Calgary Stampede under Scrutiny after Four Equine Deaths


Rodeo saddle broncSince the early 20th century, the Calgary Stampede has been an annual tradition in Alberta, Canada. The Stampede includes a rodeo, chuckwagon races and livestock exhibitions designed to bring Alberta’s western heritage to modern audiences.

The Calgary Stampede has received much criticism from animal advocates, and not without reason. In the rodeo’s recent history, animal deaths have been a regular occurrence with 21 fatalities between 1995 and 2005. According to Peter Ficker of the Vancouver Humane Society, the Stampede has seen over 50 chuckwagon horse deaths since 1986. Sadly, this trend has continued in the first few days of the 2010 edition.

On Monday, July 12, three horses died in separate incidents. A horse from one of the chuckwagon teams suffered a fatal heart attack during training. Later, a saddle bronc bucked so hard that he broke his back and had to be euthanized. Finally, during a chuckwagon race on Monday evening, a horse being ridden by an outrider suffered a shoulder injury and was euthanized.

These three deaths followed a tragedy on Sunday when a team penning horse suffered a heart attack and collapsed on his rider. The horse died and the rider is currently in intensive care with a head injury and broken shoulder blade. With five days remaining in this year’s Stampede, the animal death toll has already met last year’s, when three chuckwagon horses died and one steer was euthanized after suffering a spinal cord injury during the steer wrestling event.

The Calgary Stampede maintains that it does everything necessary to protect the animals used in its events. According to the Stampede’s website, the Calgary Humane Society and Alberta SPCA are involved in advising the Stampede on the best practices for animal care. Representatives from those two groups are on-site to monitor the animal events. This year, the Calgary Stampede created an Animal Care Advisory Panel to help evaluate and enhance standards for animal care at the event.

The Calgary Humane Society opposes the chuckwagon races due to the high fatality rate. The races run nightly throughout the Stampede.


  1. Wow this is sad, if this many animals have already died then think about how many must have been injured! The steer wresling is quite brutal( I can defiantly see how one would get it’s spinal cord twisted) think about it the poor little calf runs as hard as it can-only to be jumped opon by a person three times it’s weight coming off the back of the horse! Then the poor thing is wrestled and tied. I see no point in the rodeo, there has already been too many deaths already, what more proof do they need that this is inhumaine????

  2. FINALLY! Stop the madness! kill rodeo! This may be tradition, but i don’t consider it good! Thanks for reporting on this!

  3. I have to say one thing that the Heart Attack’s probably would have happened anyway. We lost 2 horses at my Barn to Heart Attacks and they were just in there stalls then next thing you know they suffered heart attacks. I think that rodeo can still go on but they need to make more rules to protect the animals. Although you could look at Eventing and say the same thing.

  4. While I certainly don’t approve of all events, I think these incidents are being blown out of proportion and that isn’t doing the cause any good. Heart attacks happen, injuries happen. The owners decide to enter – the stampedes don’t force them to. To charge a stampede with cruelty, you’d also have to charge the owner. There was one incident involving the stampede horse, which also (arguably) wasn’t due to abuse.
    If we want people to take a cause seriously and support it, we have to resist sensationalism.

  5. Huh. I didn’t know heart attacks were so common… could it e a care issue? These people don’t TRY to hurt the animals; in fact, most of these operations take as much care to see to the welfare of the animals that they’re as good if not better off than the humans participating. Unfortunately, it’s only the cases where something goes terribly wrong that ever make it out to the public. Even if it wasn’t, people are better at remembering bad things for whatever reason. What I want to know is how a horse can buck so hard it breaks its back. Was someone riding the horse that was too big for it? That’s the only possibility I can think of…

  6. As long as these animals were under Vetranary what can you say. How meny of you have had a loved one drop over of a heart attack. The Dr. can tell you that it could happen and why but I have never herd of one that could tell when. The heart attack that happened near our farm was sudden scary and unpreventable. The owner had no idea the horse had a problem. How could you hold the Stampeed orginization responsible?

  7. People call rodeo inhumane, but its all about the calves and broke horses. You don’t hear people complain about how inhumane it is for them to ride bulls. And why? Because they aren’t small and cute. The biggest reason people think calf roping is so inhumane is because the calves are cute and “defenseless”. If you don’t like the rodeo don’t watch it. It’s not gonna stop, because it is tradition and a sport. Racehorses break legs and have to be put down sometimes, and show jumping and eventing can damage a horse’s legs and give him problems for the rest of his life. That doesn’t mean it has to stop or that it happens to the majority of the horses participating. That’s just how all sports go. And I haven’t heard of anyone trying to get those sports stopped, and why should they? People choose to compete in them, and its about passion and a part of life.
    And heart attacks are somewhat unpreventable. Even the poor bucking horse breaking his back may not have been preventable.
    But people only make a big deal about the bad and I’ve noticed that no one feels bad for the bulls being ridden, because it’s the people that are the smaller. The calf ropers know what they are doing and its not putting the calf in danger to tie him up. My father treats calves and cows like that in the pasture all the time, because he knows how to do it without harming the calf and he can’t leave them without treating them.
    And all you people that say it should be stopped (the rodeo I mean) don’t seem to have near the argument the oposing side does. Because the only ones on here put that it’s inhumane that’s all. If you have a good argument though, it would be good to hear.

  8. This is a very sad situation. I think there should be stricter rules and health inspections before entering any of these dangerous competitions. Horses dying of heart attacks may not be uncommon but having this many in such a short time shows how stressful these events are. I have witnessed this in polo and it’s not a pretty sight. It can’t be prevented but it most certainly can be lessened. In order for a horse or other animal to be able to make sudden starts and stops it has to be in tiptop shape. A health check would aid in this.
    As for bucking broncos and bulls, there’s place where one has to stop and think. Are we going too far?
    Chuckwagon races? Well, obviously equipment checks, shoeing, footing, etc should all be carefully scrutinized. Sports are dangerous but more can be done to make them safer. Just as they are doing with eventing.


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