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Do horses and cattle enjoy participating in rodeos?

Article ID: 404
Last updated: 02 May, 2016
Revision: 4
Views: 7007

Arguments put forward in support of the use of horses, bulls, steers and calves in rodeos tend to focus on the fact that these events have been part of country town life for many years, that they are good for the local community and that the animals are well treated and they 'enjoy' their work.

But looking at participation in rodeos from the animals' perspective, there is very little evidence that these animals 'enjoy' the experience. Rodeo horse and bulls buck repeatedly as an instinctive reaction to the discomfort of being ridden and to the presence of flank straps which have been tightened around their underbelly. Horses and cattle are prey animals and their reaction to being ridden in this way is the same as their reaction to being attacked by a predator, a situation where they are subject to increased stress, anxiety and panic. In many rodeo events, horses and bulls will hurl themselves at solid objects in order to rid themselves of the rider. Only when the rider has been thrown and the flank straps loosened do they quieten down.

The experience of young calves during calf roping events is even more stressful, as these animals are very young and have no prior experience of the rodeo environment when they are lassoed, thrown on their sides and tied up at speed in front of the crowd.A recent study undertaken by the University of Queensland has demonstrated that calves who had experienced roping previously showed elevated stress hormone levels in the blood after being roped similar to that described above*.For calves who had never been exposed to a holding pen or chute used at rodeos, the same study also showed a stress response after they had been marshaled or moved across the arena by a rider and horse.

In addition, there is likely to be regular transportation of animals to venues in different States, which is stressful due to movement, noise, unfamiliar surroundings etc. Also, some rodeos use young steers from a local farm where they are completely naive to the rodeo environment, which is extremely stressful and increases the risk of injury as these animals are frightened by the noise, intense handling and being chased by a horse and rider.

RSPCA Australia does not believe that there is any justification for subjecting animals to this level of stress and potential for injury, when the event is carried out only for the purpose of human entertainment or sport.

*Sinclair M, Keeley T, Lefebvre, A, and Phillips, C. (2016) Behavioural and physiological responses of calves to marshalling and roping in a simulated rodeo event. Animals 6, 30 


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Also read
document What is the RSPCA view on rodeos?
document RSPCA Policy C08 Rodeos

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