Women in Today’s Sport of Professional Rodeo


I love that we’re seeing more and more women participating in sports traditionally dominated by men. And I’m happy that rodeo has become one of those sports. Yes, you say, women have long competed in barrel racing. But did you know in the early days of rodeo, 1850s to 1900s, women competed against men in all rodeo events, including rough stock?

Eventually, they got pushed out (grrrr), and in 1948 the Girls Rodeo Association was formed with the intent of advancing women in professional rodeo. The Girls Rodeo Association later became know by its current name, the Woman’s Professional Rodeo Association. Yay! Go girls. Um, I mean women.

While women still don’t compete against men in today’s professional rodeos, they do have their own rodeos and are no longer restricted to just barrel racing. Breakaway roping and team roping have become sanctioned events, and women from all over the world compete on local and National levels. Pretty impressive. I’ve tried roping and couldn’t even get the rope to land correctly on a stationary practice dummy. Can’t imagine succeeding while chasing a live calf on a fast moving horse.


Photo by Kirstie Marie Photography

There are also some brave and talented women who compete in non-sanctioned events such as tie-down roping, steer wrestling, bull riding and bronc riding. Picture yourself climbing onto the back of a two-thousand pound bull and letting him toss you around like a bean bag. Nope. I can’t, either. Even with all the safety equipment. Talk about dangerous. But I admire the women who are paving the way for future generations.

Daily Mail Online

I especially like that these rodeo events are open to ages thirteen and up, giving opportunity to young women they didn’t have just a short time ago and opening doors for future generations. Who knows what women in rodeo will look like twenty years from now, or even ten?

At the 2020 Inaugural Women’s World Rodeo Championship last November in Las Vegas, four women became the first in history to claim the title of Women’s Rodeo World Champion (besides barrel racing, breakaway roping, and team roping, a title was also given for heading and heeling).This is an amazing step forward, and I hope more events will be added in the future.

I haven’t yet put a professional woman rodeo athlete in one of my books. Thinking maybe I should. And one of these days I’ll travel to Las Vegas to attend the rodeo. I read somewhere that CBS will be airing the final rounds for this year’s 2021 Women’s World Rodeo Championship on Sunday, October 31st. I’m marking my calendar 🙂

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Cathy McDavid has been penning Westerns for Harlequin since 2005. With over 50 titles in print and 1.5 million-plus books sold, Cathy is also a member of the prestigious Romance Writers of America’s Honor Roll. This “almost” Arizona native and mother of grown twins is married to her own real-life sweetheart. After leaving the corporate world seven years ago, she now spends her days penning stories about good looking cowboys riding the range, busting broncs, and sweeping gals off their feet — oops, no. Make that winning the hearts of feisty, independent women who give the cowboys a run for their money. It a tough job, but she’s willing to make the sacrifice.

28 thoughts on “Women in Today’s Sport of Professional Rodeo”

  1. I think you should write a novel with the heroine a professional rodeo star. I’d prefer it set in the early days, but a contemporary would be good, too. In all the westerns I’ve read the only thing that came close was a barrel racer.

  2. It’s so nice that the sport is opening up for women. YeeHaw! 😉

    I’m not surprised it was in the beginning before they were pushed out. Seems to have happened in a lot of sports and careers.

  3. Love this!!! I knew a fantastic Western author, Kari Lynn Dell (who we lost over a year ago to cancer) who was a storied break-away roper – and she wrote amazing rodeo novels – check her out!

  4. Thanks for highlighting women i. rodeo. When I rodeoed, I roped and women weren’t featured past college rodeoed. I’m so glad that PRCA has started allowing breakaway into their world. I’m from Stephenville, Texas and am so proud of my hometown cowboys and cowgirls.

  5. I think that’s amazing!! I think you should include a heroine like this at least one of your books!! I think they should compete against the men. It’d definitely be something to watch!

  6. So interesting, Cathy. I’m such a wimp, but I really admire these female athletes! I can only imagine the strength it would take to stay on a bucking bronc or riding a bull. And for a 13-year-old . . . well, I’d be a protective mama, for sure.

    Fascinating stuff!!

  7. Amazing and its about time women got to do some things. Women have been fighting for years for their place in the world, its better now but still a mans world to a certain degree.

  8. I have always loved rodeos. Seeing the bond between the men/women between them and their horses was exhilarating for me. I had a horse (Palomino) named Goldie. She was the sweetest, best horse around (at least for me) We went to many rodeos and did barrel racing. There was always a section of the rodeo for kids. I loved the speed and the wind in my face. Sometimes we won, sometimes we didnt. I really didnt care about that. It was all about Goldie and me working together. A couple of times I fell off (embarrassing, sigh) and each time Goldie would stop and come back to me as if she wanted to make sure I was ok. Oh and at every one of those rodeos, there were plenty of women doing all the different parts of the rodeo. One lady even was a clown.

  9. NFR Las Vegas is definitely on my bucket list! I’m waiting on my youngest to turn 21, so we can all go. They are definitely dedicated athletes of amazing talent. Interesting blog post.

  10. Good morning and Thank You for featuring women in rodeo! I’m from Stephenville, Texas, dubbed Cowboy Capital and I’m so happy that our women and starting to get the recognition they have deserved for decades. I know (have known) many women that compete (or have) in rodeos. I have a niece that cuuebtkt competes in team roping & she’s quite good at it. Loved your blog.

  11. Cathy, I think women are making strides in being accepted into things like rodeo, firefighting, and law enforcement. My oldest daughter has recently completed truck driving school and now driving from coast to coast. While it’s not my cup of tea, I admire her for going after what she wants. She did have to face one male chauvinist instructor who told her women needed to learn to stay in the kitchen where they belong. He treated her horribly bad, hollering and trying to make her quit. She stuck with it though and I’m so proud of her. I like how the Netflix show Heartland added a woman bull rider. She’s tough. 🙂 When she gets hurt, she wastes no time getting back on.

    • Good for your daughter, Linda. You must be proud of her 🙂 I haven’t watched Heartland yet, though it’s been on my list for sometime. I really should, now that I know there’s a woman bull rider in it!

  12. I did know that women used to compete in the rough stock events, but not the time frame and when they were barred from participating. I would never even consider competing in any of those events, even in my youth. However, if women want to compete and are capable, they should be allowed to. I would like to see the day when both men and women compete against each other in the same events. Women aren’t the dainty little things that can’t handle it. I personally think that the men are afraid to compete in this arena as they have been in so many other areas. Deep down, they know there are women out there who are good enough to beat them.

    Take care and have a good rest of September.

  13. Thank you so much for sharing. I remember reading about the rodeo events that Reba McIntire used to be involved in when she was younger. The pictures you showed are fabulous.

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