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What Is The History Of The Modern Rodeo Bucking Chute?

The design of the modern rodeo bucking chute was first developed in 1919 by Earl W. Bascom.

Below: Earl Bascom riding a Brahma bull in 1939. A reverse-opening, side-delivery bucking chute can be seen behind him in the photo. This type of bucking chute was designed by Bascom in 1919.

Earl W. Bascom riding a bucking Brahma bull



While many of us are too young to remember, rodeo bucking chutes weren't always the reverse-opening (ie, the rough stock's head is at the hinge), side-delivery bucking chute in use today.

Before the current design, bucking chutes were a "shotgun" style where the rough stock bucked out of a chute pointing straight into the arena, similar to our current timed-event chutes.

Enter a man named Earl W. Bascom, called by many the "Father Of Modern Rodeo" thanks to his numerous inventions and designs used in the sport. These include:

  • The side-delivery bucking chute in 1916.
  • The reverse-opening, side-delivery bucking chute in 1919.
  • The first hornless bucking saddle in 1922.
  • The one-hand bareback rigging in 1924.
  • He was also the first professional rodeo cowboy to become a professional cowboy artist and sculptor.

The following article on the history of the modern rodeo bucking chute was written by Earl W. Bascom's son, John Bascom. We thank him for allowing us to share it with you here.

The History Of The Modern Rodeo Bucking Chute

By guest author John Bascom.

In 1919, at the Bascom Ranch on the banks of the Old Man River near Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, the bronc and bull rider Earl W. Bascom designed and made rodeo's first reverse-opening side-delivery bucking chute.

This was an improvement of an older version, a single gate side-delivery bucking chute, made in 1916 by Earl and his brothers, Raymond and Melvin, along with their father John W. Bascom. That rodeo chute of 1916, which Earl Bascom designed, was a modification and improvement of the two-gated shotgun chute that rodeo producer Ray Knight made in 1903 for the Raymond Stampede. Knight's shotgun chute is the first recorded use of a rodeo bucking chute for saddle bronc and steer riding.

A version of Knight's bucking chute was used at the Calgary Stampede starting in 1923, called the "fade-away" which had three gates and took three men to operate.

From Etsy

From Etsy. Article continues below.

These early bucking chute versions all had a safety problem for the cowboy - once a crack of daylight was seen between the partly opened gates, the animal would lunge through it, scraping and banging the rider's knees on the way out.

In 1919, the Bascoms had moved to a ranch east of Lethbridge where they built a rodeo arena and put on rodeos. Earl and his father John W. Bascom were bucking out several saddle broncs when Earl had an idea to save his sore knees - why not reverse the gate so that it hinged at the horse's head and opened at the horse's rear, letting the chute gate swing wide before the horse turns out. They reversed the gate and made the first prototype of the modern rodeo chute, the reverse-opening side-delivery bucking chute.

The popularity of Bascom's bucking chute spread, especially after a bronc riding accident at the Fort Macleod Stampede in 1924. Charlie King rode his saddle bronc out of the shotgun chute, but hooked his foot in the chute gate and was scraped off. Before he hit the ground, the horse kicked Charlie in the head, killing him. Because of that accident and to make the sport of rodeo safer, Ray Knight used his influence as director of the Alberta Stampede Managers Association to have rodeos change their bucking chutes to Bascom's design. Other rodeos followed suit.

Now many years later, Bascom's bucking chute design is the modern standard used around the world at rodeos in North America, Central America and South America, from the Philippines to Japan to New Zealand and Australia, from Europe to South Africa.

You might also like: What Is The History Of The One-Hand Bareback Rigging?

Below: Earl W. Bascom, "The Father Of Modern Rodeo."

Portrait of Earl W. Bascom

This article was contributed by guest author John Bascom and is being used with permission.

About The Author

Guest author John Bascom is the son of Earl W. Bascom. We thank him for sharing this article about his father.

For more information about Earl W. Bascom:

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