The National Finals Rodeo, organized by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), is the premier championship rodeo event in the United States. The NFR showcases the talents of the PRCA’s top 15 money-winners in each event as they compete for the world title.
The NFR is the final rodeo event of the PRCA season. World championship titles are awarded to the individuals who earn the most money in his or her event throughout the year.
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7 events and 10 championships are sanctioned by the PRCA: Steer roping is publicized separately and its finals are held separately at the National Finals Steer Roping. Barrel racing is sanctioned by the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA).
Bronc riding – there are two divisions in rodeo, bareback bronc riding, where the rider is only allowed to hang onto a bucking horse with a type of surcingle called a “rigging”; and saddle bronc riding, where the rider uses a specialized western saddle without a horn (for safety) and hangs onto a heavy lead rope, called a bronc rein, which is attached to a halter on the horse.
Tie-Down Roping – also called calf roping, is based on ranch work in which calves are roped for branding, medical treatment, or other purposes. It is the oldest of rodeo’s timed events. The cowboy ropes a running calf around the neck with a lariat, and his horse stops and sets back on the rope while the cowboy dismounts, runs to the calf, throws it to the ground and ties three feet together. (If the calf falls when roped, the cowboy must lose time waiting for the calf to get back to its feet so that the cowboy can do the work.) The job of the horse is to hold the calf steady on the rope. A well-trained calf-roping horse will slowly back up while the cowboy ties the calf, to help keep the lariat snug.
Barrel Racing – is a timed speed and agility event. In barrel racing, horse and rider gallop around a cloverleaf pattern of barrels, making agile turns without knocking the barrels over. In professional, collegiate and high school rodeo, barrel racing is an exclusively women’s sport, though men and boys occasionally compete at local O-Mok-See competition. Barrel racing takes place with other PRCA sanctioned events, but it is sanctioned by the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA). Results are shown on that web site.
Steer Wrestling – Also known as “Bulldogging,” is a rodeo event where the rider jumps off his horse onto a Corriente steer and ‘wrestles’ it to the ground by grabbing it by the horns. This is probably the single most physically dangerous event in rodeo for the cowboy, who runs a high risk of jumping off a running horse head first and missing the steer, or of having the thrown steer land on top of him, sometimes horns first.
Team Roping – also called “heading and heeling,” is the only rodeo event where men and women riders compete together. Two people capture and restrain a full-grown steer. One horse and rider, the “header,” lassos a running steer’s horns, while the other horse and rider, the “heeler,” lassos the steer’s two hind legs. Once the animal is captured, the riders face each other and lightly pull the steer between them, so that both ropes are taut. This technique originated from methods of capture and restraint for treatment used on a ranch.
Bull Riding – an event where the cowboys ride full-grown bulls instead of horses. Although skills and equipment similar to those needed for bareback bronc riding are required, the event differs considerably from horse riding competition due to the danger involved. Because bulls are unpredictable and may attack a fallen rider, rodeo clowns, now known as “bullfighters”, work during bull-riding competition to distract the bulls and help prevent injury to competitors.
Steer Roping – is based on tie-down roping. Instead of a calf, the cowboy must catch and tie down a large steer (approximately 450 to 600 pounds). Unlike tie-down roping, the cowboy must first rope the steer around its horns. The steer’s horns are wrapped and then reinforced with rebar. The cowboy must then toss the rope over the steer’s right hip. Then he rides leftward which brings the steer down to the ground. Once the steer is on his side and the rope is tight, then he can dismount. He will run to the steer in order to tie any three legs together. As in tie-down roping, the tie must hold for six seconds.
Steer riding – a rough stock event for boys and girls where children ride steers, usually in a manner similar to bulls. Ages vary by region, as there is no national rule set for this event, but generally participants are at least eight years old and compete through about age 14. It is a training event for bronc riding and bull riding.
All-Around – The All-Around Cowboy is actually an award, not an event. It is awarded to the highest money winner in two or more events.
Barrel Racing – is a timed speed and agility event. In barrel racing, horse and rider gallop around a cloverleaf pattern of barrels, making agile turns without knocking the barrels over. In professional, collegiate and high school rodeo, barrel racing is an exclusively women’s sport, though men and boys occasionally compete at local O-Mok-See competition. Barrel racing takes place with other PRCA sanctioned events, but it is sanctioned by the WPRA. Results are shown on that website
The All Around title is awarded at the end of the NFR to the highest-earning cowboy who has regularly competed in more than one event during the year. In addition to world championships, an average winner is crowned in each event.
Since this event is extremely popular, it sells out all seats for all of the events. Many casinos carry the events live in their sports books or host special parties to accommodate all of the fans in town who can not get tickets for the events. Most of the major hotels and casinos book special entertainment into their showrooms with a country theme offering many of the regular shows an extended break