AP Photo/Idaho Press-Tribune, Greg Kreller

Mutton Busting Is a Good Ol' American Tradition, But Is It Safe?

Mutton busting is a version of bronco-riding transformed into a game, but it only lasts six seconds. Most parents say this is a confidence-building activity. Yet some parents argue that this is child abuse. Research shows that the sheep don't buck and the children are very close to the ground. 

Mutton busting is also known as wool-riding. Modern Farmer tells us that it's simple,

"Children between the age of 4 or 7 clamber aboard a wild, wooly sheep and try to hold on for six seconds."

Rules may vary pending the rodeo though, in an article on The Dodo, we learn that,

"Rodeo Houston, for example — one of the largest mutton busting events in the country — only allows children aged five or six who are between 35 and 55 pounds to ride." 


AP Photo/Doug Murray

Think of this like any sport. The majority of the kids that participate do not get hurt. Perhaps the real difference is "city kids" versus "country kids," as some parents feel like this isn't any different than playing a sport and it creates a sense of pride for those riding. Other parents are concerned their children may break an arm or get seriously hurt.

Cowboy Lifestyle Network explains, 

"The failed attempts to win do, in fact, build stronger character and the ability to manage future challenges. Perhaps, it's the difference between folks that grew up in the city versus the country. City folks, who are not familiar with the sport of rodeo, tend to believe their child is put in danger when they ride some crazy little sheep, but country folks feel that is no different than the idea of a child playing a common sport." 

mutton bustin

AP Photo/Doug Murray

As for safety gear, every child is required to wear a helmet, and spurs are not allowed for both the safety of the child and the animal. So many kids love the sport and they really want to emulate the rodeo athletes they love and admire.

There is even a World Championship for mutton busting! Some kids travel from out of state to try to claim the top prize. World Championship Mutton Bustin' is open to any child age 6 years and under and weighing less than 60 pounds. The National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado also has a Mutton Bustin' event! It looks adorable.

Would you let your children participate in this sport? Young children riding on the backs of sheep for a matter of seconds sounds like many adventurous kiddos' dreams. A lot of state fairs, livestock shows, rodeos, and horse shows that typically have activities like bronc riding offer mutton busting for small children. The National Western Stock Show offers two activities.

Did you participate in rodeo events growing up? Do you sign up your child for these at your local rodeo? Leave us a comment below and let us know!

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