Rodeo Book

jenny-hicks-cowboys-roughriders-rodeos-420Australian Cowboys Roughriders and Rodeos.
The history of rodeo in Australia
Author Jenny Hicks

This seminal work traces the history of rodeo as sport and entertainment in Australia.

From the arrival of the Europeans in 1788 rodeo developed out of the fledgling cattle industry. Australians will bet on anything that moves and the pioneering spirit of one-up-man-ship and creating entertainment in general was soon traversing the country with the circus, buckjump & Wild West shows. At the same time, Bushmen’s carnivals and agricultural shows featured all sorts of sporting events, some of which over the course of the twentieth century evolved into the professional sport of rodeo.

Thoroughly researched and incorporating colourful slabs of oral history, Australian Cowboys Roughriders and Rodeos captures the adventurous lifestyle, the excitement and drama inside the ring, as well as being packed with information and explanations from ‘behind the chutes’.

The book is a treasure trove of folklore, facts and anecdotes distilled from interviews with 130 ‘old timers’. Illustrated with over 100 photographs, a veritable hall of fame of past and present champions in a sport that has borrowed heavily from American sporting culture yet remains uniquely Australian.

Because of the assimilation of American rules and regulations – Australian rodeo athletes are among the champions in the international rodeo arenas of today.

A must read for anyone interested in ‘Wild and Western’ sport and culture – Australian style.


Some excerpts of and entire reviews…

… “best book this year” –
The ABC television program, Landline, book review

…This book is an important piece of Australian history. It tells the story of what is close to the hearts of bush folk, their aspirations, amusements, their way of living and their tough and cheerful outlook. This book is an inspiration.
Paul Langkamp-Geelong Advertiser 24th June 2000

This study of the long established roughriding/rodeo culture in Australia contains a treasure trove of folklore, anecdotes and facts about this popular bush sport. There are oral accounts distilled from interviews with some 130 old timers of rodeo. More than a hundred photographs, some dating back to the 1800s, many from the Stockman’s Hall of Fame collection. A thoroughly worthwhile contribution to outback literature.
Stockman’s Hall of Fame Catalogue June 2000


A Buckjumper – 1973

….A pantheon of forgotten heroes re-emerge in Jenny Hicks’ Australian Cowboys roughriders and rodeos, a comprehensive account of this life from it’s origins to the spangled professional present. It goes so far back, both in terms of written account and evocative 19th century photographs and illustrations, that we enter that time when the “Australian cowboy” had yet to earn his spurs.
Paul Pottinger-The Australian Magazine April 15th 2000

‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody turned horse breaking into Wild West rodeo, decked it with cowboy hoopla and ‘the toughest sport on earth’ is now big business. Jenny Hicks gives a no nonsense account of the Australian offshoot of this apparently suicidal activity. Flung from wild beasts, contestants have been killed, ‘crushed, stomped, trampled, head bashed or gored’. For many who’ve landed hard on their head, ‘diagnosis is vague and recovery uncertain’.
Tony Maniaty-Weekend Australian Book reviews April29/30 2000

The Buckjumper Collared - England vs Australia - 1880

The Buckjumper Collared – England vs Australia – 1880

This is one of those books that you might dismiss if you have no knowledge of the subject. On closer inspection, it is, in fact, a fascinating document that traces a vein of Australian history via the horse from European settlement to the present day. Hicks takes us through the emergence of buckjumping and circus entertainment during the gold rushes of the mid eighteen hundreds and on to the American Wild West influences. Hicks’ book concludes with an update on the overseas successes of contemporary Australian buckjump riders and bullriders.
‘Topshelf’ reviews-Sunday Life Mag /Sun Herald 16th April 2000

Why would anyone want to do it? Get aboard an angry, back-kicking horse or bull? Jenny Hicks more than answers that one in her extensive and impressive study of roughriding and bare-back traditions. Hicks skillfully blends oral and written history and backs it up with excellent picture research. She shows how Australian cowboys and cowgirls established their own tradition and a scene that still thrives, out of a mix of circus derring-do and horse skills that have worked its way into the lives of many in the bush and city. Hicks makes some case to pull this dangerous pursuit nearer the main highway of sports history. It is also a surprising social history examining the experiences of women and Aborigines.
MS-Sunday Age ‘Agenda’ 11th June 2000


Thorpe McConville and his truck, c. 1943

..For your bucks, you get details on the current scene, reminiscences from old timers, plenty of photos, competition statistics and an insight into Australian rodeo culture.
(4 stars!) PR-Ralph Magazine July 2000

A pair of silver spurs to young filmmaker and writer Jenny Hicks, whose heroes have always been cowboys and who has documented the culture of Australian cowboys, roughriders and rodeos in her first book. Beyond the Wild West props of ten-gallon hats and lairy chaps, Hicks uncovers a uniquely Australian sporting spirit that has evolved over two hundred years of men, women, horses and cattle making their own fun in far flung places. “Australia has always had a great tradition of horsemanship,” she says. “But it’s a little-known fact that our rodeo competitors are also winning international competitions…scour the annals of Australian sporting history and you’ll find few references to rodeo or rodeo cowboys.” Incorporating interviews with 130 old timers and contemporary champions, and about 100 pictures, it’s a terrific record of an Australian bush tradition that’s still going strong.
Amanda Ducker-Outback Mag June/July 2000

Jack Hay's travelling buckjump show, late 1930s

Jack Hay’s travelling buckjump show, late 1930s

….It’s not only a good read laced with anecdotes and humor that capture a romantic lifestyle, but will become an important reference that will enrich our heritage, not least for modern riders who know little about the origins of their sport….
George Spencer-West Australian (Supplement) 28th June 2000

…packed with adventurous and enthralling anecdotes…
Off the Shelf’ Sun Herald reviews 15th April 2000

Author’s Note

My love of rodeo has stemmed from my love of horses and an appreciation of great horsemanship.

However, from that first afternoon in front of a western on television – I have also loved the romantic ideal of ‘the cowboy’ – his imagery, themes, landscapes, iconography and mythology.

Setting up a tent show, 1940s

Setting up a tent show, 1940s

I am drawn to the freedom of spirit and independence of nature that ‘the cowboy’ symbolises. I have an affinity with the itinerant lifestyle of the cowboy – any kind of cowboy, working, fictional, or athlete – and this book is more than a passing nod to those who bypass conventional life and head down their own trail – so to speak.

I discovered ‘Western’ culture, popular culture, history and mythology whilst living and studying in the United States. But knowing Australia had a similar frontier history, particularly in terms of our cattle industry; I went in search for the sport in Australia. Far from the main stream it was, but alive and kickin’.

My motivation to write this book then, was to collect and preserve Australia’s rodeo history and culture and looking back on it, the ‘old timers’ who have since bucked off this mortal coil . . . I was just in time. I also wished to showcase contemporary Australian rodeo as the professional international sport it has become and pay homage to all the blood sweat and tears that helped create it.

The seemingly romantic rodeo lifestyle is in fact an exceedingly gruelling one. ‘Rough Riding’ AKA rodeos three rough stock events are up there with the most dangerous sports in the world. Therefore. . . rodeo when it is run professionally – fast and furious – is also a fabulous spectacle.