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Rodeo Terminology

Become familiar with common terms you will hear from the announcer's stand or in amongst the rodeo crowd.


Added Money/Added:  Money added to the pot available to be won, usually contributed by local businesses.  Ex: You might hear a contestant ask, "what's the added?"  

Average: used to describe the aggregate score for a contestant who competed in more than one round, e.g., “He had times of 9.3 and 9.8 seconds in the two rounds and placed third in the average with 19.1 seconds on two head.”

Barrel man: an entertainer who uses a barrel to distract a bull after a ride, and sometimes to protect the cowboy

Barrier: in timed events, a line at the front of the box that the contestant/horse cannot cross until the steer/calf has a head start, usually marked with a rope and a flag


Box: in a timed event, the area a horse and rider back into before they make a roping or steer wrestling run

Breaking the barrier: in the timed events, if the rider leaves the box too soon – failing to give the animal enough of a head start – a 10-second penalty is added

Bronc rein: used by saddle bronc rider, reins are held at a specific position based on the size and bucking habits of the horse

Bulldogger: a steer wrestler

Bullfighter: an athlete who protects the bull rider after he dismounts or is bucked off by distracting the bull and directing it to the exit gate


Catch as Catch Can - roping term where any catch is legal whether it be around neck, body, or back legs.

Chute: a pen that holds an animal safely in position


Chute Boss:  a middleman of sorts who oversees the operation of the chutes during roughstock events to the cowboys moving, make sure the rough stock is ready and communicates with the announcer

Cloverleaf Pattern:  the name of the pattern run by barrel racers. If drawing the pattern around all three parrels it would look a bit like a cloverleaf.


Covering: in rough stock events, staying on for the minimum time: “He covered all 3 bulls last weekend.”

Crossfire penalty: in team roping, if the header doesn’t change the direction of the steer before the heeler catches, the run is disqualified

Dally: after a team roper throws his loop he wraps the loose rope around his saddle horn

Delivery (left or right): refers to the direction the gate will open, some bucking stock perform better depending on the direction of delivery into the arena, some stock prefer to stand in the chute facing a particular direction

Draw: a random draw is conducted and each competitor is assigned a specific bucking horse, bull or calf, steer. 

Ex: In the rodeo office you might hear a cowboy ask, "what's my draw?"

Drop: the way a bucking horse/bull lowers its front end while kicking out in back or the way a calf/steer lowers its head to avoid a catch


Fading - A bull that spins and slowly gains ground in the direction he is spinning.

Flags:  arena judges use a flag to signal the timers to stop the clocks

Flank man: someone who works in the bucking chutes, adjusting the flank strap around the animal before the ride

Flank strap: A soft sheepskin- or Neoprene-lined strap placed in the area where a human’s belt would go, it encourages the animal to kick out behind itself rather than rear up, which provides a safer, showier ride.

Free hand: A bull rider’s free hand is the hand he does not use to grip the bull rope during a ride. The free hand must stay in the air throughout the ride. If it touches the bull or the bull rider before eight seconds elapse, the rider is disqualified and receives no score.

Go-round: Many rodeos have more than one round of competition; each is called a go-round.

Long Round: this is the round where all the contestants in a performance compete.  Some rodeos offer only a long round and award pay-out to the winner(s) of that one single round. 

Short Round: if a rodeo committee chooses to offer a Short Round, this would be the round that brings back the highest placing riders from the Long Round.  Ex:  "We'll see that cowboy back in the short round"  DRA's bull riding event usually bucks out 30 head of bulls in the Long Round, and brings back the Top 10 to the Short Round. Some events might bring back the top 8, the top 6 or top 4; this is generally determined by the number of entries and the amount of payout available. 

Grand Entry:  Opening ceremony of a rodeo. Minimally includes presentation of the American Flag, National Anthem and prayer. Oftentimes will include presentation of sponsor flags, introduction to rodeo-royalty and guest royalty representing other organization 

Hazer: in steer wrestling, an “assistant” cowboy on horseback tasked with ridding along the right side of the steer and keeping it from veering away from the bulldogger

Header: in team roping, the header throws the first rope over the animal’s head or horns

Heeler: in team roping, the heeler throws the second rope to catch both the steer’s hind legs

Hooey: a type of knot used in tie-down roping


Hung up: when a bull rider or bareback rider cannot remove his hand from the rope or handle before he dismounts or is thrown off


Judges: trained judges ensure that all participants follow the rules: they determine times and scores for rides, record penalties, inspect the arena, chutes and livestock before each competition

Mark out:  Bareback and Saddle Bronc term. You will sometimes see what appeared to be a good ride receive a no-score because the cowboy didn't "mark out" which means he didn't have his feet above the horse’s shoulders when the horse’s front feet hit the ground when it left the chute.

Nodding: a cowboy nods when he is ready for the gateman to open the gate and the ride to begin or when he is ready for the calf or steer to be released from the chute

No score: This occurs when the rider falls off the stock before eight seconds in rough stock events or misses the steer in timed events.

Pantyhose:  The heeler has roped the heels and the rope passes beyond the steers hocks and catches up under both flanks of the steer.

Payout: Refers to the money available to be one and how it is paid out.  Contestants pay an entry fee to compete. The majority of their entry fee is pooled together to be paid out to the event winner(s). Frequently a sponsor will contribute "added" money to the payout.  There are different payout scales a committee might choose to offer. Some events might pay winner- takes-all while other events might pay out as far as 8th place.  Ex:  "What's the payout?"


Penalty: amount of time tacked onto the final time if a rule is broken

Pickup men: cowboys on horseback who help riders dismount, release a flank strap and escort rough stock to the exit gate

Piggin’ string: a string used in tie-down roping

Pigtail: a piece of string attached to the barrier that breaks if a timed-event contestant and their horse exits the box too soon

Rake - Spurring action.

Rank: praise and respect used to describe challenging rough stock

Reride: when the judges offer the cowboy a clean-slate chance to ride a different horse/bull because the score was affected by equipment failure or a horse/bull that didn’t buck to performance specifications.

Riggin’: a suitcase-style handhold customized to a rider’s grip and attached to a molded piece of leather that is cinched, with a pad, around the horse’s girth

Rodeo Royalty:  Knowledgeable young leaders who serve as ambassadors of their rodeo organization, the sport of rodeo, and the western way of life. Rodeo royalty courts often consist of a Queen, Princess and Lil Miss

Rough Stock: bucking horses and bulls used in bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding, bred and raised for the job they're performing.

Seeing Daylight: The rider comes far enough off the horse that daylight is seen between the rider and the animal.

Slack: term used for the entries that exceed the number of contestants needed for a performance.  Rodeo performances are typically planned to last about two hours which allows for about 10 contestants per event, but rodeo associations will usually have more entries than what the performance can accommodate. The excess compete in a Slack performance usually held before or after the main public performance.  Ex: "I'm up in Slack"

Spurs: the spurs used have dulled rowels that do not penetrate the animals’ skin, which is several times thicker than human skin

Standings: a professional cowboy’s success is measured in earnings and cowboys may keep track of where they rank in yearly earnings in several sets of standings

Stock contractors: companies that bring livestock to the rodeos – bucking horses, bulls, and steer wrestling and roping stock

Suicide Wrap: The wrap bullriders take when wrapping the bull rope around their hand.

Star Gaze - A saddle bronc that bucks with his head up. This makes it difficult for the rider to keep the slack out of his hack rein and to balance.

Sun Fisher: The animal twists his body in the air so that daylight shines on his belly.

Sucks Back: An animal suddenly changes the direction in which it was bucking.


Timed Events: steer wrestling, team roping, tie-down roping and steer roping – events in which the contestant(s) who make the fastest qualified runs win

Try: a word used for both cowboys and livestock, denoting grit, determination, fitness, stamina and resilience: “Give that cowboy a hand – he had a lot of try”

Turn out:  When a contestant is entered into an event but cannot perform for whatever reason, they "turn out".

Whipped Down: Generally used to describe a rider that his jerked forward on the bull and his torso and/or face comes in contact with the animal.

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