Animals in Sports - Sports Animals Today

association racing horse horses

The only animals used in major sports today are domesticated ones: horses, bovines (calves, bulls, and steers), dogs, and cocks.

Horses are the most versatile sporting animal, participating on a large scale in sports besides racing and rodeos. (See Table 6.1.) However, none of these sports are performed by horses alone. All of them include humans, who ride the horses, run alongside them, or are pulled behind in carts.

Although bovines are not nearly as glamorous as horses, they still play a major role in two organized sports: bullfighting and rodeos. Bullfighting has a long and illustrious past, but it has never caught on in North America. It is extremely popular in Spain and Portugal, some Latin American countries (Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador), southern France, and the African island of Pemba. In Portugal the bull is not killed in the ring but may be slaughtered afterwards.

Rodeos have a much shorter history. They evolved in North America to show off the work done by ranch hands and cowboys during the 1800s to herd and control cattle. Besides their dependence on bovines, bullfighting and rodeos are unique among sports for another reason. They are the only major animal sports in which humans compete against (or must vanquish) animals.

Dogs participate on a large scale in three sports: sled dog racing, greyhound racing, and organized fighting. These sports differ widely in their legitimacy. Sled dog racing evolved as a sport to show off the skills of hardy dogs that have been pulling sleds in snowbound regions for centuries. Greyhound racing, by contrast, began as a competition between fast and graceful dogs but evolved into a gambling pastime. Organized dogfighting is illegal in every state. Despite its illegitimacy, or maybe because of it, dogfighting continues to be popular. Its roots lie in the blood sports enjoyed by the ancient Romans at the Coliseum.

All three of these dog sports are largely breed-specific: Malamutes (named for the Malemiut Inupiat tribe) and Siberian huskies compete in sled races, greyhounds in TABLE 6.1
Horse sports other than racing and rodeos
SOURCE: Created by Kim Masters Evans for Thomson Gale

Category Description Organizations
Cattle events Cutting or herd work: Rider on horseback selects a single calf from a herd in the arena, guides it into the center of the arena, and then using fast starts and turns, prevents it from escaping back to the herd.
Reining: Rider maneuvers horse through various moves, including figure-eight patterns, 360 degree spins, and sliding stops.
Cow work: Rider maneuvers horse to control the movements of a running steer, including herding it back and forth along a fence and circling around an arena.
Team penning or sorting: Team of 2 or 3 riders on horseback must cut specifically marked cattle from a herd and herd them to designated areas.
National Reined Cow Horse Association, National Reining Horse Association, National Cutting Horse Association, United States Team Penning Association
Dressage Rider moves horse through a series of carefully choreographed movements and patterns. United States Dressage Federation
Endurance Long-distance trail riding conducted over natural terrain. American Endurance Ride Conference
Eventing or combined training A three-in-one competition including dressage, cross-country jumping, and show jumping. Fédération Equestre Internationale
Foxhunting A sport in which riders and dogs hunt foxes in the countryside. American Masters of Foxhound Association
Hunter-jumper Equestrian event in which horses and riders jump over obstacles. National Hunter and Jumper Association
Polo Two teams of players riding thoroughbred horses play a game similar to hockey using a small ball and mallets. United States Polo Association
Polocrosse Combination of polo and lacrosse in which riders use racquets instead of mallets. American Polocrosse Association
Ride and tie Long-distance race in which two people and one horse form a racing team. During a race the people alternate riding the horse and running. Ride and Tie Association
Steeple chase Equestrian event in which horses and riders jump over fences. National Steeplechase Association
Vaulting Sport in which a rider uses gymnastic moves to vault onto and dismount from moving horse. American Vaulting Association

track racing, and pit bulls in fighting. Only sled dog racing pairs humans and dogs during the sporting event. Greyhound racing and dogfighting are dog-only competitions.

There are also a variety of new amateur sporting events that are emerging for dogs. Agility-based competitions, such as catching Frisbees and traversing obstacles, are growing in popularity. One of the newest dog sports is called fly ball. This is a relay event in which teams of dogs compete against each other to jump over hurdles and race to retrieve a ball. In 2000 the International Federation of Cynological Sports (IFCS) was formed in Europe to unite organizations holding dog sports in various countries around the world. (Cynology is the scientific study of canines.) The IFCS is working to bring dog sports, such as agility, to the Olympic Games.

A cock is the adult male of the domestic fowl (Gallus gallus), also known as a rooster. Cocks participate in only one organized sport: cockfighting. Cockfighting is illegal in most states and is considered a blood sport because the roosters that participate are frequently killed or mutilated during the fight.

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