Texas Living

The Oldest, Biggest, Best Texas Rodeos

By Peter Simek 7.24.18

Texas rodeos have come to epitomize Lone Star culture. Whether it’s the glitz of the outfits, the glamour of the dangerous bull rides, or nostalgia for our cowboy past, there’s something about rodeos that draws Texans to Friday-night shows or annual blowouts by the thousands.

Today, rodeos are a professional industry and a form of sports entertainment. But their tradition traces back to the Spanish and Mexican ranchers of the 16th century. The word “rodeo” derives from the Spanish to “round up.”

In the 19th century, Wild West shows like the kind put on by Buffalo Bill drew a paying audience who wanted to see cowboys strut their stuff and show off their tricks. Over time, those developed into the rodeos we know and love today. Here are five of the best.

Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo

The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo is the granddaddy of all Texas rodeos. First held in 1896, it’s the oldest continuously running livestock show and rodeo in the state. It’s also pretty big, with dozens of livestock shows and multiple rodeos during its three-week run. And with a total prize payout of $700,000, the event attracts the top names on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit.

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

If Fort Worth boasts the oldest livestock show and rodeo, Houston lays claim to the largest one in the world. More than 2.5 million people attend the 20-day event, which includes a rodeo parade, 5k and 10K walk and run event, concerts, carnival, livestock competitions, and pig racing. Some of the biggest names in music, from Bob Dylan to Beyoncé, have also performed at the event.

Brazos Valley Fair & Rodeo

Bryan has the most rodeos per capita of any town or city in Texas. Its showcase event, which takes place each October, has livestock shows, rodeo competitions, carnivals, concerts, and other events. One of the highlights is the AgLand children’s exhibits, which allow the little ones to participate in stick-horse races, pony rides, hay hauls, and kid-size mechanical bull rides. Kids can also get close and personal with baby animals at the petting zoo and goat mountain.

West of the Pecos Rodeo

Professional rodeo riders consider the West of the Pecos Rodeo one of the best large outdoor rodeos in the country. Held each June in Pecos since 1883, the rodeo was one of the first in the world to award prizes. Top-notch riders are drawn to the competition to participate in team roping, calf roping, steer wrestling, and barrel racing. That’s not to mention the Boot Scramble, kids’ Calf Scramble, Wild Mare Race, and Wild Cow Milking.

Coors Cowboy Club Ranch Rodeo

The weekend festivities begin with a 60-longhorn cattle drive up Polk Street in Amarillo — a spectacle that alone would warrant a trip to the Panhandle for this annual event. But what makes this rodeo so much fun is its focus on the kinds of competitions and activities real-life cowboys perform on the ranch today. Participants must come from working ranches, and often they represent some of the oldest and most historically significant ranches in the state.

For more of Texas’ cowboy culture, check out these 10 horseback riding spots across the state.

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