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Steer Wrestling

Photo: Andrew Hennell

Formally known as “bulldogging”.  Steer wrestling requires two cowboys, a steer and judges.  The objective of the steer wrestler is to leap from his galloping horse and then use strength and technique to wrestle a steer to the ground as quickly as possible.

That sounds simple enough.  Here’s the catch: the steer generally weighs more than twice as much as the cowboy and, at the time the two come together, they’re both often travelling at 30 miles per hour. Speed and precision, the two most important ingredients in steer wrestling, make it one of rodeo’s most challenging events.

The steer wrestler starts on horseback in the timed event box. A barrier is stretched across the open end of the box and the cowboy waits. The steer gets a head start that is determined by the size of the arena. When the steer reaches the advantage point, the barrier is released and the cowboy takes off in pursuit. In addition to strength, two other skills critical to success in steer wrestling are timing and balance.

When the cowboy reaches the steer, he slides down and off the right side of his galloping horse, hooks his right arm around the steer’s right horn, grasps the left horn with his left hand and, using strength and leverage, slows the animal and wrestles it to the ground.

To catch the sprinting steer, the cowboy uses a “hazer,” who is another mounted cowboy that gallops his horse along the right side of the steer and keeps it from veering away from the bulldogger.  The efforts of the hazer can be nearly as important as those of the steer wrestler.

The event isn’t complete until the cowboy has the steer on its side with all four feet pointing the same direction.


Steer wrestling is a timed event.  As mentioned before, the steer gets a head start.  Timing commences from when the steer reaches its advantage point and the barrier is released.  If the cowboy breaks the barrier before the steer reaches its head start, a 10-second penalty is incurred.

Timing stops when the steer is put to the ground and it has all legs in the air.  If the cowboy misses the steer or is not able to put it to ground, the cowboy is disqualified.  Several things can mean that a catch is not “legal”.  For example, if the cowboy lands too far forward onto the steer’s head and topples it to the ground, the steer must be allowed to regain its feet and be re-thrown or an illegal catch will be declared.