Museum Cancels Chicken Roping
The Associated Press
October 6, 2000

RUIDOSO DOWNS, N.M. - Chicken roping, scheduled as part of a cowboy heritage celebration, was canceled by a museum after it received complaints that the competition was inhumane.

"It's easier to pull a rope hard and harm a chicken then it is to pull a rope hard and harm a steer," said Bruce Eldredge, director of The Hubbard Museum of the American West.

The museum decided to cancel the 2nd annual New Mexico State Chicken Roping Competition at the Ruidoso Downs horse racetrack after receiving more than 100 calls, faxes and e-mails from around the nation, he said.

"It is one of those things that, although no one likes controversies, everyone understands that you can make a bad decision, and you try to rectify it," Eldredge said Friday.

The competition pits teams of dismounted cowboys against each other as they try to lasso a chicken using cotton ropes.

The event was held last year during the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium and was scheduled again Oct. 15 during the 11th annual symposium at the track.

"We thought it was fun and humorous," Eldredge said.

"Last year's event resulted in no harm to any chicken," he said.

But a Machipongo, Va.-based animal rights group, United Poultry Concerns Inc., urged the museum to drop the chicken-roping "and support clean fun, not mean fun."

Eldredge said he consulted with the Lincoln County Humane Society, and the group's president told him to "think about it from a size standpoint - a little chicken and a big guy."

"It boiled down to a size and fairness issue," he said.

The museum listened to people for and against the event, Eldredge said.

"The deciding factor in our decision was the fact that we could not guarantee that a chicken would not be harmed," he said.

The symposium, slated Oct. 12-15, features western swing music and dances, demonstrations, a chuck wagon cookoff and more than 130 vendors.

The Hubbard Museum of the American West is focused on chronicling the country's expansion west of the Mississippi River.

The museum opened its doors in 1992 as the Museum of the Horse, but changed its name 18 months ago to more accurately reflect its mission, Eldredge said.

The museum, which has had 130,000 visitors this year, features Western art and has one of most extensive collections of carriages and other similar wheeled vehicles, Eldredge said.

The museum also features exhibits on the relationships between American Indians, Hispanics and Anglos and the West, he said.

The museum houses the Ruidoso Downs Race Horse Hall of Fame.

© Copyright Albuquerque Journal

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