There are few things that epitomize the wild and the romantic West like the cowboy. They represent hard work, integrity and independence.
In Wind River Country, cowboys (and girls) haven’t been relegated to history—and neither have the values they, as a symbol of the West represent. Here those wearing boots and hats aren’t doing it for show.
There is no better place to see the toughness of modern cowboys and cowgirls in action than by attending a rodeo in Wyoming’s Wind River Country.
You can attend ranch rodeos, Ultimate Miniature Bull Riding, PRCA rodeos, Indian relay races and the Pioneer Days Rodeo—the oldest paid rodeo in the country.
Find the perfect rodeo for your trip in the complete 2018 Rodeo schedule.
My Wind River Rodeo Experience
Even growing up in the West, the notion of the cowboy enthralled and intrigued me.
No matter how many rodeos I attend, there is always the thrill in the churning dust and the flailing hooves of the animals and the impressive athleticism and sheer bravery of the competitors.
Rodeo is a sport unlike any other. If you don’t win, you don’t get paid. And to claim a prize you need stamina, balance, agility and true western determination and grit.
One thing I love about rodeo is it’s a sport anyone can appreciate. Even if you aren’t as enamored with the romantic vision of the West as some of us, the dedication and fortitude needed to compete in rodeo is something anyone can admire. My friends who are fans of more traditional team sports can’t tear their eyes away from someone atop an animal bucking and almost flying through the air.
The other thing I love about rodeo is that in Wind River Country you can take it in almost any time of the year and in every corner of the county.
The Lander Pioneer Days Rodeo has been a Fourth of July tradition since 1893, making it the oldest paid rodeo in the world. If you’ve never seen it, you must watch the Indian Relay Races. It’s a mixture of agility, showmanship and simple courage, as American Indian riders from different teams leap onto their bareback horses racing around the first leg of a large racetrack. At the end of the first lap the rider jumps off the still moving horse and vaults atop a second horse for another lap, races around the track, then repeats this on yet a third horse. The competition is fierce between Native American teams and the crowd can get frenzied cheering on their favorite team. The winner takes all.
The Fremont County Fair held in Riverton at the end of July and in early August brings in competitors from all over Wyoming, Texas, Colorado and Montana. You’ll see some of the best at this rodeo, which has the county’s only Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and Women’s Professional Rodeo Association.
There’s rodeo action every Friday night in Dubois from June to August. It’s smaller than the Lander Pioneer Days event, but very family and kid-friendly. There’s an authentic feel to it with locals and area cowboys and cowgirls competing and honing their skills.
No matter which event you check-out, you’ll see team roping, barrel racing, and bronc and bull riding. But my favorite event is a regular at the Dubois Friday night rodeo. Have you ever wondered how cowboys learn to ride bulls or where cowgirls acquire their bravery to urge a horse on full speed, only to turn it around a barrel without losing speed? Well it starts with a little event called mutton busting, where the next generation of cowboys and cowgirls ride sheep.
From sheep, kids graduate to miniature bulls. You can watch these kids under 14 years old ride and try to hold on as they ride smaller bulls. Miniature bull riding events are held throughout the summer in Fremont County.
Watching these kids is such a cool juxtaposition with the next generation keeping the traditions of the West and Wind River Country alive.