Evolving from the time honored traditions of the old cowboys, rodeo is today a unique form of athletic competition and, at the same time a manifestation of the culture of the American West. Rodeo finds its roots in the early days of the colonization of the American southwest, when vaqueros practiced their cattle herding skills, such as roping, horse breaking and branding. Gradually, these skills and practices were adopted by the early American cowboys, along with a lot of the traditions, language and customs of the Mexican vaqueros. In time, rodeos gradually evolved from a strictly professional activity to a competition among cowboys, who sought to display their cow herding skills.
19th century Colorado was a place where the adventurers of the Old West gathered to make or break their fortunes. Among them, many cowboys worked on the vast ranches, herding cattle for a living. The first rodeo competitions in the modern sense of the word were held in the Centennial State at the turn of the century. In 1906, the National Western Stock Show was organized for the first time in Denver, a livestock exhibition which attracted thousands of visitors, from all over the country. In 1932, the first rodeo competition was held on the premises of the show, and ever since then, the National Western Stock Show has become a great occasion for cowboys to show off their skills in the deafening cheers of thousands of enthusiastic spectators.
Today Denver’s National Western Stock Show is one of the strongest rodeo competitions in the nation. Over a period of 12 days, 21 rodeo performances are held, both for amateurs and professional competitors (under the authority of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association). Events consist of both roughstock events and timed events. The roughstock include the old favorites of the public – bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding, where cowboys are scored by their performance in riding a bucking horse or bull. The timed events comprise of tie-down roping, steer wrestling and other displays, where cowboys and cowgirls race to finish a certain operation in the least amount of time.
The National Western Stock Show, Rodeo and Horse Show attracts each year in Denver more than a half a million attendants. People from all over the nation come to admire the performances of the brave cowboys and cowgirls, visit the livestock exhibitions and take part in other Western themed events. The record attendance was set in 2006, when the show celebrated 100 years of existence. More than 720,000 people visited the show, held at the National Western Complex in Denver. This record attendance makes the National Western Stock Show the largest event of its kind in the world. Visitors can admire dozens of breeds of cattle, horses, sheep, swine and even more exotic animals such as llamas and yaks. Besides the rodeo and the stock expo, attendants have many other activities to try. From shopping for authentic cowboy gear, to having a cowboy styled steak, to visiting an art exhibition which celebrates the American West, the National Western Stock Show in Denver is a genuine bonanza for those who love the spirit and the traditions of the American West.