Cowboy riding a bull in front of the Texas flag. ZTERS logo in bottom right.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo: Rounding Up the Facts

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is one of the biggest annual events in the state of Texas. This family-friendly extravaganza has been around for over 90 years, and it attracts millions of people from throughout Texas and across the nation. Whether this is your first rodeo or not, here are a few things you may want to know.

What is the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo?

Many people think the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is only about roping and riding, but there’s a lot more to it. A few of the biggest attractions at the event include the massive barbecue cook-off, a carnival with over a hundred rides and games, a nightly concert lineup, and any food you could think to deep fry (plus a few you wouldn’t — looking at you, Fruity Pebbles Shrimp Fried Rice). 

The calf scramble is one of the most heartwarming events at the rodeo. During this lively competition, 15 calves are released into the arena for 30 kids to chase and try to catch. Each student who catches a calf is awarded a $1,750 certificate to purchase a cow to show in a special competition at the Livestock Show the next year.

History of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

The show was started in 1931 as The Houston Fat Stock Show. The seven founders wanted to preserve the cattle industry along the Gulf Coast. The event officially adopted the title of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in 1961.

The first major entertainer, Gene Autry, aka “the Singing Cowboy”, came in 1942. Since then, there has been a rich history of performers including Roy Rogers, Reba McEntire, Brooks & Dunn, and Selena. In 1974, Elvis Presley performed and broke the attendance record for two shows in a row.

George Strait currently holds the record for most concert attendees in one night. He has performed at the Rodeo 31 times, and he broke the attendance record three times: in 2002, 2013, and 2019.

The first major educational scholarship, worth $2,000, was awarded in 1957 to Ben Dickerson. The Rodeo now awards more than 800 scholarships each year, totaling $14 million for 2023. 

Not only is the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo an exciting event full of fun and good food, but it’s also a major benefit to the Houston community, having contributed millions of dollars to scholarships, schools, and research. It is also a great opportunity to experience a look into Houston’s long, Western history.