For two weeks each January, Denver, Colorado comes alive as the premier showcase of American heartiness and culture. Cattlemen from across the West descend on the town to showcase the finest breeds of their stock, where top-tier animals demand a premium price for breeding. It has been this way for over 100 years, after the first show was held in 1906.
The First National Western Stock Show
This inaugural event saw a shorthorn as grand champion, weighing at an astonishing 1,150 pounds. The animal was sold at an unheard of price of .33 per pound to the highest bidder, perhaps in the heat of the moment, but more likely due to the historic atmosphere of the first show. Four breeds were shown that year, and including the shorthorns, there were Herefords, Aberdeen-Angus, and Galloways. 336 animals in all were presented for judging.
After the initial success, Denver’s plans for rivaling Chicago as the top-class stock town in the US was coming close to reality, as the National Western Stock Show was quickly becoming the go-to event of the season. Visitors to the show were charged .25 for the first time to enter the big top center tent where the majority of the action took place. However, the show nearly didn’t happen, as Mother Nature had her way a few days prior, knocking down the first tent’s construction with a front range gale.
The Show Grows With The Times
By quarter century, the show was placing and viewing nearly three and a half million head of livestock. There remained cattle of course, but other farm livestock began to enter the tents in Denver as well. Sheep, chickens, hogs, horses, and even rabbits were taking on their share of national interests. In 1929, two pigeons, descendants of messenger birds from World War I, were auctioned off at an astounding price of $1000. That same year, a homing pigeon was released from Trinidad, and made news by arriving in Denver in a time of 5 hours and 48 minutes.
The National Western Stock show maintained composure through the years of the 20th century by focusing on the right way to showcase livestock – set rules attempted to eliminate cheating. However, in 1972, scandal erupted on the stock floor as champion bull, ‘Big Mac’ was ruled ineligible by the judges. It seems the bull had been shown previously in Kansas City as a white steer, but upon arriving in Denver, it was black. It’s owners had dyed the animal in a attempt to fool the judging panel – no such luck.
A banner year for the stock show, as for the first time in the show’s history heifers were showcased in the market division. Grand champion heifer ‘Lidy’ went one step further when she was selected as the show’s overall grand champion. 2010 was also a record breaking year for the rodeo circuit, and Clint Craig set a professional rodeo rider’s record score of a 92 while riding ‘Ole Yeller.’