It’s time for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo! This almost month-long event is one of the biggest draws to the Houston area, as more than 2.5 million people come to our city to celebrate the “cowboy life” with food, carnivals, music and more.
The history of rodeos dates back to the mid-1800s when cattle roamed the western United States and range cowboys had to develop skills to corral and drive them to markets. These cowboys learned from the Mexican vaqueros who had perfected a lot of techniques like roping, herding and branding the cattle in the western parts of Texas. By the late 1880s, groups of cowboys gathered together to show off their skills and competitions began. Riding bucking broncos and calf roping were exciting events and later became two of the most popular spectator sports as rodeos started happening on a regular basis.
The history of rodeos is rooted in Texas, as one of the earliest shows on record happened in Pecos in 1883, and the first indoor rodeo was in Fort Worth in 1917. The Rodeo Cowboys Association, which standardized rules and events, was formed in Houston in 1945. The Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, formed to promote female competitors and equality in pay at rodeo events, was started in San Angelo in 1948. Additionally, the National High School Rodeo Association was organized in Hallettsville in 1949. Texas has also produced some of the top rodeo athletes, including Don Gay from Mesquite who holds the bull riding record, four time bull riding winner Dick Griffith from Fort Worth, and the first African-American cowboy to win Rookie of the Year, Fred Whitfield of Cypress.
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo dates back to 1932 and was held at the Sam Houston Coliseum until the Astrodome opened in 1966. In the late 1930s, the horse shows and downtown parade were added to the Rodeo events. The first musical entertainer performed at the 1942 Rodeo (Gene Autrey, the “Singing Cowboy.”) With the Rodeo being one of the largest moneymakers for Houston and Harris County, the city and rodeo worked together to build what is now the NRG complex of buildings, including the expo hall and arena. When the Houston Texans NFL franchise came to the city in 2000, they joined in and worked to build NRG Stadium.
With so much history in the Rodeo events, it is a great way to feel connected to your home state. Plus, there are ample opportunities to learn about the agricultural industry as well as have a great time and be entertained.