Black Hills Roundup Rodeo History
The Roundup is one of the oldest continuously held outdoor rodeos in America. For five exciting days surrounding the July 4th holiday weekend, thousands of regional residents, and people from across the country and abroad, come to Belle Fourche to celebrate.The Black Hills Roundup started years ago when 15,000 people gathered in a Belle Fourche field to help raise funds for the 1918 war. This was an astonishing number of people to show up considering the population of Belle Fourche was 1,410. Even though World War I ended the next year, the success of the first year prompted them to try it again and again.
The first Roundup was more a contest of real ranch skills than anything we see at rodeos today. There were no chutes or stands; the arena had barely enough fence to keep the wild broncs contained. The cowboys competed anyway. The rules were simple: choose your bronc, ear him down, climb aboard, nod your face and start the race. It took two or three cowboys to “ear a horse.“ One cowboy would grab the horse by the head and bite the horse’s ear to control him. While the horse was distracted the other two would saddle him and the rider would climb aboard. Injuries to horse and riders were common in this process. Today`s method is safer for the cowboy and the horse. Today a horse is ran into a chute that is just big enough for him to stand. The cowboy works from above the horse where he has more control and ability to calm the horse and prevent the horse from hurting himself and others. The equipment has also changed for the comfort of the horse and the safety and advantage of the cowboy.
Today, top ranked cowboys and cowgirls perform in the many events including barrel racing, bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, bull riding, team roping and more. Spectators will be able to view the action while enjoying new seating – part of $600,000 of improvements finished in 2006.
See more historic photos here.