Trick Roping: A Brief History
K Kyle Petersen

Trick Roping: A Brief History

Apr 2, 2024

So you want to learn to trick rope? Trick roping is a fun pastime with a rich history that spans two countries and several centuries. Over the years, trick roping has been featured in circuses, Wild West shows, rodeos, Saturday morning cartoons, late-night television, and more! 

We in the English-speaking world think of trick roping as a uniquely American phenomenon, but the art originated in Mexico. Mexican cowboys, known as charros, developed a series of tricks known as floreo de reata, which roughly translates to "making flowers with a lasso." Eventually, the repertoire of tricks became large enough that floreo de reata became a performance art in and of itself.

Charro roper Vicente Oropeza


Floreo first received widespread attention in the United States when renowned trick roper Vicente Oropeza performed his routine in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in the 1890s. Audiences were intrigued by this unique skill performed with an everyday object, and aspiring trick ropers rushed to imitate him.

The American best known for bringing trick roping to a broad audience was early 20th-century humorist and actor Will Rogers. Born in Oklahoma territory of Cherokee heritage, Rogers used his rope to tell jokes and spin yarns for audiences nationwide. Rogers' roping tricks are best exemplified in the classic short film The Roping Fool.

Will Rogers depicted with his rope on a US postage stamp


From then on, trick roping became strongly linked with American and Western performance art. For a time, trick roping was a competitive event in many rodeos, with prize money awarded to the top roper. Notable trick ropers in the second half of the 20th century include Montie Montana, Junior Eskew, Dick Cory, and the late great Vince Bruce.

Vince Bruce is considered by many to be the finest trick roper ever to live. Born in the United Kingdom, Bruce brought the art form to new heights, dazzling audiences with never-before-seen tricks. Bruce astounded audiences during the initial run of Will Rogers Follies on Broadway and even set the record for most Texas skips at the Empire State Building by jumping through a vertical loop over 4,000 times.

Today, a new generation of ropers is picking up where these great ropers left off. Rider Keisner, AJ Silver, Chris McDaniel, Tomaso Garcilaso, and the all-female Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls team continue to delight audiences across the country with their skill and passion for roping. Perhaps the most notable current roper is the incredible actor and performer Loop Rawlins. Loop's roping prowess has been featured in blockbuster Hollywood films and on shows such as America's Got Talent.

Today, roping is popular as a performance skill and hobby on both sides of the Rio Grande, with cowboys and charros continuing to practice and develop this fun and accessible art. All you need is a little bit of passion and a little bit of rope. So what are you waiting for? Order yours, and Get Roping!

American roper Trevor Dreher on horseback

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