Animal Athletes

By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

This week Las Vegas has probably seen more cowboy boots, coyboy hats and sparkly belt buckles than usual! The National Finals Rodeo will wrap up on Saturday after ten days of competition and entertainment. I’ve been to more rodeos, roping and bull riding events in the past year than ever in my life thanks to my boyfriend, who may be slightly obsessed.

Last April, I attended my first ever Professional Bull Riders (PBR) event. Not only was I blown away by the entire production (the riders, bulls, clowns, announcers, bullfighters, lights and music) but I was also thoroughly impressed with how the emphasized the safety of the athletes- both the riders and bulls.

PBR: Breneman/

Like a well-conditioned athlete, an animal can only perform if it is healthy. Any cowboy will tell you he takes home a paycheck only when the animal is in top form. Stock contractors and ranchers, who raise livestock for a living, have a moral and financial interest in keeping their animals healthy.

Stock contractors take great pride in their bucking bulls and take care of them to ensure that they are in top-notch shape to perform. It is no secret that the PBR treats the bulls with as much respect as the humans that ride them. As with any sport, athletes sometimes get hurt. This could be anything from a pulled muscle to a career or life-ending injury.

PBR reports that “one bull will suffer a minor injury such as a muscle pull or scratch every eight events or 786 outs. Bulls that are determined to have an injury are not allowed to compete again until fully recovered, which is generally one to four weeks. One bull will suffer a career-ending injury every 100 events or 9,833 outs. A bucking bull has a .004% chance of sustaining a life-threatening injury at a PBR event.”

Compare these injury statistics to football. An estimated 40,000 concussions are suffered every year among high school football players, alone. From 1991-2006 the average direct fatalities due to participation in organized football (professional, college, high school and sandlot) was 4.3 per year. (Source)

It’s obvious that the stock contractors and the PBR pay very attention to animal welfare. The bucking bulls are treated like training athletes when it comes to diet, exercise and medical treatment. The same story goes for rodeos across the nation.

The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) turns to the experts when it comes to the treatment and care of rodeo livestock. The experts are the on-site rodeo veterinarians who are required by PRCA rules to attend each rodeo performance.

It is great to know that the livestock in the pasture and the arena are being cared for by farmers, ranchers, cowboys and veterinarians. Furthermore, I feel fortunate to live in the United States, where I can be assured that because animals are well cared for, the food on my table is the best and safest on the market.


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