Thursday, 15 September 2011

Little kids go mutton-busting

From ERIC SHACKLE,, in Sydney, Australia. <ericshackle*>

Six years ago I wrote a story about sheep races held around the world.  I mentioned that Ric Turner, who runs an entertainment park at Bideford (pronounced Biddy-ford) in England, straps toy woolen jockeys on the backs of his sheep before sending them on their way.

Now, to my dismay, I've discovered that Americans promoting an annual fair at Puyallup, near Tacoma, Washington, put small children, aged three to six, on the backs of sheep, like riders in a rodeo.

Judging by the youngsters' expressions, as far as can be seen in a video (see below), they don't seem to be enjoying the experience. The sheep don't seem to care for it either.

These juvenile rodeos are held in many US towns. Google "videos mutton busting" and you'll find a dozen examples.  Several of these videos show toddlers being lifted on to sheep, and then being thrown off, to the applause of all except the kid's parents. Some of the kids are in tears.

 When I told Ric Turner about this, he replied:
'I'm aware that they have done mutton busting as they call it in Australia at camp drafts or rodeos for a number of year and was riding a bull at an event as a student 25 years ago when the kids were doing this.

"I think that it is pretty stupid for the children on a health and safety level when they could get badly hurt. The sheep are certainly able to carry the weight, having been trying to catch a big wether for shearing and been carted around the shearing pen, but it will be very stressful taking them out of their environment into an arena and having crowds shouting at them.

"I much prefer our sheep racing with knitted jockeys and the sheep racing for food at the end.

"I am aware that as far as animal welfare there are massively differing standards and levels of acceptable behaviour in different parts of the world. If we were to do mutton busting in the UK , the RSPCA and the general public would be in uproar."

I'd thought that mutton-busting was a unique American pastime, but according to Ric, it has also occurred  here in Australia.  Sure we have numerous  rodeos, but I've never heard of any of them ever having included mutton-busting as a crowd-pleaser.  We'll leave that to the Yanks.

"Mutton busting is a fun rodeo event for kids," proclaims McClain's Mutton Busters and Kids' Ranch Rodeo in Republican City, Nebraska.

"Straddle those sheep, hang on and go for the ride of your life.

"Fun to watch. Fun to do. It's great entertainment for everyone!

"We Provide:     Prior To Show:
15 years experience and over 60,000 riders     We register all contestants
24 foot brightly painted trailer so kids know we have arrived     We will have a release paper to be signed by the parents.
Over 30 sheep
Safety clowns who help the kids in the arena     Each contestant is weighed.
(Critical to the safety of the sheep.)
Wrangler for sheep
Coordinator for the show     Each contestant is given a number for their back and a picture of the clowns.
Small PA system     We provide helmets for safety
Jokes, laughs, and clown acts     We provide instructions on how to ride sheep
We provide insurance    

"WE DO IT ALL! All you need to do is furnish a sheep tight arena, sit back and relax!"

The story about sheep racing around the world, written in 2005, is posted here (click on cached):

Eric Shackle's eBook - Sheep Racing
- Cached

Champion racehorses burst from their starting boxes and charge towards the finish line, eager to win. Racing sheep, by contrast, usually prefer to amble.

And here's the Puyallup video:

 Mutton Bustin' at the Puyallup Fair - YouTube 5 min - 12 Sep 2008 - Uploaded by punch44
Kids ages 3-6 riding sheep. ... Mutton Bustin' at the Puyallup Fair. punch44 2 videos. Subscribe Alert icon S

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