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When did rodeo clowns come about?

It's my cousin's birthday and he's a pretty cool guy with a pretty cool job, and I said to myself, now that would be an interesting Daily Doodle question! So why not, let's find out about rodeo clowns!


The occupation of rodeo entertainment started back in the 1900s when rodeos were starting to take form. Organizers quickly realized what roles were needed. Gathering stock and contestants was an obvious need, but no one considered hiring entertainment for the crowd... at least not at first. During the show, there were times when workers needed to head into the arena and repair a fence or take an injured cowboy out of the arena, hence, pausing the performance. This caused many patrons to leave the rodeo early. Committees were tired of seeing fans leave, so they began to pay cowboys to entertain the crowd.


In the 1920s the true occupation of "rodeo clown" was born. They would travel all across the country toting costumes, jokes, and specialty acts solely to entertain rodeo spectators during slow areas of the performance. Quickly though, they also became protectors of the rodeo contestants. Mostly bronc and bull riders. Brahma bulls were chosen as riding stock because they were more fierce, which made it more entertaining for the crowd, but also more dangerous for the rider, especially once they hit the ground. The solution was to send in one or more rodeo clowns to act as bullfighters; drawing the attention of the bull away from the fallen rider and onto themselves.


In the 1930s, a rodeo clown named Jasbo Fulkerson started using a wooden barrel with a solid bottom to protect himself and the fallen bull rider. This practice caught on and was embraced by many other rodeo clowns.


Today, larger rodeos will sometimes have a designated barrelman who is responsible for handling the barrel and works together with clowns and bullfighters. A common combo is two free-roaming bullfigthers + one clownish barrelman. The typical barrel will be large, made from steel and have a lot of padding. In dangerous situations, the barrelman can jump into the barrel and then out of it again, to both protect himself and draw the attention of the bull away from other people in the arena.


Eventually, rodeo bullfighting grew into a competitive event in its own right in the United States. Bullfighters also began having their own individual performances where they showcased their skills without having any fallen rider in the arena to worry about. Examples of elements typically included in rodeo bullfighting performances and contests are Bull maneuvering, precision jumping, bull contact, and barrel handling. This rodeo "bullfighter" is not to be confused with Spanish bullfighters, the rodeo bullfighters are more like bull taunters.





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