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Chuckwagon racing

File:Stampede chuckwagon race.JPG
Chuckwagons racing toward the finish line at the 2009 Calgary Stampede

Chuckwagon racing is an equestrian rodeo sport in which drivers in a chuckwagon led by a team of Thoroughbred horses race around a track. The sport is most popular in the Prairie Provinces of Canada, where rival governing bodies, the World Professional Chuckwagon Association and the Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Association, are based. The most famous chuckwagon race in the world is held annually at the Calgary Stampede, where the total prize money for the ten-day event tops C$1 million. The sport is controversial as horses and drivers are occasionally injured or killed, prompting animal welfare groups to call for the sport to be banned.


Race format

Chuckwagon racing is a team event, led by a driver who commands a team of horses pulling the chuckwagon, and is supported by four outriders—each racing individual thoroughbred horses that follow the chuckwagon. Each race typically involves four teams, and begins with the outriders "breaking camp", by tossing two tent poles and a barrel representing a camp stove into the back of their wagon before mounting their horses and following the wagons as they complete a figure eight around two barrels before circling a race track. The first wagon to cross the finish line typically wins, although various time penalties are handed out if a barrel is knocked over, a tent pole or stove is not loaded, or an outrider crosses the finish line too far behind his wagon driver.[1]


The first time chuckwagon races were held as a spectator sport was at the 1923 Calgary Stampede.[2][3] Guy Weadick, who had founded the Stampede eleven years previous, invited ranchers to enter their chuckwagons and crews to compete for a total of $275 in prize money. [4] In 2009, the total purse available to racers was $1.15 million. Also, you can earn the Guy Weadick Award, for overall sportsmanship and showing the spirit of the Calgary Stampede. You can also earn the Orville Strandquist Award, which is referring to the great cowboy Orville Strandquist. That award is for the best time/driver for that year. [5]

The actual origin of the sport is unknown, with many different stories offered to explain how it originated. Among them are the suggestion that Weadick first saw a similar event at the 1922 Gleichen Stampede, that he saw impromptu races between chuckwagon drivers as a kid growing up, or that cooks from two chuckwagons who had completed serving a barbecue at the 1919 Victory Stampede in Calgary then raced to the grandstand's exist, inspiring the event.[6]

File:Stampede chuckwagon race start.JPG
Wagons lined up before the start of a race

The first professional racing circuit was sanctioned in 1949 by the Cowboys Protective Association (today the World Professional Chuckwagon Association).[4] It operates the Dodge Pro Tour, a 12-event season with events held throughout Alberta and northeastern British Columbia. A rival governing body, the Northern Chuckwagon Association was formed in the late 1970s, evolving into the Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Association in 1995.[7] The CPCA's Pro Tour hosts events in Saskatchewan and northern Alberta.[8] While the sport's popularity is greatest on the Canadian prairies, chuckwagon racing has been held in conjunction with many rodeos across North America.

Animal welfare

The sport has faced increasing opposition from animal welfare groups, who contend that it is unnecessarily cruel to the horses that occasionally suffer injuries requiring the animals to be euthanized, and want the sport banned.[9] Three horses died following chuckwagon races at the 2009 Calgary Stampede,[10] and a spectacular wagon crash during the 2007 Stampede in which three horses were killed and a driver hospitalized led officials in Calgary to review the safety of the sport.[11]

Supporters of the event argue that the horses are well cared for. They express sadness over the deaths of the animals, but argue that it is a normal, albeit unfortunate, aspect of any ranch or farming operation.[9] Calgary Stampede officials argue that they work closely with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Calgary Humane Society to ensure that the horses are well treated.[9]


  1. 2009 Calgary Stampede Evening Show Program. Calgary Stampede Board. p. 11. 
  2. 2009 Calgary Stampede Evening Show Program. Calgary Stampede Board. p. 8. 
  3. "Foundation pays tribute to heritage of chuckwagon racing". Grande Prairie Herald-Tribune. Grande Prairie Stompede. 2009-04-15. http://gpstompede.com/news/foundation-pays-tribute-to-heritage-of-chuckwagon-racing. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Chuckwagon races – History". Calgary Stampede. http://cs.calgarystampede.com/events/chuckwagon-races/history.html. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  5. Dowd, Jim (2009-07-03). "New rules make Rangeland Derby more exciting". Calgary Herald. http://www2.canada.com/calgaryherald/news/story.html?id=baaede7f-ac8b-45af-8d3f-4868df3caf26. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  6. "History". World Professional Chuckwagon Association. http://www.wpca.com/history.aspx. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  7. "The history of the old west". Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Association. http://www.cpcaracing.com/leagues/custom_page.cfm?clientID=4143&leagueID=12757&pageid=4243. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  8. "CPCA Pro Tour 2009 schedule". Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Association. http://www.cpcaracing.com/leagues/custom_page.cfm?clientID=4143&leagueID=12757&pageid=4244. Retrieved 2009-07-23. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "Two sides emerging to share strong views over animal deaths at Calgary Stampede". Metro News. 2009-07-13. http://www.metronews.ca/halifax/canada/article/261071--two-sides-emerging-to-share-strong-views-over-animal-deaths-at-calgary-stampede. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  10. "4th animal dies at Stampede". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2009-07-11. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/calgary/story/2009/07/11/calgary-stampede-fourth-death.html. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  11. "Calgary Stampede to review chuckwagon safety". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2007-09-24. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/calgary/story/2007/09/24/chuckwagon-review.html. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 


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