Steer wrestling can trace its roots back to ranch work in the Old West.
Often older juvenile cattle were too big to be roped and brought to the ground for branding or veterinary care, so the cowboys had to catch them and wrestle them to the ground.
Wrestling a steer requires more than brute strength.
The successful steer wrestler, or bulldogger, is strong, to be sure, but he also understands the principles of leverage.
The steer wrestler, on horseback, starts behind a barrier, and begins his chase after the steer has been given a head start.
If the bulldogger enters the arena too soon, he receives a 10-second penalty.
The steer wrestler is assisted by a hazer, another cowboy on horseback tasked with keeping the steer running in a straight line.
When the bulldogger’s horse pulls even with the steer, the cowboy eases down the right side of the horse and reaches for the steer’s horns.
After grasping the horns, he digs his heels into the dirt.
As the steer slows, the cowboy turns the animal, lifts up on its right horn and pushes down with his left hand.
After the catch, the steer wrestler must either bring the steer to a stop or change the direction of the animal’s body before the throw.
The PRCA staunchly protects its animals with rules designed to prevent cruelty or even unintentional mistreatment.
Rules governing the PRCA are so successful in protecting animals that the American Veterinary Medical Association recognizes PRCA guidelines in its position statement on the welfare of animals in spectator events.
The AVMA position reads, in part, “The AVMA recommends that all rodeos abide by rules to ensure the humane treatment of rodeo livestock, such as those established by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association ...”
By inspecting every animal before it is selected for competition, the PRCA ensures that only healthy livestock is used. If an animal becomes sick or injured between the time it is drawn and the time it is scheduled for competition, it will not be used.