A rodeo is a form of entertainment or sport in which skills such as riding broncos, bull riding, roping calves or wrestling steers are displayed. RSPCA Australia is opposed to rodeos because of the potential for significant injury, suffering and distress to the animals involved. Rodeos are held in most States in Australia but are prohibited in the Australian Capital Territory.
Roping calves involves releasing the animal ahead of the contestant/roper who is on horseback. The rope is thrown over the calf's neck. The contestant then dismounts and runs to the animal, relying on his horse to keep it under control. After reaching and catching the animal it is thrown onto its side and three of its legs are tied with rope. The contestant then must remount his horse and ride it forward to prove that the tie will hold to the judge's satisfaction.
Clearly, this type of activity can cause serious injuries to the calf as they are suddenly thrown to the ground or suddenly jerked in another direction by the rope around their neck, often with great force. As the horse moves forward this drags the calf along the ground which can also cause serious physical damage. In some cases the animal is pulled backwards off its feet which can cause very severe injuries that may be fatal.Calf roping not only causes physical pain and injury but also subjects the calf to serious mental stress as well.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 other rodeo activities, devices such as flank straps, spurs and electric prodders are used to encourage the animal to buck and react. These devices can cause significant pain and suffering to the animal.
Where rodeos are permitted to be conducted, RSPCA Australia advocates the adoption of compulsory registration and licensing. Compliance with national standards for the management, housing and transport of rodeo animals must be made a condition of licensing. Attendance by a veterinary surgeon should also be mandatory at all rodeo events to ensure that only fit animals are used and that any injured animal is treated appropriately or humanely killed.
*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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