Dallas is known for its football-loving Cowboys, but Houston is home to the largest gathering of cowboys and cowgirls in the world. If you’ve never been to a livestock show and rodeo, you might as well experience the biggest and best: The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, taking place from 1st – 20th March 2016. The three-week event got its start back in 1932, but now in its 84th year, it’s expected to welcome nearly 2.5 million visitors, a hefty number of fans for any event. Here’s our beginner’s guide to the Houston rodeo.
The Old West has come to life ever since 1952, when a trail ride was organised as a way to draw attention to the event. It started with four men, grew to 80 the following year, and today draws more than 3,000 riders. A popular family event since 1938, the rodeo features parades with floats, thousands of horseback riders and marching bands.
The rodeo portion of the three-week event is known as RodeoHouston. Events include tie-down roping, bareback riding, team roping, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, barrel racing, bull riding, chuck wagon races, mutton bustin’ and a calf scramble for the kids, among its many wild competitions.
Winners are presented on each of the 20 nights in front of an average of 65,000 fans. Champions show up from all over to compete in adrenaline-pumping, often death-defying events in front of cheering crowds for their share of the $2,172,100 (2016) cash prize.
According to its mission statement, The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a charity that “benefits youth, supports education, and facilitates better agricultural practices through exhibitions and presentation”. Since its beginning in 1932, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has committed more than $400 million to scholarships, research, endowments, calf scramble participants, junior show exhibitors, School Art participants, and other educational youth programmes, further heightening its position as an important Texas institution.
Houston Livestock Show
When the Livestock Show began in 1932, it was known as the Houston Fat Stock Show. Today, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is the world’s largest livestock show – in 2014 alone, there were more than 29,000 livestock and horse show entries.
Horse show competitions include the Cowboy Mounted Shooting World Championship Show, the cutting horse show, the donkey and mule show, the paint horse show, the quarter horse show and ranch rodeo, among others.
More than just horses and cattle
And there’s plenty to keep visitors happy when they’re not in arenas watching rodeo and livestock events. There’s a giant Ferris wheel and other carnival rides at a pop-up Midway, 5K and 10K Rodeo Runs, and the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest, just to name a few.
There are activities for wine lovers to enjoy, too, including an International Wine Competition, a Champion Wine Auction and the Champion Wine Garden for sipping on world-class vintages.
Big name music acts
Over the years, many superstar performers have graced the stage in Houston, starting with Gene Autry. Since his debut as the first big-name act, Charley Pride, Elvis Presley, Roy Rogers, George Strait, Brooks & Dunn, and Reba McEntire have also entertained crowds here. This year, Kenny Chesney, Little Big Town, Pitbull and Miranda Lambert will lead the line-up.
Header image: Bareback rider Caleb Bennett thrills the crowd with his skills © Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
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Written by Steven Lindsey