In rodeo events, such as calf roping, steer wrestling, bareback horse and bull riding, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, steer roping, and barrel racing, normally docile animals are physically provoked into displaying "wild" behavior in order to make the cowboys look brave.
Electric prods, spurs, and bucking straps are used to irritate and enrage animals used in rodeos. Before entering the ring, cows and horses are often prodded with an electrical "hotshot" so that the pain will rile them.
The flank (or "bucking") strap is tightly cinched around the animals' abdomens, causing them to buck vigorously in an attempt to escape the pain. The flank strap can cause open wounds and burns when the hair is rubbed off and the skin is chafed raw. Former animal control officers have found burrs and other irritants placed under the flank strap.
Rodeo cowboys voluntarily risk injury by participating in events, but the animals they use have no such choice. Countless animals in rodeos have suffered broken ribs, backs, and legs; punctured lungs; deep internal organ bruising; hemorrhaging; ripped tendons; torn ligaments and muscles; snapped necks; and agonizing deaths.
The late Dr. C.G. Haber, a veterinarian who spent 30 years as a federal meat inspector, saw many animals from rodeos sold to the slaughterhouses he inspected. He described seeing animals "with 6-8 ribs broken from the spine, and at times puncturing the lungs." Haber saw animals with "as much as 2-3 gallons of free blood accumulated under the detached skin."
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