PRCA, WPRA, and PBR: What do they mean and who are they?
If you have ever been to a rodeo or googled one, you’ve most likely heard of one of these three acronyms: PRCA, WPRA, or PBR. The sport of rodeo, just like any other professional sport, is run by governing bodies similar to that of the NFL.
These associations represent rodeo, each in their own way, by acting as the governing body of one or more events that take place during a rodeo. They each have their own overall goal, along with their own set of rules regarding how events should be held and how to rank in the standings. Let’s take a look at each of these associations to learn about their history and how they work together to make up the sport of rodeo.
The PRCA is the largest and oldest governing body for the sport of rodeo. Starting back in 1936, what is now known as the PRCA was once known as the Cowboys’ Turtle Association, then the Rodeo Cowboys Association, before acquiring its current name. Headquarters for the PRCA is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where 70 full-time employees work to promote rodeos and educate the public throughout the year.
The PRCA recognizes seven rodeo events: steer wrestling, tie-down roping, bull riding, bareback riding, team roping, steer roping, and rodeo’s classic event, saddle bronc riding. During the regular rodeo season, which begins October 1 and ends September 30 of the following year, contestants can compete in over 650 sanctioned rodeos all over North America. Since it is hard to compete at every rodeo, the country is divided into thirteen circuits, and contestants compete there to earn money that goes towards their year-end standings. That ranking, and their circuit ranking, can sometimes determine what rodeos they are eligible to compete in.
The most important rodeo that cowboys and cowgirls work towards for the year is the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, hosted in Las Vegas, Nevada. The National Finals Rodeo is known as the “Super Bowl of Rodeo” and is where the top 15 cowboys and cowgirls compete to be crowned champions of their event.
The WPRA began back in 1948, with a story much like the PRCA. The WPRA started with a group of women from Texas who wanted to add a little color and feminine touch to the sport of rodeo. The association was first known as the Girls Rodeo Association with 74 original members. Those members were allowed to compete at 60 approved contests that had a purse totaling $29,000. The Girls Rodeo Association went on to change its name to the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association in 1981 and now has over 3,000 members.
Today, members of the WPRA compete in barrel racing, team roping, break-away roping, and tie-down roping events. Those members are able to compete at 1,500 events throughout the year for a purse totaling over $5 million. Just like the PRCA, women who compete in the WPRA are eligible to attend different rodeos based on where they rank in the standings.
These women also have the chance to compete at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, as well as the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo. They are able to compete through the different circuits in the barrel racing event just like the members of the PRCA do for the other rodeo events.
The PBR, like the PRCA and WPRA, is a member-based organization that is focused on only one of the seven traditional rodeo events, bull riding. The PBR was co-founded in 1992 by Ty Murray, a professional bull rider, and 19 other bull riders with the idea of pairing the best bull with the best rider and have them battle it out. In a similar fashion to the WPRA, the 20 original members of the PBR wanted to break away from the traditional mold of rodeo and to recognize the event near and dear to them, bull riding.
The PBR now has over 600 members who compete in 300 events around the world. The PBR also has a select group of riders that get to compete in special tours throughout the year based on their standings. An example of one of those events is the Unleash the Beast Tour, where the top 35 cowboys compete week in and week out on a televised platform.
The PBR also hosts a finals of their own known as the PBR World Finals where cowboys compete for over $10 million in prize money, plus a gold buckle and an extra $1 million as a year-end bonus for the champion.
Whether you attend your next rodeo in person or watch the action take place through your television, try to identify which organization is hosting the event! If you make plans to attend the upcoming RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo, you will experience an event hosted by our friends at the PRCA and WPRA! To learn more about the sport of rodeo, subscribe to our newsletter!