Calf Roping — Calf roping is an
authentic ranch skill that originated from working cowboys. Once the
calf has been roped, the cowboy dismounts and runs down the length of
the rope to the calf. When the calf is on the ground, the cowboy ties
three legs together with a six-foot pigging string. Calves are given a
head start, and if the cowboy’s horse leaves the box too soon, a barrier
breaks and a 10-second penalty is added to the roper’s time. In all of
the timed events, a fraction of a second makes the difference between
winning and losing.
EVENT DESCRIPTION - As with saddle bronc riding
and team roping, the roots of tie-down roping can be traced back to the
working ranches of the Old West. When calves were sick or injured,
cowboys had to rope and immobilize them quickly for veterinary
treatment. Ranch hands prided themselves on the speed with which they
could rope and tie calves, and they soon turned their work into informal
As the event matured, being a good horseman and a fast sprinter became
as important to the competitive tie-down roper as being quick and
accurate with a rope.
Today, the mounted cowboy starts from a box, a three-sided fenced area
adjacent to the chute holding the calf. The fourth side of the box opens
into the arena.
The calf receives a head start that is determined by the length of the
arena. One end of a breakaway rope barrier is looped around the calf's
neck and stretched across the open end of the box. When the calf reaches
its advantage point, the barrier is released. If the roper breaks the
barrier before the calf reaches its head start, the cowboy is assessed a
The horse is trained to come to a stop as soon as the cowboy throws his
loop and catches the calf. The cowboy then dismounts, sprints to the
calf and throws it by hand, a maneuver called flanking. If the calf is
not standing when the cowboy reaches it, he must allow the calf to get
back on its feet before flanking it. After the calf is flanked, the
roper ties any three legs together with a pigging string — a short,
looped rope he clenches in his teeth during the run.
While the contestant is accomplishing all of that, his horse must pull
back hard enough to eliminate any slack in the rope, but not so hard as
to drag the calf.
When the roper finishes tying the calf, he throws his hands in the air
as a signal that the run is completed. The roper then remounts his
horse, rides forward to create slack in the rope and waits six seconds
to see if the calf remains tied. If the calf kicks free, the roper
receives no time.