Cowboys & Injuries: Chilean Rodeo

Most huasos belong to families where competing in rodeos is a way of life and a skill passed down from father to son, learning the art of precise and skilful cattle manoeuvres.

Culture Facts

Where: Chile, South America
What’s it about: Cowboys skills and serious dancing
How to join in: Turn up to the Rodeo and prepare for some bloody action
Remember to bring: Large bottle of Pisco or red Chilean wine

Where It’s At

Rodeo is the traditional national sport of Chile. Early every autumn since the 1950’s the rodeo championships is staged in the country. The rodeo is a unique occasion in Chile, being one of the few events that is authentically Chilean and one that dates back to colonial times.

Rodeo is similar to Spanish bull fighting in that it is considered a true test of a man’s masculinity. Kitted out in cowboy hats, leather boots, silver spurs and Clint Eastwood style smocks the Chilean cowboys, more commonly known as huasos, take the sport extremely seriously. For the rest of the nation it’s more of an excuse for a party and plenty of pisco or red Chilean wine!

Cowboys

Most huasos belong to families where competing in rodeos is a way of life and a skill passed down from father to son, learning the art of precise and skilful cattle manoeuvres. Traditionally two mounted horse riders of pure Chilean race must work in a pair. Their aim is to stop a young roaming bull in three consecutive attempts by ramming the animal into soft barriers on opposite sides of the ring they are competing in. A points system is devised depending on what part of the bull’s body the huesos come into contact with (for example three points are scored if they hit the ribs, no points if they make contact with the head).

For the competitors and spectators an equally important aspect of rodeo is the huesos’ dancing skills. Huesos are crowd pleasers and so they must demonstrate nifty footwork astride their horse as they perform a festive national dance named the cueca. These skills coupled with their ability to shunt the bull in the right places all contribute to who will be the champion huaso, judged by an independent jury in the stands.

Rights and Wrongs

While the Rodeo is certainly quite a spectacle for the foreign visitor, it is clearly not for animal lovers. Chilean anti-rodeo protesters are ashamed that part of their country’s image is so closely associated with what they believe to be an inhumane and out-dated sport. Both animals involved are mistreated. Whilst the horse receives blows to the ribs from the spurs most of the bulls that are used are purposefully young and under-developed and they suffer fractures and haemorrhages during the sport.

By Jonny Willes

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