The history of the PRCA: Celebrating 80 years of dirt, hard work, and cowboys

Since the early 1800s, Americans have been fascinated with the country’s oldest sport: Rodeo. What started as a way of making a living in unfamiliar territory has evolved into a national sport that draws in audiences from all around the world.

Each year, thousands of people travel to our rodeo to get a glimpse of the what cowboy lifestyle is about in Kissimmee. Since 1944, when the Silver Spurs Riding Club held its first Silver Spurs Rodeo, we’ve been able to showcase Kissimmee’s (or as locals know it, Kowtown’s) roots in agriculture and rodeo. But when the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) sanctioned the Silver Spurs Rodeo in ____, it helped elevate us to the rodeo you all know and love today. In this blog, we’ll break down the history of the PRCA and its role in the sport of rodeo.

While the first official rodeo is a bit of a mystery, many people believe that the first rodeo took place in 1869 in Deer Trail, Colorado. Here, two groups of cowboys from nearby ranches met to settle an argument over who was the best at performing everyday cowboy tasks, and breaking wild horses to work the ranch. Some of these everyday cowboy tasks included handling and roping steers and cattle for branding, and capturing them for medical attention. Little did these ranchers know that their “cowboy chores” would eventually lead to modern rodeo’s steer wrestling, tie-down roping and team roping.

As rodeo’s popularity grew, local rodeos began springing up in small towns. And while this was great for cowboys to travel to each rodeo and show off their skills (winning some money in the process), no two rodeos were the same. Until the late 1920s, rodeo organizations remained fragmented, each having their own rules and regulations that were too new or different for contestants and stock contractors to keep up with as they traveled around performing. However, all of this changed once the Rodeo Association of America, comprised of rodeo committees and promoters from across the U.S., named its first champions.

After the RAA named its champions, the first true national cowboys’ organization emerged in 1936, when a group of cowboys and cowgirls boycotted a promoter’s rodeo in Boston Garden. This boycott forced one of the biggest rodeo producers of the time, Col. W.T. Johnson, to listen to the contestants’ needs. They wanted a bigger share of the prize money and judges who understood the sport of rodeo. After these requests were met, the Cowboys’ Turtle Association (CTA) was born. This name was mainly picked because the contestants were slow to address their concerns but finally “stuck their necks out” and stood up for themselves.

Since its formation in 1936, the CTA has gone through two name changes – to the Rodeo Cowboys Association (RCA) in 1945, and again in 1975 to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (as you know it today). Despite these name changes, the organization didn’t pause to implement rules that oversaw rodeo livestocks’ welfare during rodeo performances, establish the National Finals Rodeo along with other competitions such as the Wrangler Champions Challenge, helped found a nonprofit that supports injured professional rodeo competitors, and, as of 2015, annually sanctioning more than 600 rodeos.

While the times have changed much of the world, rodeo’s roots and value in showmanship and sportsmanship have stood the test of time. We’re glad to be a part of an organization that protects the cowboys, stock contractors and livestock alike to bring you quality rodeos year after year.