What’s Steer Wrestling?

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Steer wrestling is a rodeo event where a cowboy on a specially trained horse must tackle a three-times-heavier steer while moving at 30 mph. The cowboy’s assistant, the hazer, keeps the steer straight. The process takes 3-10 seconds, and the 2008 world record is 2.4 seconds. Most champions are male due to their added bulk, and the hazer is crucial for safety.

Steer wrestling is a rodeo event in which a cowboy must wrestle a steer down. This description is actually deceptively simple, as it leaves out the crucial piece of information: Both the steer and the cowboy are moving about 30 miles per hour (nearly 50 kilometers per hour) when this event occurs. This sport requires strength, speed and precision and is extremely demanding; champions of the sport regularly set times under five seconds, with the 2008 world record set at 2.4 seconds.

Several actors are involved in beef wrestling. The first is beef, a sterilized bull that is typically selected for size; steers often weigh three times as much as the cowboys attempting to tackle them. The second actor is the cowboy, who is mounted on a steer wrestling horse, a horse specially trained for the needs of steer wrestling. Finally, the cowboy has an assistant known as a hazer who keeps the steer in a straight line; this is an extremely crucial role, as otherwise the cowboy could be seriously injured.

Before a cowboy begins a beef wrestling “run,” the steer is barricaded in a chute while the cowboy and horse stand behind a simple rope barrier. The barrier is attached to a quick release catch which in turn is attached to a long rope tied to the steer. When the cowboy is ready, he signals to release the steer and the steer jumps off the chute, gaining an advantage. When the rope attached to the steer is stretched as the steer passes through the rodeo ring, the quick release breaks, dropping the rope barrier and allowing the cowboy and horse to hunt each other.

The cowboy must reach the steer on horseback and then jump and drag the steer to the ground, using the steer’s horns for leverage. Typically, cowboys try to transfer their weight to the steer’s upper body as they dismount, bringing the steer down with the momentum they gained from the ride. The entire process, from releasing the steer to wrestling it to the ground, takes three to 10 seconds, making wrestling the steer the fastest event in the rodeo.

Most champion beef wrestlers are male, because their added bulk gives them a distinct edge on the field. The weight of an adult male cowboy can sometimes be enough to bring down a steer when combined with his muscles; if not, the sport can potentially become very dangerous, as steers, as a general rule, do not enjoy fighting. This is where the hazer becomes critical, because it keeps the steer straight and the cowboy out of harm’s way.

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