The History of Bull Riding

Author: Naomi Smith


Bull riding was started in the eighteenth century in Mexico.  At first, the cowboys would compete to decide who was the best wrangler and the strongest of them.  They would do roping, horse racing, and bull riding.  At first, the men would get on bulls and ride them to death. It eventually evolved into just riding the bulls till they wouldn’t buck any more.  The sport, in the nineteenth century, became popular in California and in Texas mainly because many ranch hands were from Mexico.

Then, in 1891, the Wild West shows began to add steer riding to their performances.  As the Wild West began to disappear, cowboys began to take jobs with these shows, which were formed for the purpose of keeping the American frontier around.  Eventually the cowboys started their own competitions, which became rodeos.  Over time the Wild West shows disappeared because of the cost of doing them.  The cowboy competitions endured.   

 It is debatable where the first official rodeo took place - Deer Trail, Colorado claims it happened there and Cheyenne, Wyoming claims it happened there.  

In 1936, the Cowboys Turtle Association was formed, which was a rodeo organization.  The group started when around 60 cowboys were treated badly at a rodeo.  The man, W.T Johnsons, wanted to make them pay money to ride in the event and also was not willing to advertise the rodeo.  They left that night.  Why the group was called the Cowboy Turtle Association was because people said that, like turtles, they were taking a “long time” to form their group.  Nine years later the Cowboys Turtle Association changed its name to Rodeo Cowboys Association.  Then again, 30 years later, they changed their name to the Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association (PRCA) which includes numerous rodeo events.  In 1992, twenty bull riders got together in Scottsdale, Arizona and formed the PBR.  They wanted to branch off of the PRCA because they thought that since bull riding was the most popular event in the rodeo, it could do well on its own and that it deserved its own group. 

1936 Cowboy’s Turtle Association
1945 Rodeo Cowboy’s Association
1975 Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association (PRCA)
1992 Professional Bull Riders (PBR)

A buckle for the prize of winning a competition was because a lot of the first men in the Cowboy Turtle Association were first boxers.

Bull riding has been going on for over a century and has become very famous.  There are two major bull riding organization now, being PBR (Professional Bull Riding) and CBR (Championship Bull Riding).  These are links for the difference between the PBR and the CBR-

The links below are some videos and websites that have to do with rodeo and bull riding-