Why were rodeos held?
The rodeos were held after the cattle were driven in from surrounding pastures, and the cattle of different ranchos were separated. The rancheros elected three to five, juezes del campo, judges, to govern the proceedings and decide disputes.
In 1851, the state legislature passed an act, Laws Concerning Rodeos, and Defining the Duties of Judges of the Plains. The law required that each ranchero brand his cattle with three separate brands and to register the brands with the County Recorders Book of Marks and Brands. The brands were called the fierro, or range brand, which was branded on the hip, the senal, or earmark, was aslit, notch, or hole cut in the ear; the venta, or sale brand was burned on the shoulder when the animal was sold.
Photo credit: County Recorder's Office
A copy of Manuel Dominguez's brand that was recorded. Note the lemon-shaped brand at the top of the page.
Photo credit: Webmaster's Sketch
A typical scene branding a calf, the calf is tied and held down while being branded.
The law also specified the conduct for roundups, or rodeos. A ranchero was required to hold at least one general rodeo each year, and give neighbors four days notice of the time and place. The law permitted large cattle owners to have several round-ups in different locations on their ranchos.
Tally sticks were used to count the herd, one notch represented ten animals. Orejanos were offspring of unbranded cattle. They became the property of the ranchero holding the rodeo.
Many ranchos held special drives. In the late spring, the wild mustard flourished, the thick stalks grew higher than a mans head. The mustard made a great hiding place for cattle. It was not uncommon to drive the cattle to run through the mustard.