Every year throughout Mexico and the American Southwest, horses and cows are injured or killed during charreadas or charrerias (Mexican rodeos). The charreada has followed much the same historical track as the American rodeo: Once a contest among charros (horse riders) to show off riding and roping skills on horses, bulls, and calves, the charreada has degenerated into what is essentially a series of bullying circus acts showcasing “skills” that no rancher would ever use.
The typical charreada features a number of events.1 The “step of death” involves leaping from the back of one horse onto the back of a wild horse and riding until the animal becomes exhausted from trying to buck the person off.2 “Roman riding,” or the “death jump,” calls for a charro to straddle two horses and force them to gallop toward and leap over a parked car.3 During the terna en el ruedo, the equivalent of team roping in an American rodeo, riders must rope a bull as quickly as possible; one rider ropes the animal by the neck and two others by the hind legs.”4
A few municipalities and the state of Nebraska have banned an event called “steer-tailing” (coleadero). In this event, a charro on horseback pursues a steer, grabs the steer’s tail, wraps it around his boot and stirrup, then veers off, slamming the steer to the ground.5,6 When the sheriff’s office in Jefferson County, Colo., was alerted to possible cruelty-to-animals offenses following steer-tailing at a charreada, officials investigated. According to a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, “Seven of those cattle had been de-gloved,” meaning that the flesh had been ripped away from their tails, “and we had four that had bone or limb injuries—a couple had broken bones, two others were lame.” Two of the animals had to be euthanized, and the charreada promoter was issued a summons for failing to provide veterinary care.7
“Horse-tripping” is the focus of two events: the manganas, in which horses are roped by their front legs and yanked to the ground, and the piales, in which the animals are roped by their back legs and crash to the ground.8 Veterinarian Steve White, who witnessed a Nebraska charreada, told the Omaha City Council that horse-tripping can cause rope burns, dislocations, torn muscles, and broken legs. “Tradition should never take precedence over the welfare of animals,” he said.9 Horse-tripping has been banned in a handful of states, including California, Maine, New Mexico, Texas, and, most recently, Arizona.10,11
Some charreadas also include bullfighting, other rodeo events, and illegal activities such as cockfighting.12
What You Can Do
If you plan to visit the American Southwest or Mexico, tell your travel agent that you oppose cruelty to animals and refuse to attend a charreada. If you are aware that a charreada will be taking place in a certain city, send a letter of complaint to the mayor.
Start a campaign to ban horse-tripping and steer-tailing in your area. For more information about these activities and how to get them banned, contact this organization:
DreamCatcher Wild Horse & Burro Sanctuary
Ravensdale, CA 96123
1International Arts and Artists, “Arte en la Charreria,” National Cowboy Museum, accessed 18 Nov. 2010.
2Sheila Hotchkin, “Another Way to Rodeo: Participants of Charreria Compete in a Storied Tradition,” San Antonio Express-News, 23 May 2004.
3Ellen Sweets, “Keeping Tradition Alive in the Historic Mexican Charreada. Stock Show Event Combines Elements of Rodeo, Fiesta,” The Denver Post, 8 Jan. 2004.
4International Arts and Artists
5Denis Cuff, “Mexican Rodeo Tradition Under Fire, Raid in Brentwood Renews Debate Over Animal Rights,” Contra Costa Times, 7 Aug. 2004.
6Patricia Leigh Brown, “Rough Events at Mexican Rodeos in U.S. Criticized,” The New York Times, 12 Jun 2008.
7Daniel Smith, “Steer-Tailing Event at Jeffco Fairgrounds Reined In,” YourHub.com, 6 Aug. 2010.
8Marc Ramirez, “Sweet Lariat: Charreria, Hacienda-Bred Rodeo, Is Threatened From Without by Animal-Rights Activists and From Within by Shortsighted Leadership,” Phoenix New Times, 29 Sep. 1994.
9Karen Sloan and Andrew J. Nelson, “Animal Cruelty or Cultural Connection?” Omaha World-Herald, 12 Dec. 2007.
11Matt Wilson, “Horse-Tripping Banned in Nine States,” Equus, Sept. 2009.
12George Knapp, “Cockfighting: Hidden in Plain Sight,” KLAS-TV, 16 Feb. 2005.