According to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, steer wrestling is the quickest event in professional rodeo. As we observe National Day of the Cowboy on the fourth Saturday in July – this year on July 25 – it’s a good time to look at the competitive nature of rodeo cowboys.
Steer wrestlers combine physical strength with technique to wrestle steer, which typically weigh more than twice as much as the wrestler, to the ground as quickly as possible. Steer wrestlers are often referred to as ‘bulldoggers’ and begin each competition on horseback in a box. When the event begins, the steer is released and gets a head start, the length of which is determined by the size of the arena. Once the steer reaches the predetermined advantage point, the bulldogger is released and takes off in pursuit.
Once the bulldogger reaches the steer, he slides off of his galloping horse and hooks his right arm around the steer’s right horn while grabbing the left horn with his left hand. The bulldogger then uses his physical strength and the leverage of his position to slow the steer and wrestle it to the ground. The bulldogger’s efforts to corral the steer are aided by a person riding horseback on the opposite side of the steer. This person is referred to as a hazer and is there to prevent the steer from veering away from the bulldogger. Once the bulldogger has wrestled the steer to the ground, he must then make sure the steer is on its side and all four of its feet are pointing in the same direction. Only then is the event considered over.
The National Day of the Cowboy was first observed in 2004 and is designed to “preserve, protect and promote the cowboy and our Western heritage” according to the American Quarter Horse Foundation.