How rodeo became the official sport of Texas

A contestant standing with his horse as he prepares to compete in the 2022 San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo. Photo by Dusty Ellis with Concho Valley Homepage

SAN ANGELO, Texas (Concho Valley Homepage) – Texans love sports and everyone knows it. Whether it’s a local Pee-Wee football game or Sunday Night Football, the Texans will be there for their team with unwavering support and loyalty.

With many sports vying for their place in the heart of Texas, only one holds the official state sport designation.

Rodeo became the official state sport on June 18, 1997, according to Where Texas Became Texas, due to the important role Texans played in the development and leadership of the professional sport. Spanish conquistadors Hernando Cortes and Gregorio de Villalobos introduced horses and cattle to the Southwest in the 16th century, reports the Texas State Historical Association, laying the foundation for the rugged sport it is today.

As more people settled in Texas and ranches like the King Ranch were established in the 18th century, the skills of roping, horseback riding, and herding cattle in the open country were needed. According to TSHA, an abundance of wild cattle and horses, along with a young man’s imagination, led many to buy a saddle to join the cattle drives after the Civil War.

TSHA notes that when fences began to cordon off the open country in the 1880s, the cowboys became more confined to their work. This led to cowboys showing off their skills and challenging those from other ranches in roping and bronc riding competitions. In 1883, one of the first recorded rodeos took place in Pecos, Texas. Fort Worth soon made history too by hosting the first indoor rodeo in 1917.

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Many groups tried to organize the rodeo from the 1920s, reports TSHA. In 1945, a Houston group known as the Cowboys’ Turtle Association was reorganized as the Rodeo Cowboy Association. RCA soon made Fort Worth its home by establishing a national office. In 1975, the RCA was renamed the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. The PRCA reports that today it sanctions approximately 650 rodeo events each year in 38 states and three Canadian provinces.

The oldest and largest rodeo sanctioning body in the world wasn’t the only organization to get its start in Texas. 38 women gathered at the St. Angelus Hotel in San Angelo on February 28, 1948 to change the male-dominated world of rodeo. The Girls Rodeo Association soon began to grow to help organize and sanction women’s rodeo events, which were slowly going downhill. In 1982, the GRA merged with the PRCA to become what is now known as the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association.

Rodeo continues to have a major impact on Texas, with some of the nation’s biggest shows taking place in the state. Immerse yourself in history and soak up the atmosphere at one of these Texas rodeos:

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