Rodeos may have started as a way for vaqueros or cowboys to strut their “stuff” in competitions, but they ended up becoming an important part of Western culture — both in the US and Canada. You’ve probably heard of the famous Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show with its historical shooting and riding events. Even the Queen of England attended it!
When did rodeo get started as entertainment? The Wild West show played for Queen Victoria in 1887. After that, Buffalo Bill took the show on tour performing everywhere from the Paris Exposition of 1889 ( which was attended by 32 million people checking out the newly-completed Eiffel Tower) to Outer Mongolia.
But even before Buffalo Bill’s Wild West was spreading across Europe, back here in Saskatchewan the town of Wood Mountain started what’s believed to be Canada’s oldest continuous rodeo.
What year did the NWMP (North West Mounted Police — now known as the RCMP or Royal Canadian Mounted Police) first hold its Wood Mountain Sports day with horse events to celebrate Canada’s birthday? (Find the answer under the History of Rodeo tab above.)
The NWMP started holding Wood Mountain Sports events, inviting local ranchers and cowboys to participate, as early as 1890. At the time, Wood Mountain was one of the most important law enforcement posts in an area of the province that had its own wild west happening.
Saskatchewan’s Wild West History
Horse thieves, cattle rustlers, bank robbers and other outlaws had their own Saskatchewan hangout. Station #1, on the infamous Outlaw Trail. The trail came up from Mexico and disappeared into the Big Muddy Badlands near Coronach. Summer tours of this fascinating, and virtually unknown, part of Saskatchewan history, are a great way to spend a day. I’ve taken the Badlands tour three times and have learned new things each time from my local guides.
Likely those first NWMP competitions had a host of competitors whose spurs clanged on both sides of the law! How would it feel to be held up by outlaws? If you’d like to find out, you can take the Southern Prairie Railway tour that includes a train robbery by outlaws on horseback. The train leaves from Ogema in southwestern Saskatchewan, for a three hour time-travelling adventure. Check out the dates here.
But, getting back to rodeo. While exhibitions of skill were popular across the west throughout the late 1800s, rodeos didn’t get established as an attraction with admission fees until after the turn of the 20th Century. The Canadian Encyclopedia lists the Raymond, Alberta, rodeo of 1903 as the first official Canadian rodeo. And of course, the Calgary Stampede, first held in 1912, is Canada’s most well known rodeo event.
See a Rodeo This Summer in Saskatchewan
The photos you see here were taken at the Pilot Butte Rodeo (held annually in June), just twenty minutes outside of our capital city, Regina. For more details about the dates, see the Sask Tourism website.
While I haven’t been at the Wood Mountain Rodeo, I have visited the Wood Mountain Post Provincial Park — click here for the website. It’s a great stop if you’re interested in how the wild west was won in Saskatchewan, not by sheriffs with their deputies, but by our red coated mounties.
Wood Mountain’s Stampede is held annually in early July. They have a website with full schedule and times at: https://woodmountainstampede.com/
For information on when the CCA (Canadian Cowboy Association) events are scheduled, see: http://canadiancowboys.ca/index.php/rodeo-information/
For Saskatchewan High School Rodeo Association events see: http://www.shsra.net/
And for Pro Rodeo Canada events, see: http://www.rodeocanada.com/rodeo_schedule.htm