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Steer roping goes from Range to Rodeo

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By Dick Perue

In the last “Postcard,” it was noted the sport of steer roping originated on the open range to assist with the branding of big steers. In the late 1800s, it became a competition at rodeos including many throughout Wyoming.

The history of roping was featured in the printed program presented at the First Annual Platte Valley Steer Roping held July 18, 1948 in Encampment. The official program states: 

Cheyenne Frontier Days was born in 1897. For many years the only roping event was steer roping, and it was always a most popular contest among cowboys as well as spectators.

As these cowboy gatherings became popular and a few of the top hands picked up some extra cash, they began to practice and develop new techniques to enable them to out-rope their competitors. Many a boss has ridden upon a steer with either a broken leg or a broken horn resulting from the practice of a would-be champion.

As rodeos increased, cowboys traveled from one to another in groups and wherever the longhorn was come upon, the journey was held up for a little last minute practice. 

As a result of this, the Texas Legislature, backed by the cattlemen, passed laws barring steer roping.

Steer roping is a popular sport today (1948) in most Western states including Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, Nevada and Oregon. Today, the contest is carried out in such a way very seldom is a steer injured. Good ground, picked steers and good rope horses are the most important factors in a clean steer roping contest.

Some of the famous old-time steer ropers and their horses were Clay McGonigal and Rowdy, J. Ellison Carroll and Red Buck, Henry Grammer and Kid, Joe Gardner and Skunk.

Today, those ropers who have made the headlines are mounted on horses equally well trained and famous as those of the famous old-timers of yesterday.

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