Rodeo consist of seven separate, complex and unique events. Each event has its own rules and its own terminology. For this reason, the sport of rodeo as a whole is a rich source of interesting language and slang.
When you go to a rodeo, if you’re not hip to this jive, you may have a hard time understanding what’s going on!
In this article, we clue you in on thirty examples of popular rodeo slang, terminology and terms you can use so that people won’t think it’s your first rodeo! Read on to learn more.
What You'll Learn Today
- 1 Rodeo Terms
- 1.1 1. Judges
- 1.2 2. Penalty
- 1.3 3. Cowboy Nod
- 1.4 4. Bullfighter
- 1.5 5. Stock Contractors
- 1.6 6. Bronc/Bronco
- 1.7 7. Roughstock
- 1.8 8. Roughstock Events
- 1.9 9. Spurs
- 1.10 10. Bucking
- 1.11 11. Flank Strap
- 1.12 12. Free Hand
- 1.13 13. Hung Up
- 1.14 14. Mark Out/Miss Out
- 1.15 15. No Score
- 1.16 16. Pickup Men
- 1.17 17. Re-ride
- 1.18 18. Rigging Or Riggin‘
- 1.19 19. Average
- 1.20 20. Draw
- 1.21 21. Go Around/Go ’round
- 1.22 22. Hazer
- 1.23 23. Header & Heeler
- 1.24 24. Chaps
- 1.25 25. Chute
- 1.26 26. Box
- 1.27 27. Bulldogging
- 1.28 28. Cloverleaf Pattern
- 1.29 29. Tipping A Barrel
- 1.30 30. Rookie
- 1.31 31. Roping Dummy
- 2 Frequently Asked Questions
These are the officials who ensure that all of the rodeo contestants follow the rules. It is the judges’ duty to:
- Make sure that the facilities are in safe condition throughout the events
- Determine the length of time allowed in timed events
- Calculate the scores in roughstock events
- Keep track of penalties
Infractions of the rules in timed events often incur a ten second penalty.
3. Cowboy Nod
The cowboy gives the judge a nod to open the gate of the chute or to start the clock.
This person is tasked with distracting a bull after it has bucked off a rider, thus protecting the rider while he makes his getaway (or in some instances is carried away). Bullfighters are often comically dressing as clowns or hobos, but make no mistake! They are very athletic and fit.
5. Stock Contractors
The purveyors of horses, bulls, steers and calves used in roughstock and roping events and subsequently sent to slaughter.
A horse who has not been tamed. This term is usually used to refer to horses in a bucking horse event.
Bucking broncos and bulls.
8. Roughstock Events
Those events involving bucking broncos or bucking bulls.
Metal implements that are affixed to a rider’s boot heels and used to goad animals forward or into bucking.
Kicking and jumping. A bronco or a bull will buck in an attempt to unseat a rider.
11. Flank Strap
The strap that is placed around bucking bulls’ and broncos’ flanks to force them to buck.
12. Free Hand
A bull rider must maintain a free hand throughout his ride. It cannot touch the rope or the animal, or the rider will be disqualified.
13. Hung Up
If a bucking bull or bronco rider is unable to disengage his hand from the handle or rope before dismounting or being thrown, he is said to be hung up.
14. Mark Out/Miss Out
When riding a bucking bronco, the cowboy’s feet have to be higher than the horse’s shoulders at the time that the horse’s front feet make contact with the ground. If this is the case, it is called a “mark out”. If the cowboy’s feet are below the horse’s shoulders at this point, it is called a “miss out”.
15. No Score
In roughstock events, if the rider is unable to remain seated for eight seconds, he gets no score. This term is also used if a roper misses the steer or calf.
16. Pickup Men
A pair of cowboy assistants who facilitate roughstock events.
If the bucking bronco or bull cannot be goaded into bucking, the cowboy will be given the opportunity to do a re-ride on a different animal.
18. Rigging Or Riggin‘
A handle used in roughstock events that has been specifically designed to work with the rider’s grip.
This refers to the average or aggregate of a contestant’s overall scores.
Competitors are assigned steers, calves, bucking bulls and broncos by the luck of the draw, randomly before the event. In the case of roughstock the drawing is held three days prior to the event. In the case of calves and steers to be roped or wrestled, the drawing is held just before the event.
21. Go Around/Go ’round
Some rodeos will have more than a single round of competition. Each round is called a go-round or go around.
The hazer keeps the steer running straight during a steer wrestling event.
23. Header & Heeler
These are the two members of a roping team. The header ropes the steer’s horns. The heeler ropes the hind legs.
This garment made of leather protects the legs while riding, or in some cases while performing farrier tasks.
This is a small pen located at the side of the arena were calves, steers, bulls and broncos are held just prior to their events.
Not an actual box, rather it is the area that a rider backs his horse into just prior to a run in a timed steer wrestling or roping event.
Wrestling a steer.
28. Cloverleaf Pattern
The barrel racing pattern.
29. Tipping A Barrel
In a barrel race, if the rider touches the barrel, they are given a five second penalty. If they are able to prevent the barrel from falling over, the penalty is withheld.
A new or first-time barrel racing competitor.
31. Roping Dummy
Roping dummy is a wooden or metal shape resembling cattle that is often used to practise roping.
Frequently Asked Questions
This is an old west term for doing something halfway or in a haphazard manner.
On the contrary! A hog-killing time is a good time. This is a way to describe a really good rodeo, carnival, dance or similar social event.
Colorful comparisons, such as “I’m grinning like a donkey eating cactus” or “I’m happier than a dog with two tails” bring funny, clear images to mind. Don’t try making up your own until you’re really part of the rodeo crowd though. Be extra careful if English is your second language!
This is an old-timey term for wasting time or doing something that’s meaningless or useless.
In the old cattle drive days, the cowboys would watch the steers in the herd to see which ones acted as leaders. The steer that the cattle were most likely to follow was termed the “Judas Steer”. This was the steer that the other cattle would follow into the slaughter house or yard. Sometimes this steer would be kept and used as the Judas Steer again and again.