From its roots grounded in the Texas cattle industry, rodeo was born as a test of skills for cowboys and cowgirls

Rodeo was born in Texas — it had to be.

Any not acknowledging that while still living within the vast borders of the Lone Star State should get out now, because everything, including rodeo is bigger and better in Texas.

Texas loves its football and for many, high school football is a Friday night ritual, and this great state churns out some of the nation’s best athletes year after year, but for rodeo, its roots run deep through the Texas soil, coming to life through the vaqueros and cowboys who rode into legend on the cattle drives from the Texas catchment areas in the south of the state to the railheads scattered across the Midwest and on up to Colorado and Wyoming.

Get a group of young, vibrant men together sharing a set of skills, such as cowboys, and eventually they will try to see who is the best. Today we call such contests rodeos, and while there is debate around the first rodeo in the United States, there is no debating that in Pecos on July 4, 1883 the first rodeo with prizes awarded, was held in the country. Out of that first event, eventually the professional rodeo cowboy would evolve into the top performers in the sport today. Some may debate some of the origins of rodeo, even claiming bull riding going back to the ancient Greeks, but it is the Western cowboy that perfected it to a point as the cowboys and the bulls get better and tougher every year.

In the history of rodeo many Texans stand tall, from bull rider Don Gay and his eight championships to a courageous cowboy named Bill Pickett, one of the black pioneers of rodeo, who invented the modern iteration of steer dogging more than 100 years ago, jumping off his horse onto the back of a steer, biting its upper lip, grabbing its horns and throwing the wily steer to the ground.

Other events, such as calf roping, bronc riding and many other events, came out of the everyday work of the 19th century cowboy.

Over the years women became increasingly involved in the sport, making their mark on the rodeo circuit. At one point even competing against men in all the events. By the middle of the 20th century organizations like the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) united rodeo cowboys and presented rodeo fans with the best in the business. Since the days of Gene Autry, rodeo has attracted some of the biggest Country & Western artists performing at the biggest shows, but still, pick a weekend in Texas and there likely is a town hosting a rodeo event.

 

It is at these small PRCA events where young cowboys and cowgirls gather and work their way up to the bigger events. It’s been that way for a long time, even when a young legend began her foray into the sport.

Martha Josey is the undisputed queen of barrel racing, winner of the National Finals Rodeo, and many other championship events. She is a member of the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame, and the Rodeo Hall of Fame of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Her love affair with rodeo began a long time ago.

“From the time I was a little girl I always loved horses,” Mrs. Josey recalled. “My Dad was one of the first to bring the Quarter Horse to East Texas in the 1930s. He passed away when I was 10 and left us with 36 mares and a stallion.

“I always played sports in school, but when I was a senior in high school I went to a rodeo, and I thought, ‘I don’t belong up here in the stands, I belong down there barrel racing.”

Her first rodeo caused her to fall in love with the sport, and it’s a love affair that has spanned the decades. She passes on her love to others through classes and clinics she holds to teach up and coming generations the art of barrel racing, while her husband, himself a calf-roping champion, holds clinics on that rodeo sport. A student of Mrs. Josey’s, Mary Walker, won a world championship in 2012 at the age of 53. Mrs. Josey has been holding classes and clinics since 1967, with this summer marking her 51st summer clinic. People from around the world have come to learn from one of the best in the history of the sport, a competitive career spanning more than 40 years. She credits her passion for the sport with a will to win, and some really great horses. During that span rodeo has changed some, there’s more prize money involved, but the expenses have gone up as well. When she won her first NFR she still had a regular job, but after that win she decided rodeo may be a good career path for her.

The thing about Mrs. Josey, she won several titles on different animals.

“My husband has always been good at finding good animals,” Mrs. Josey credited. “We’ve both got a good eye for horses. Finding a good horse is like a coach finding a good quarterback for the football team; and a good barrel horse is like a good quarterback because they have to be able to focus, be a good athlete and be a part of the team.”

The thing she loves about rodeo, though, is the sport usually involves the whole family. Mothers and daughters, fathers and daughters, mothers and fathers and sons, everyone can participate in rodeo — and that’s what makes the sport so special to Mrs. Josey and to the thousands who compete in the sport.

 

For Texas, though, the sport began in Pecos and every year this small West Texas town celebrates the World’s First Rodeo, the West of the Pecos Rodeo, held at the Buck Jackson Arena and one of the great outdoor rodeo experiences. Also in Pecos is the Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame and was founded to preserve the history of the rodeo in Pecos. To be inducted into the rodeo individuals must have competed in the West of the Pecos Rodeo. There have been nearly 50 inductees into the hall of fame, located in the Texas & Pacific Depot in Pecos, with several artifacts from the rodeo’s history in Pecos.

For those venturing out to the far reaches of West Texas the Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame is open Tuesday through Saturday and is free to the visiting public. The museum is near the Pecos Museum district which also is home to the West of the Pecos Museum and the Memory Lane Car Museum.

Fort Worth also is home to a special museum for Texas rodeo cowboys and cowgirls at the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame. The Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame honors the cowboys, cowgirls and some of the animals that made them famous.

The hall of fame, and really a museum, holds the hallowed history of rodeo in Texas and tells the stories of the trailblazers and of the story of the people that have helped make the modern rodeo famous with people like Don Gay, Ty Murray and Martha Josey, now of Karnack.

The hall of fame honors of course those who participate in the rodeo, but also the people who have helped it grow, have been mentored and produced livestock and preserved the Western heritage rodeo represents; all of this began in 1975 when former PRCA cowboy Johnny Boren founded the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Now, more than 40 years later the TRCHF still preserves the history of this distinctly Texan sport. Every year more are honored in the hall of fame along with an induction ceremony — adding even more to the rich history of rodeo.

The Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame is located in the Cowtown Coliseum in the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District. While in the area visit the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, also located in the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District. The Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame honors the men and women in rodeo and all the overall western lifestyle in Texas. It honors men like Nolan Ryan, George Straight, Tuff Hedeman, Don Gay and over a hundred others. The hall of fame, which also serves as a museum, is housed in the old horse and mule barns of the Fort Worth Stockyards that once housed more than 3,000 horses and mules. Visit the website texascowboyhalloffame.org to learn more about this special tribute to the Texas cowboy and the people who keep the legend going.

 

Upcoming Rodeos:

June 29-July 1, Teague — Teague Fourth of July Rodeo.

Sanctioned: UPRA, UPSU, CPRA, WPRA

Performances begin at 7:30 p.m.

Stock Contractor: Champion Rodeo Co.

July 7-8, Mineola — Mineola Fire & Rescue Annual Rodeo

Sanctioned: UPRA / CPRA

Ground Rules:  UPRA

Begins at 8 p.m. both nights.

Stock Contractor: Flying C. Rodeo Co.

July 7-8, Elgin — Elgin Pro Rodeo

“The Party’s Not Over Tour”

Sanctioned: CPRA / UPRA

Ground Rules:  CPRA

Begins at 8 p.m. both nights.

Stock Contractor: Cadillac Rodeo Co.

 

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Subscribe to Our Magazine

  • $0.00

July 8, Giddings — Fury on the 8th Championship Bull Riding. Presented by the Lee County Sheriff’s Posse.

Begins at 7 p.m.

Stock Contractor: Diamond Cross Rodeo Co.

July 8, Mason — Mason Pro Rodeo

“The Party’s Not Over Tour”

Sanctioned: UPRA / CPRA

Ground Rules:  UPRA

Rodeo begins at 7:30 p.m.

No Steer Wrestling or Ranch Broncs

Stock Contractor: Cadillac Rodeo Co.

July 14-15, Taylor — 68th Annual Taylor Pro Rodeo “The Party’s Not Over Tour”

Sanctioned: CPRA

Begins at 8 p.m. both nights.

Stock Contractor: Cadillac Rodeo Co.

 

July 14-15, Palestine — Anderson County Battle of the Bull

Producer: UBBI

Ground Rules: Rank Bull Rider Score Payout

Event held at the Anderson County Fairgrounds Arena.

Performances begin at 7:30 p.m.

July 21-22, Bryan — 46th Annual Bryan Breakfast Lions Club PRCA Rodeo.

Sanctioned: PRCA

Performances begin at 7:30 p.m.

Presented by: Sammy Catalena Rodeo Co.

July 21-22, Cuero — Cuero Open Pro Rodeo at the Cuero City Park Arena.

Sanctioned: WPRA

Performances begin at 8 p.m.

Hosted by: Lester Meier Rodeo Co.

July 27-29, Gatesville — Gatesville Riding Club Rodeo

Sanctioned: UPRA / CPRA / WPRA

Ground Rules:  UPRA

All performances begin at 7:30 p.m.

Stock Contractor: Champion Rodeo Co.

 

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Subscribe to Our Magazine

  • $0.00

August 3-5, Bastrop — Bastrop Homecoming Rodeo

Sanctioned: CPRA / TBRA

All performances begin at 7:30 p.m.

Stock Contractor: Diamond Cross Rodeo Co.

August 4-5, Schulenburg — Schulenburg Festival “The Party’s Not Over Tour”

Sanctioned: CPRA

All performances begin at 7:30 p.m.

Stock Contractor: Cadillac Rodeo Co.

 

August 11-12, LaGrange — Fayette County Sheriff’s Posse Rodeo

Sanctioned: CPRA / UPRA

Ground Rules:  CPRA

All performances begin at 7:30 p.m.

Stock Contractor: Cadillac Rodeo Co.

August 11-12, West — West Longhorn Club Rodeo.

Sanctioned: UPRA / CPRA

Ground Rules:  UPRA

All performance begin at 7:30 p.m.

Stock Contractor: Champion Rodeo Co.

August 19, Crockett — East Texas Rodeo Roundup

Sanctioned: CPRA /UPRA

Ground Rules:  CPRA

Begins at 7:30 p.m.

Stock Contractor: Hat Brand Rodeo Co.

Sept. 2-3, Wimberley — Gunner Thames Memorial Rodeo

Sanctioned: CPRA / UPRA

Ground Rules:  CPRA

Performances begin at 7:30 p.m.

Stock Contractor: Cadillac Rodeo Co

Sept. 2, Crockett — Myrtis Dightman Hall of Fame Rodeo

Sanctioned: CPRA

Begins at 7:30 p.m.

Stock Contractor: Branded for Christ Rodeo Livestock

Sept. 8-9, Woodville — Woodville Pro Rodeo

Sanctioned: UPRA / CPRA / LRCA

Performances begin at 7:30 p.m.

Stock Contractor: SYJ Rodeo Productions

Sept. 21-23, Brenham — Washington County Fair & Rodeo

Sanctioned: CPRA

Performances begin at 7:30 p.m.

Stock Contractor: Diamond Cross Rodeo Co.

Oct. 7, Conroe — Conroe Bucking Bull Mania.

See champion bull riders square off in this special event held at the Lone Star Expo Arena in Conroe. See top CBR and PRCA bull riders in action, multiple-world champion bull riders are expected for this special event.

Visit www.cbrbull.com as the event nears for more information and for ticket sales.

Oct. 20-22, Bryan — Brazos Valley Fair & Expo Pro Rodeo

Sanctioned: CPRA / UPRA

Ground Rules:  CPRA

Performances begin at 7:30 p.m.

Stock Contractor: Cadillac Rodeo Co.

Oct. 20-21, Rockdale — Rockdale Fair & Rodeo

Sanctioned: UPRA / CPRA

Ground Rules:  UPRA

Performances begin at 7:30 p.m.

Stock Contractor: Cadillac Rodeo Co.

Watch for These Rodeos Next Year

Jan. 12-Feb. 3, Fort Worth — Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo

About: The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo has been a staple of Cowtown since 1896. It eventually becomes the first indoor rodeo and continues to host the best in livestock and rodeo. To learn more about 2018 events visit their website, www.fwssr.com.

Feb. 27-March 18, Houston — Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo.

Visit the world’s largest livestock show and rodeo featuring more than 33,000 volunteers and awards more than $430 million in scholarships, and other educational programs. Live performances are held every day of the rodeo, with Garth Brooks set to perform two nights of the rodeo.

Visit: www.rodeohouston.com

June, Mexia — 88th Annual Mexia Rodeo

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Subscribe to Our Magazine

  • $0.00