The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) is the largest rodeo organization in the world. It sanctions events in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Brazil, with members from said countries, as well as others. Its championship event is the National Finals Rodeo. The PRCA is headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States.
The organization was created in 1936 when a group of cowboys walked out of a rodeo at Boston Garden to protest the actions of rodeo promoter W.T. Johnson, who refused to add the cowboys’ entry fees to the rodeo’s total purse. Johnson finally gave in to the cowboys’ demands, and the successful “strike” led to the formation of the Cowboys’ Turtle Association. That name was chosen because, while they were slow to organize, when required they were unafraid to stick out their necks to get what they wanted, like turtles might do. Among the organizers was a woman, a four-time national bronc champion, Alice Greenough Orr. In 1945, the Turtles changed their name to the Rodeo Cowboys Association, and in 1975, the organization became the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. The PRCA staff consists of about 70 full-time employees, but grows to nearly 100 during the peak rodeo season. The PRCA headquarters, established in 1979 in Colorado Springs, also houses the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy. For a list of inductees, see the List of ProRodeo Hall of Fame inductees.
The top cowboys and cowgirls compete in 55 of the PRCA’s largest regular season rodeos where they try to earn points for the tour’s finals event, the ProRodeo Tour Finale, held every September in Puyallup, Washington. The competitor with the highest total points in each rodeo event is crowned the ProRodeo Tour Champion. While money won on the tour does count toward the world standings for the National Finals Rodeo, The ProRodeo Tour is points based. For example, If a rodeo in this tour awards twelve places, first place wins 120 points, and the rest are reduced by ten points each.
World’s Toughest Rodeo
This tour consists of PRCA bareback bronc riders, saddle bronc riders, and bull riders, as well as barrel racers from the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) competing in select midwestern and southeastern cities of the United States as annual events in the winter and early spring. Money won at each tour stop counts towards the PRCA world standings.
Since 2003, the PRCA has sanctioned events that feature bull riding alone called the Xtreme Bulls tour. These events are held in conjunction with less than a handful of the PRCA’s several hundreds of annual rodeos. Forty PRCA bull riders compete in a select rodeo arena in a one-two day competition, and the top 12 riders based on scores come back to the championship round. The rider with the most points on two bulls wins the event. The PRCA crowns an Xtreme Bulls tour champion every year. This is the rider who wins the most money on tour. The Xtreme Bulls Tour World Finale has been held in conjunction with the PRCA-sanctioned Ellensburg Rodeo for many years. Bull riders must compete in at least forty complete PRCA rodeos if they want the money won on the Xtreme Bulls tour to count in the world standings towards the National Finals Rodeo. The Xtreme Bulls tour has Division 1 and Division 2 events.
First approved by the PRCA in 2016, this tour features only saddle bronc riding competition. Like the Xtreme Bulls tour, these events are held in conjunction with a very small amount of the PRCA’s several hundreds of annual regular season rodeos. At the championship event, the top 12 saddle bronc riders in the PRCA world standings, plus the top 12 saddle bronc riders in the Xtreme Broncs tour standings not already in the top 12 PRCA world standings compete for the chance of winning the tour title at the finale in August in Rapid City, South Dakota. Money won on the Xtreme Broncs tour counts towards the PRCA world standings for the National Finals Rodeo.
National Circuit Finals Rodeo
A competitor must qualify in his or her regional circuit to move on to the National Circuit Finals Rodeo (NCFR), held every spring from 1987 to 2010 in Pocatello, Idaho, before moving to Oklahoma City in 2011, Guthrie, Oklahoma, in 2014 and then to Kissimmee, Florida, in 2015. The top two contestants in each of the seven rodeo events from the 12 different PRCA regional American circuits and two international circuits (the Mexico Circuit and Canada’s Maple Leaf Circuit) compete in the four-day championship event. Points are achieved for the top competitors in each of the circuit rodeo events held throughout the year. The winner in each event at the NCFR is the national circuit finals champion for that event. In addition to the eight individual event winners, there is also an overall champion titled the All-Around Cowboy. All eight winners receive the National Circuit Finals Rodeo Championship gold belt-buckle.
National Circuit Finals Steer Roping
A few days after the completion of the National Circuit Finals Rodeo (NCFR) in Kissimmee, Florida, a different event, the National Circuit Finals Steer Roping (NCFSR), takes place in Torrington, Wyoming. The top 35 steer ropers from the 12 PRCA regional American circuits compete at the annual two-day event for the chance of winning the National Circuit Steer Roping title.
At the end of the regular season, the top 15 steer ropers in the PRCA world standings compete at the National Finals Steer Roping (NFSR). This annual event held every November in Mulvane, Kansas, is separate from the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) and different from the National Circuit Finals Steer Roping (NCFSR). After two days of competition, the contestant who has won the most money throughout the season, including at the NFSR is crowned the PRCA world champion steer roper. The event is named after the legendary PRCA rodeo announcer Clem McSpadden.
Permit Member of the Year Challenge
The top five permit holders in each of the seven standard rodeo events at the end of the regular season compete at the PRCA Permit Member of the Year Challenge. This one-day event is held every December at the South Point Hotel Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, just a few days before the National Finals Rodeo. First time PRCA members compete on a permit, and must win a certain amount of money before they earn their full-time PRCA membership card. The top five money-earning permit holders compete in two rounds each and the ones who have earned the most money throughout the year are each crowned the PRCA Permit Member of the Year.
National Finals Rodeo
The top 15 money winners in each PRCA discipline (including the top 15 “headers” and “heelers” in team roping) at the end of the regular season earn a trip to the National Finals Rodeo, commonly called the National Finals or NFR. The NFR is held in Las Vegas, Nevada, every December. Rodeo action is held over 10 consecutive days at the National Finals, with the top money winner for the year crowned the year’s PRCA World Champion in each discipline at the end of the NFR. Because of the large amount of money (10 million dollars) at stake in the NFR, the leaders in each event going into the NFR are often dethroned for the year’s championship at that event.