Our Commitment to Animal Care
As the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and Western celebration, Cheyenne Frontier Days™ takes commitment to animal care seriously. Out of the thousands of animal athletes that participate in our rodeo events each year, only a very small percentage ever suffer an injury. Most injuries are minor and life-threatening injuries are extremely rare.
As a PRCA sanctioned event, we adhere to PRCA rules governing animal welfare. In addition, our Animal Care Sub-Committee continually reviews and improves methods to prevent injury to animals and to see that those that sustain even the most minor injuries are given complete care throughout the event.
Cheyenne Frontier Days does not condone animal abuse. CFD follows strict PRCA guidelines as well as state and local laws on animal care and treatment. Our policy is that anyone at CFD who violates those guidelines should be fined or penalized appropriately.
Rodeo is an athletic competition, and like any athletic event, injuries can happen. We do our best to prevent them and to treat them when they happen, but as with any professional sport, we can’t prevent injuries entirely.
We care about all our athletes, the two-legged ones and the four-legged ones, and anyone who claims otherwise just doesn’t know us. We take any accusations of animal abuse very seriously and we are committed to doing everything we can to protect the welfare of our participants, our animals and our fans.
Fact Versus Fiction
Misinformation and misconceptions surrounding rodeo and its treatment of animals create confusion and ill will toward rodeo events, competitors and fans. We’d like to clear some of that up by separating fact from fiction.
Fiction: Rodeo animals are treated cruelly.
Fact: Cheyenne Frontier Days takes pride in our animal care policies. We value our animals and we are committed to making sure that rodeo is as safe as possible for the animals and the cowboys. We are sanctioned by PRCA and we follow their very strict guidelines on animal care, and in some cases we even go above and beyond those guidelines. We have veterinarians on-site at every rodeo event to make sure that the animals are treated humanely and well cared for.
Fiction: The injury rate for rodeo animals is exceptionally high.
Fact: The animal injury rate in rodeo is extremely low, less than five-hundredths of one percent (0.0004). The findings are based on a recent PRCA survey involving 75,472 animal exposures, 194 rodeo performances and 78 sections of slack (qualifying). Veterinarians conducting the survey reported 28 injuries, mostly minor.
Fiction: Rodeo livestock buck because a flank strap, often with sharp objects attached to it, is tightly cinched around the genital area of the horse or bull.
Fact: Experts say professional rodeo’s bucking animals enjoy what they do. Bucking animals are born, not made, and a flank strap cannot magically turn a placid animal into a championship bucker. When placed on an animal naturally inclined to buck, the flank strap simply cues the animal that it is time to buck.
Flank straps used on horses must be fleece or neoprene-lined. The flank strap used on a bull may be a soft 5/8-inch cotton rope. PRCA rules that govern flank straps do not allow any foreign or sharp objects. The flank strap is never pulled tight enough to cause injury or pain. Placed around the equivalent of a human’s abdominal area, the flank strap is a “signal” to the animal that it is time to buck. It does not touch the genitals. In fact, many of the top bucking horses are mares.
Fiction: The spurs used in rodeo hurt the horses and bulls.
Fact: The hides of both horses and bulls are five to seven times thicker than human skin. The spurs allowed in PRCA-sanctioned rodeos have dull rowels, which is the wheel of the spur. Contestants who violate rules regarding the spurs face fines, suspension and/or disqualification. In both bareback riding and saddle bronc riding, the rowel must be loose and roll across the hide of an animal. This action generally only ruffles the animal’s hair. An important fact to remember is that human skin is approximately 1-2 mm thick and horsehide is approximately 5 mm thick. In bull riding, the spurs are loosely locked and are generally used to grip the bull’s loose hide, which is approximately 7 mm thick.
Fiction: PRCA rules do not adequately protect the animals.
Fact: Professional rodeo judges take their responsibility to report any violators seriously, and the Cheyenne Frontier Days General Committee is equally conscientious about imposing and upholding fines. Although we are sanctioned by PRCA, unfortunately, unsanctioned events do take place. We have no control over those events but we urge anyone who witnesses improper treatment of animals to report the offending action to local animal welfare agencies.
Fiction: Rodeo participants and owners do not care for their animals.
Fact: A common sentiment voiced by our stock contractors is that their animals are almost like members of their family. The livestock represent more than their livelihood, and caring for animals is a way of life for these specialized ranchers. Of course, rodeo is a business, but many stock contractors say they form a relationship with their animals.
Fiction: Rodeo animals are mistreated outside the competition arena.
Fact: Cheyenne Frontier Days works hard to ensure that all our animals receive proper care and treatment before, during and after every rodeo performance. PRCA rules require that horses and cattle travel to rodeos in trucks that are specially designed for their protection. Animals may not be confined in vehicles more than 24 hours without being unloaded, properly fed and watered. Virtually all PRCA stock contractors unload their stock more often. Horses and cattle don’t ride together and are separated at the rodeos to prevent injury. When they get here, the animals are placed in large holding pens, provided with fresh feed and water, and monitored frequently for any health concerns. Stock contractors check their stock for fitness before and after every event.
Fiction: Animal rights groups are against rodeo because it is not safe for animals.
Fact: There is a difference between animal care and animal rights. Animal care is one of our top priorities at Cheyenne Frontier Days. Animal care is about making sure that animals that are an integral part of our lives are treated fairly, humanely and well cared for. In contrast, animal rights extremists, if their arguments are taken to their logical conclusion, they believe that animals should not even be pets and should roam freely.
Fiction: Rodeo livestock are forced to perform through the use of Hot Shots (electric cattle prods).
Fact: Cheyenne Frontier Days bans the use of cattle prods except to aid in moving the livestock to prevent injury. Its use is prohibited in any riding event and our contestants are never allowed to use the prod to force animals to perform. Violations of this rule can result in significant fines and disqualification.
CFD Animal Care Guidelines
The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association sanctions Cheyenne Frontier Days, and we strictly adhere to their animal care guidelines. PRCA has more than 60 rules to ensure the proper care and treatment of rodeo animals. Here is a brief summary of some of the most important safeguards we use to insure that all our animals are treated as humanely as possible, with their care and safety in mind.
- A veterinarian must be on-site at all rodeo events.
- All animals are inspected and evaluated for illness, weight, and injury prior to the rodeo. No animals that are sore, lame, sick or injured are allowed to participate in the event.
- The spurs allowed in PRCA-sanctioned rodeos must have dull rowels, which is the wheel of the spur. Contestants who violate the rules can be fined or disqualified.
- Cheyenne Frontier Days bans the use of “hot shots” (electric prod devices) except to aid in moving the livestock to prevent injury. Its use is prohibited in any riding event.
- Any contestant or stock contractor caught using unnecessary roughness or abusing an animal may be immediately disqualified from the rodeo and fined. This holds true whether it is in the competitive arena or elsewhere on the rodeo grounds.
- Weight limitations are set for both calves (between 220 and 280 pounds) and steers (450-650 pounds).
- The flank straps for horses must be fleece or neoprene lined. Those for bulls must be made of soft cotton rope or lined with fleece or neoprene.
Steers used in team and steer roping have a protective covering placed around their horns.
- At CFD, an animal ambulance is on site at all times as well as a stretcher to humanely transport any injured animal.
- Chutes must be constructed with the safety of the animals in mind.