When settlements on the cattle trail hosted social occasions, particularly during 4th of July celebrations, the cowboys from surrounding ranches would descend on the community, challenging one another to various tests of skill, like bronc riding and calf roping. Gambling provided the cash purse in those days. Over the years, local contests became popular annual events.
When the cattle drives were over for the season, some cowboys made money during the off months performing with the wild-west shows. The shows established the mythos of the wild west, showcasing ranching skills in an exciting, entertaining format for audiences worldwide. By the 1890s, rodeo was a popular spectator event, though it wasn’t perceived as a legitimate sport.
An attempt to organize rodeo began in 1929. Several rodeo organizers established the Rodeo Association of America (RAA). They established standardized rules, a point system to determine world champions, fair practice in advertising/awarding prize money, and monitored judges. In the decades that followed, several organizations formed, representing the cowboys, cowgirls, and younger riders. Today, rodeo has evolved into a professional sport and a full-time business. With its multicultural heritage, rodeo characterizes the unique intersection of cultures and skills in the American Southwest.