We think Garth Brooks was on to something when he sang, “It’s the ropes and the reins / And the joy and the pain / And they call the thing rodeo!” After all, there are few things more exhilarating than counting down the eight seconds of a bull ride, cheering on a team of cattle penners, or watching a barrel racer speed around an arena.
And when it comes to ropes and reins, joy and pain, and pure exhilaration, the rodeos of the United States and Canada are where it’s all at. Keep scrolling for the 30 most exciting rodeos in North America.
Caldwell Night Rodeo
More than 40,000 rodeo fans head to the Boise metro area in mid-August each year to cheer on their favorite cowboys at the Caldwell Night Rodeo. The five-day event draws many of the sport’s top athletes, who compete in events such as bareback riding, team roping, and steer wrestling, among others.
Calgary Exhibition and Stampede
Even people who don’t follow the rodeo circuit has heard of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede — it’s just that famous! Often referred to as “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” the Calgary Stampede is a 10-day fair and rodeo that attracts more than two million spectators annually. Pro competitors come from all over the world to chase the $2 million in prize money. On the calendar of events are a 2.5-mile kick-off parade, live concerts, animal and agriculture exhibitions, and a chuck wagon derby, plus the typical rodeo fanfare.
Canadian Rockies International Rodeo
Unique to our list is the Canadian Rockies International Rodeo, one of the biggest and most popular gay rodeos in North America. Sanctioned by the International Gay Rodeo Association, the Canadian Rockies International Rodeo welcomes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender as well as heterosexual participants and spectators. In addition to bull riding, calf roping, and other traditional rodeo events, the rodeo’s agenda includes a cabaret, goat dressing competition, an Old Tyme Country Carnival, nightly dances, and Wild Drag.
Cheyenne Frontier Days
Cheyenne Frontier Days is often referred to as the “granddaddy of rodeo events.” It’s taken place in Cheyenne every year since 1897, and features a slew of both rodeo and track events. Hundreds of horses, cattle, cowboys, and cowgirls take part. Crowds hoping to witness this epic rodeo, easily one of the best in the world, begin to descend on Wyoming in late July.
Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair
Cloverdale, British Columbia
Spanning four days of good old-fashioned rodeo fun, British Columbia’s Cloverdale Rodeo is the fifth largest rodeo in Canada. It draws the créme de la créme of professional rodeo riders, plus thousands of spectators ready to cheer them on. The rodeo occurs alongside the Cloverdale Country Fair, which features the biggest parade in the province, Midway rides, various exhibitions, and live entertainment, among other things.
Considering the town of Cody is named for no one other than Buffalo Bill Cody, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the Cody Stampede is included on our list of North America’s best rodeos. Some of the best cowboys the world over flock to the “Rodeo Capital of the World” to take part in what contestants often refer to as “Cowboy Christmas.” The events are many and the prize money even better.
Days of ’76 Rodeo
Deadwood, South Dakota
In some ways, Deadwood, South Dakota has never really left the days of the Wild West. A cowboy town through and through, Deadwood is home to the Days of ’76 Rodeo, an event which has been called the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Midsize Ride of the Year and the Best PRCA Small Outdoor Rodeo. The rodeo has been held every year for nearly 100 years, and includes:
- traditional competition
- two parades
- a huge celebration of regional Native American culture.
Dodge City Roundup Rodeo
Dodge City, Kansas
More than a quarter million dollars are up for grabs as prize money at the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo! This makes this Kansas-based event a big-time draw for both rodeo fans and top-ranked participants. Held every year since 1977, the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo begins in late July.
When the Ellensburg Rodeo was established nearly 100 years ago, it was simply friendly competition amongst ranch hands. Today, it’s one of the biggest and most popular rodeos in North America. Upwards of 600 competitors descend upon Ellensburg, Washington over Labor Day weekend each year to win a piece of the $400,000 prize money. Events include:
- bronc riding
- calf roping, and everything in between.
Florence Junior Parada
Unlike the rest of the events on our list of the 30 most exhilarating rodeos in North America, the Florence Junior Parada is strictly for cowboys and cowgirls ages 5 to 18. But don’t let their ages fool you — these young bucks are the future of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association! The Florence Junior Parada has been held each November for nearly 90 years, making it the oldest continuous junior rodeo in the world. Events include roping, barrel racing, and even bull riding.
Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo
Fort Worth, Texas
While most of the rodeos on our list are summer or fall events, the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo actually occurs in the midst of winter. For 23 days from mid-January to early February, 900,000 rodeo fans descend on the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth to compete and cheer on their favorites. The rodeo, which is credited as the first indoor rodeo in the world, has professional rodeo competitions in 36 different events, including calf roping and bronc riding.
Hand Hills Lake Stampede
Between Drumheller and Hanna, Alberta
The Hand Hills Lake Stampede has been a Pro Rodeo for over 100 years, making it one of the oldest rodeo events in all of Canada. The Stampede occurs over three days in the heart of the badlands of southern Alberta. In addition to the rodeo competitors both pro and amateur, crowds numbering in the thousands come out each year to enjoy:
- live entertainment
- steak and egg breakfasts
- chariot races
- a cowboy cabaret
- a nightly chuck wagon.
Innisfail Professional Rodeo
For nearly 60 years, the town of Innisfail in Alberta has hosted the Innisfail Professional Rodeo. The five-day event is one of Canada’s highest paying rodeos, and therefore attracts big-name pros from both Canada and the United States. Thousands come out to watch their favorites rope and ride, plus take part in the slew of other fun events that make up rodeo in Innisfail.
La Fiesta de los Vaqueros Tucson Rodeo
Bull riding, team roping, barrel racing — it’s all on the agenda at La Fiesta de los Vaqueros Tucson Rodeo in Arizona! Considered to be one of the best professional rodeos in the country, this rodeo — which means “Party of the Cowboys” — attracts nearly 700 professional and amateur cowboys and cowgirls. More than 200,000 fans also come to witness the action, and cheer on their favorites. Besides the thrilling competition, the rodeo includes the Tucson Rodeo Parade, which holds the title for the world’s longest non-motorized parade. It features:
- western-themed floats
- horse-drawn wagons and coaches
- marching bands
- Mexican folk dancers, among many other spectacles.
Manitoba Stampede and Exhibition
The Manitoba Stampede and Exhibition in Morris, Manitoba is known far and wide as “The Big M.” The four-day stampede is the province’s only Canadian Professional Rodeo Association circuit stop, and therefore draws a big crowd. Thousands come out each year to cheer on their favorite professional rodeo stars, while also participating in:
- petting zoos
- midway rides
- chuck wagon races
- a pig scramble just for the kids.
National Finals Rodeo
Las Vegas, Nevada
Each year during the first full week of December, cowboys and cowgirls descend upon Las Vegas for the National Finals Rodeo. This prestigious event is widely considered to be the “Super Bowl of Rodeo.” Over the course of 10 full days, new world champions are crowned in seven main events, including:
- steer wrestling
- bareback riding
- team roping.
National Western Stock Show
The National Western Stock Show has been held at the end of January in Denver for more than 100 years. This historic event takes place over 100 acres, making it the second largest rodeo in the U.S. Besides the usual events for pros and amateurs alike, the rodeo includes children’s events and hands-on animal exhibits featuring:
- cattle, among others.
North Platte, Nebraska
Famous Wild West showman Buffalo Bill is often credited with bringing modern-day rodeo to the masses, and he did that right from his adopted hometown of North Platte, Nebraska. Today, Nebraskaland Days is the continuation of Bill’s legacy. As the biggest rodeo in western Nebraska — and one of the most exciting rodeos on the continent — the June event includes live-music concerts, art shows, parades, food stands, and of course, lots of rodeo events.
Parker Ranch Fourth of July Rodeo
The Big Island, Hawaii
Hawaii may be better known for its luaus, but as it turns out, the Rainbow State also knows how to throw a good rodeo. The Parker Ranch Fourth of July Rodeo is put on by one of the state’s largest working ranches. The event features paniolo — that is, Hawaiian cowboys — competing in events like roping, steer wrestling, horse racing, and double mugging. And because it takes place over Fourth of July weekend, the rodeo also includes fun Independence Day events like food trucks, fireworks, and activities for kids.
Pendleton Round Up
Not only is the Pendleton Round Up in eastern Oregon one of the most popular rodeos for both spectators and athletes, it is also one of the top 10 biggest rodeos in the world. Held during the last days of summer, the Round Up boasts traditional events like team roping, bull riding, and saddle bronc riding, plus old-fashioned favorites like Indian relay races, a children’s rodeo, and wild cow milking.
There is a good reason publications like the Toronto Sun consistently rank the Ponoka Stampede as one of the best rodeos in the world — it’s a total blast! The six-day event is Canada’s biggest rodeo. On the agenda are traditional rodeo competitions like steer wrestling, barrel racing, and bull riding, plus some other crowd pleasers like a kids’ wild pony race, casinos, stage shows, and even a fireworks display.
It’s the “Wildest, Richest Rodeo in the West!” It’s the Reno Rodeo! Over 10 days in late June, competitors, exhibitors, and 140,000 rodeo fans head to Reno to enjoy carnival rides, the Miss Reno Rodeo Queen Pageant, a traditional cattle drive, and of course, lots of exhilarating rodeo action. The Reno Rodeo even includes a stop from the Xtreme Bull Riding Tour, in which 40 of the world’s best professional bull riders compete for a cash prize.
Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas is home to the biggest live entertainment and livestock show on Earth: RodeoHouston. The annual event begins in late February and extends into mid-March. More than 26,000 competitors and exhibitors attend the rodeo each year, along with thousands more spectators and rodeo fans.
Rodeo of the Ozarks
Rodeo of the Ozarks is, without a doubt, one of the most exciting rodeos to take place in North America. The fun kicks off a week before the first calf is roped and the first bronco bucks with stagecoach rides, food trucks, and live entertainment. Then, the action continues with rodeo competitions featuring more than 500 amateur and professional rodeo riders. The Old West Film Fest, a monster truck rally, and the John Shaddox Wagon Train round out the calendar of events.
San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo
San Antonio, Texas
Anything one might hope to see at a rodeo can be seen at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo! As one of the country’s largest stock show rodeos, the event includes barrel racing, saddle bronc riding, roping, bareback riding, calf scrambles, and even Extreme Bulls! Also on the calendar are various horse shows and livestock auctions.
Snake River Stampede
The Snake River Stampede has been a popular event for both competitors and spectators for more than 100 years. The rodeo attracts some of the best cowboys and cowgirls from all around the world, all of whom are eager to compete in high-money events like:
- steer wrestling
- calf roping
- bareback bronc riding
- barrel racing, and more
Unique to the Snack River Stampede is the Stampeders Night Light Drill Team event.
Williams Lake Stampede
Williams Lake, British Columbia
Williams Lake, British Columbia’s annual Williams Lake Stampede has been bringing the thrills since the 1920s. Events include the traditional rodeo events like:
- bull riding
- barrel racing
Other events include:
- Wild Horse Races
- Top Dog events
- Pony Chariot Races
- a Pony Chuckwagon.
Wolf Point Wild Horse Stampede
Wolf Point, Montana
Wolf Point Wild Horse Stampede is a Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association-sanctioned rodeo that takes place over three exhilarating days in Wolf Point, Montana. Each day kicks off with a parade, followed by traditional rodeo events like:
- steer wrestling
- barrel racing, among other things
Other fun items on the agenda include:
- the Human Stampede Run/Walk
- a kids’ stick-horse rodeo
- street dances
- cowboy church.
Woodchoppers Jamboree & Rodeo
The Woodchoppers Jamboree & Rodeo has taken place in Encampment, Wyoming for more than half a century. Every year over Father’s Day weekend, spectators and competitors alike descend upon Encampment to compete for the title of Rocky Mountain Champion Lumberjack. Besides the lumberjack activities, Woodchoppers includes bull riding, bronc riding, and other traditional rodeo events.
West Yellowstone, Montana
Montana is practically synonymous with cowboy culture, and that is never more apparent than during the Yellowstone Rodeo. The rodeo takes place from June through early September, and includes a slew of different events. Families and the sport’s future stars are drawn to Yellowstone for the fun kid-friendly events like the “calf scramble,” while avid rodeo fans and the big-time pros come for the high-paying events in:
- bronc riding
- bull riding, among others.