“Based upon my extensive experience with large animals, I have come to the conclusion that rodeo events are inherently inhumane.
It is impossible to create a humane rodeo.”
Peggy Larson, former rodeo rider, vet and farmer

Every summer, countless animals are subjected to fear, stress, risk of injury and death – all for the sake of ‘entertainment.’ Many New Zealanders are unaware that around 30 rodeo events occur every summer across the country.

Rodeos are condemned both in New Zealand and internationally by veterinarians, animal welfare agencies and ex-rodeo riders. A number of countries have banned the practice, and specific events such as calf roping and steer wrestling are outlawed on the grounds that they are cruel.

The animals are stressed and frightened, unaware that it’s ‘just for entertainment.’ Animals can sustain injuries such as torn ligaments, broken bones, bruising and internal damage. In some cases, these injuries are so severe the animals die or are killed on site. Two bulls were killed in rodeo during rodeo events in the 2019/2020 season. There are no public records on the number of animals killed and injured in rodeo training sessions.

We’re better than this

There is nothing Kiwi about taking the family to watch animals suffer and die for 'entertainment.' New Zealand is a nation of animal lovers, and as such, it's no surprise that the majority of us support a ban on rodeo cruelty. We love our cats, our dogs, our horses, and all the other animals that we share this land with. A 2016 Horizon Research poll showed that the majority of Kiwis supported a ban on rodeo. We're better than this.

Animals used in rodeos are not wild animals. Normally calm bulls and horses are induced into aggressive behaviour by painful or irritating means such as ‘flank straps’, electric prods, tail twisting, and painful spurs – leading to aggravated and frightened animals who buck wildly. Terrified calves are chased and roped around the neck before being thrown to the ground.

Rodeos, which originated from farming practices in the US 200 years ago, have nothing to do with Kiwi agricultural traditions, yet they have developed into gruesome spectacles where cruelty to animals is encouraged and applauded. Unlike the human contestants, who voluntarily risk injury by participating in events, the animals have no choice – they’re captive performers.

Condemned by veterinarians, animal welfare experts, and animal protection organisations worldwide, rodeo is banned in parts of Europe, Australia, Brazil, Canada and the US, and there is a partial ban in the UK. Other countries prohibit certain events, such as calf roping. In New Zealand, rodeos are banned from Auckland Council land – otherwise rodeos are free to continue on a variety of public and private land across the country.

Bull riding

The aim is for contestants to hold on for at least eight seconds once the bull is released into the arena. The terrified animal bucks unnaturally and jumps to try to throw the rider, and get away from the torment caused by the tight flank strap. Michael Latting, a Chicago rodeo organiser said,
“Bulls today have been bred to be docile. You can't make an animal buck if you don't do something to it.”

Horse bucking events

There are two types of bucking events using horses in rodeo – bareback horse riding and saddleback bronc riding. Both are similar, but saddleback riding uses a saddle. In this event, riders attempt to stay on a bucking horse for at least eight seconds, holding on only with one hand.
A flank strap is pulled tightly around the horse’s abdomen, causing discomfort which makes the horse buck, as they try to escape the torment. On the first buck out of the chute, the riders must ‘mark out’ the horse (i.e., both spurs must touch the horse in front of the shoulders). As the horse bucks, the riders roll their spurs up the shoulders.
Although New Zealand contestants cannot have fixed spurs, this repeated action causes discomfort and possibly injury to the horse. Horses are at risk of broken bones and spinal injuries as they jump and twist in a desperate attempt to unseat the rider.

Calf roping

Calf roping, or ‘rope and tie’, is generally considered to be one of the cruellest components of a rodeo. Young calves, just three months old, are chased at high speed, roped around the neck, dragged to a sudden stop with the rope choking their neck, then thrown to the ground; a horrific experience causing stress, fear, pain and sometimes injury.
The Rodeo Code of Welfare recommended best practice is that calves should not be used in rodeo events.

Steer wrestling

In steer wrestling, or ‘bulldogging,’ riders chase after steers on horses, then leap from the horses to grab the terrified running steers by the horns, before twisting their necks to force them to the ground.
An animal would never naturally twist their neck around to the extent that is forced on them in this event. It causes undeniable physical stress and pain to the animal. Injuries can include broken horns, a broken neck, and other spinal injuries, as well as the pain resulting from the extreme neck twisting. As prey animals, steers will fight to stay upright, knowing that being on the ground leaves them in a vulnerable position.
Steers are used for this event because a calf’s neck would break too easily, and they have large horns, which the competitor uses to control them.

Team roping

This is the only team event in rodeo. Two riders chase one steer before one ropes the steer around the horns or head and the other rider ropes the steer around his two hind legs, forcing the steer to lose balance and slam to the ground. The riders pull the winded and confused steer in two different directions.
The ropes must be taut before the timer is stopped, causing discomfort and most likely pain to the terrified and helpless steer.

Barrel racing

In barrel racing, a female-only event, riders race around three barrels in a cloverleaf pattern. Horses are pushed to go as fast as possible and to make unnaturally tight turns at speed. It is not uncommon for horses to lose their footing, which can result in muscle damage or broken bones.
One overseas study showed that almost 50% of barrel racing horses had radiographic abnormalities of the fetlock joint (the equivalent to a human ankle joint).

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