the campdraft or rodeo arena or on the grounds or the vicinity which could also endanger the safety of other persons or animals will not be tolerated and the persons may be subject to disciplinary action.


“The International Professional Rodeo Association acknowledges the valuable role of animals in rodeo and our responsibility to provide a proper environment for the animals in competition, in transport and at rest” (IPRA).

Rodeos will always have to deal with animal welfare groups whether it is on a national or international scale. The IPRA promotes the same rulings as Australian rodeo associations. The difference is the degree of fine; eg – Australian Rope & Tie $50 fine, IPRA Calf Roping minimum $200 fine.

Cowboys and Cowgirls spend a lot of time, money and effort on their chosen profession. They are not going to be cruel to an animal for risk of getting fined, disqualified or even banned from a rodeo arena. Rodeo is a huge part of their livelihood and life in general.

The Future of Australian Rodeo

The Future of Rodeo in Australia[edit]

Rodeo is a traditional part of Australian outback life. The cowboy is one of the most universally known figures in history (Poole, 1977). Australian rodeo is a multimillion dollar industry (Hicks, 2000) that attracts corporate sponsorship and raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for local communities and charities.

Rodeo associations will always have to deal with animal welfare groups but it is the distinct lack of knowledge and research of these groups and the support of the government, veterinaries, communities and the growing population of rodeo participants that gives Australian rodeo a strong future.


Animal Welfare Advisory Council 1988, NSW Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals Used in Rodeo Events, viewed 5 October 2011,

Australian Bushman’s Campdraft and Rodeo Association n.d, ABCRA Animal Welfare Code-Rodeo, viewed 5 October 2011,

Australian Bushman’s Campdraft and Rodeo Association n.d, ABCRA History, viewed 11 October 2011,

Australian Professional Rodeo Association n.d, About APRA, viewed 11 October 2011,

Australian Professional Rodeo Association n.d, Animal Welfare, viewed 5 October 2011,

Australian Professional Rodeo Association n.d, Animals in Rodeo, viewed 5 October 2011,

Cowley, J 2010, Animal Welfare – Rodeo addressing the issue, Dubbo Weekender, viewed 5 October 2011,

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry 2008, Standards for the care and treatment of rodeo livestock, viewed 5 October 2011,

Hayes, M 1982, Origin of the rodeo in Australia, Longreach QLD, The Longreach Printing Co

Hicks, J 2000, Australian Cowboys, Roughriders and Rodeos, Queensland, Central Queensland University Press

International Professional Rodeo Association n.d., Rulebook, viewed 20 October 2011,

Poole, P 1977, Rodeo in Australia, Hong Kong, Rigby Limited

Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare 1991, Equine Welfare in Competitive Events other than Racing, viewed 5 October 2011,