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Warwick rodeo

Warwick rodeo

The Warwick rodeo in southern Queensland dates back to 1906 and has a long-held reputation for tough buckjumpers, wild cattle and good prize money.

At the 2013 event, Shane Kenny, 14 times Australian Professional Rodeo Association All Around Cowboy, recovered from a fall  in the first round of steer wrestling to win the rope and tie. Wendy Caban won a closely contested barrel race final. Carl Burton and Cody Angland tied the bareback bronc final and Toby Collins won the open saddle bronc after competing in all three events.

National Museum photographer Jason McCarthy moved around the showground to capture the best views of horses and riders in action at the 2013 competition, locating himself above and beside the chutes as the bronc riders burst into the arena.

Click on the images below for a larger version and more on the 2013 rodeo

Rodeo competition in Australia

The stock-work-based horse sports common at rural carnivals became more popular – and more professionalised – in the mid-20th century, at a time when horses were being replaced by motorbikes, road trains and helicopters on stations. Greatly influenced by competitions in the United States of America, Australian competitors began to use the term ‘cowboy’, along with American-style saddles and clothing, and import American quarter horses to use instead of Australian stockhorses.

Local organisations within each state and territory created standardised rules for each sport and formed national committees. The development of each sport has been shaped by calls from competitors and animal rights groups to ensure the welfare of horses and cattle, leading to strict monitoring by vets, and the development of rules and regulations for stock during events and in training.

Bronc riding

Bareback and saddle bronc competitions are judged by how well the horse bucks and how well the cowboy rides. After the tack is fitted to the horse in the chute, the cowboy mounts and nods when ready for the chute to open. Horse and rider burst into the arena where the ride has to last at least eight seconds. The cowboy makes spurring motions and hangs onto a single rope rein attached to a bridle in saddle bronc or to the rigging in bareback.    

Rope and tie

Australian professional rodeo includes several roping competitions. The rope and tie event requires a calf or steer to be roped from horseback. With the rope tied to the saddle, the animal is held by the horse while the rider dismounts and throws the beast on its side, tying three of its legs with a second rope. The contestant then remounts his horse to test the tie for the judge, who takes the time and condition of the animal into account to establish a winner.    

Barrel racing

The original ladies’ event at professional rodeos, barrel racing is a test of skill and speed against the clock. Horse and rider enter the course by crossing the score line, run a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels and then cross the score line to finish. The event is timed to the hundredth of a second. Horse and rider practise together for years to perfect the technique, which has its origins in the rapid riding required to chase and muster stock.

People and the Environment

Horses in Australia is part of the National Museum's People and the Environment program. Discover more stories about people's relationships with Australia's natural and built environments on our People and the Environment website.