Poor ground conditions may be partly to blame for the death of a rodeo steer at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau Sunday.
According to Dr. Linus Huck, the local veterinarian who worked last weekend's Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association event, the animal tripped as it was being wrestled to the ground and its horn stuck in the mud, fatally fracturing its neck.
Huck said in his 30 years of working rodeos, such occurrences have been rare.
"Cowboys get hurt, animals very seldom do," Huck said. "The animals are all treated royally. Rodeos couldn't go on without them."
The livestock used in the rodeo belongs to stock contractor Mark Johnson, owner of MFJ Pro Rodeo Productions based in Jonesboro, Ark.
Johnson was not in Cape Girardeau at the time due to a hospitalization but said he was told the ground conditions inside the Show Me Center were not ideal.
"It's hard to get good, dry dirt right now," Johnson said. "I was told that clay dirt was used, and the steer just hung a horn. It's nobody's fault. Just an unfortunate accident."
The PRCA has specific animal welfare rules in place to ensure that animals are treated fairly and that prevent injuries, Johnson said.
Sunday's accident occurred during a steer wrestling event, which involves a one-on-one matchup between a participant and a steer weighing more than 400 pounds.
Johnson said he's been taking part in rodeos for 11 years and has seen only one other animal die. PRCA statistics from a 2001 survey hold that the incident rate among rodeo animals is 0.00029, or 25 injuries out of 85,638 trips into the ring at 67 different rodeos.
"It's like an athlete playing football. There are injuries in any sports and that's the downside," he said.
Johnson said a mistake was made when the animal was left exposed in the back of a truck in the Show Me Center parking lot. The animal should have been covered with a tarp, Johnson said.
Neither the Show Me Center nor the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri reported receiving any complaints about the incident however.
Chuck Stucker, director of the Humane Society, said his organization would have turned any complaints over to the Cape Girardeau Police Department's animal control.
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