rodeo history

Since the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ was established, it has made an impressive footprint on the livestock and entertainment industries and in the sport of rodeo. It also has played a notable role in enhancing the lives of thousands of young people in the state of Texas.

The many milestones celebrated throughout the years have all contributed to Houston’s most popular event. Follow this historical sketch to see the changes undergone and developments that made the Rodeo unique.

Past Entertainers

Check out the all the star entertainers that have performed at the Rodeo, starting with Gene Autry in 1942!

star trail of fame

The Star Trail of Fame pays tribute to the stars that have made a significant impact on the Rodeo throughout the years.


Check out the archived issues of the “Bowlegged H” Magazine, all the way back to 1993.




Take a look at the historical attendance of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo throughout the years.

show pride presented by shell

During the Rodeo, walk through Show Pride to learn about the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s many contributions to agriculture, education, entertainment and Western heritage throughout its 90 years. Visitors experience the growth of the Rodeo since its beginning in 1932, the incredible variety of entertainers, what the committee volunteers do and more. Show Pride is located in the lobby of NRG Center.


In 1931, The Houston Fat Stock Show and Livestock Exposition was created after seven men met for lunch at the Texas State Hotel with a goal of preserving the cattle industry along the Texas Gulf Coast area. In 1932, the first Show is held at the Democratic Convention Hall before it was demolished in 1937. The Sam Houston Coliseum replaced it in time for the Show in 1938. During this year, the rodeo, horse show and downtown parade was added to the event.


In 1942, the Rodeo welcomed the Show’s first entertainer, the  “Singing Cowboy,” Gene Autry and the Calf Scramble program. The Calf Scramble takes place in the rodeo arena with several young students outnumbering loose calves. The student who catches a calf receives a certificate to purchase a registered beef heifer or market steer to show at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo the following year.


News of the Houston Fat Stock Show traveled as the first trail ride started on horseback from Brenham, Texas to Houston in 1952.

In 1954, the Houston Rodeo became RCA-sanctioned (now PRCA – Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association).

In 1957, the Show presented its first major educational scholarship – a $2,000 award – to Houstonian Ben Dickerson.


In 1961, the Houston Fat Stock Show became the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo before introducing the new “Bowlegged H” logo in 1966. That same year, the Show moved from the Sam Houston Coliseum to the Astrodome, known as the Eighth Wonder of the World. The organization also created the School Art program to support young aspiring artists.


Elvis, barbecue and scholarships – that is what the 1970s was about for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. In 1970, Elvis Presley graced the Show stage in the Astrodome. That same year, the Show pledged an annual commitment of $100,000 to various Texas colleges in support of resarch studies.

In 1974, the first World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest was held.

Before the decade was over, all four-year $4,000 scholarships were increased to $6,000 awards.


Prior to 1983, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo solely funded the construction of the exhibiton facilities on park grounds. In 1983, the expansion of the Astroarena was partially funded by the Houston Sports Association and Harris County.

Three years later, the State of Texas celebrated its 150th birthday with the help of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The Show was one of the few associations to be marked as an official organization of the Texas Sesquicentennial Assocation.

In 1989, the Show scholarship program grew to include the Houston Metropolitan area.


The 90s welcomed two Georges – U.S. President George H.W. Bush and country musician George Strait. The Rodeo launched the website, made its debut on television and reached 1 million in paid Rodeo attendance.

In 1990, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and other world leaders visited the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for the Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations. The Show held a special rodeo in July, in addition to its annual rodeo in March.

In 1999, the City of Houston became home of a new NFL franchise, the Houston Texans. The Show then became invovled with Houston NFL Holdings and Harris County to build a new Rodeo/football stadium.


The final rodeo performance in the Astrodome featured country legend George Strait in 2002 before the Show moved to its new 70,000-seat, retractable roof stadium. The Show introduced the first Wine Competition and Auction as well as created the new RODEOHOUSTON Super Series format. The Super Series included champions receiving a minimum of $50,000.

For the first time, all junior market auctions, the School Art Auction and the Wine Auction topped a million dollars each. In 2007, the Show celebrated its 75th anniversary, known as the “Year of the Volunteer” as well as a 50th anniversary of its educational programs. A year later, the Show awarded more than $1 million to both Texas FFA and 4-H scholarship recipients.


In the past 14 years, the Show has welcomed more than 2 million people each year. People came to see the world’s largest livestock show, carnival, horse show, rodeo and more. The Cinch RODEOHOUSTON Super Shootout: North America’s Champions debut as an invitation-only, one-day event featuring champion athletes from the top U.S. and Canadian rodeos.

In 2012, the Show raised student scholarships to four-year $18,000 scholarships.

George Strait performed his last performance in a special concert-only performance with Martina McBride and the Randy Rogers Band. The concert set an all-time paid attendance record for any event in NRG Stadium with 80,020 people.

Building Programs

In 1966, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo made one of the most significant changes in its history — it moved from the cozy Sam Houston Coliseum to a place that seemed like a city in itself: the Astrodome. The first performance in the new Domed Stadium drew 25,340 spectators, and attendance for one performance even topped 40,000 — almost five times the number of people the Coliseum could hold.

Attendance in the Astrodome consistently toppled records. And in 1996, the Rodeo celebrated its 30th anniversary in the Astrodome complex.

In addition to the Astrodome, two additional facilities were built to host this mammoth event — the Astrohall and the Astroarena. More than just a location for the Rodeo, these buildings have had an immeasurable impact on this organization as well as the entire Houston community.

After building and paying for the Astrohall and Astroarena, the Rodeo donated the facilities to the citizens of Harris County. These two buildings alone helped attract almost 30 million people to the various sporting events, trade shows, expositions and hundreds of other activities since the Astrohall was built in 1966.



The Rodeo builds the Livestock Exposition Building (Astrohall).


The 12-acre facility is expanded by four acres, providing more exhibit space and meeting rooms.


Two additional acres are added to the Astrohall, resulting in permanent administrative offices, meeting rooms, exhibit space and the Super Sale Salon (site of auctions and sales until 1991).


The 6,000-seat Astroarena is completed.


More space is added to both the east and west ends of the Astrohall.


The Rodeo adds acreage to the Astroarena in a partially funded project by the Houston Sports Association and Harris County. This phase represents the first time that the Rodeo does not totally fund construction of exhibition facilities.


An additional 4.8 acres in the Astroarena results in committee volunteer meeting rooms, a club, a restaurant, auction arenas and additional space for commercial exhibits. Harris County shares the cost of this additional construction.


Construction of a 40,920-square-foot warehouse addition is completed and donated to the citizens of Harris County. (stores the Rodeo’s entertainment stage, houses rodeo contestants’ horses, provides a warm-up arena for rodeo contestants and serves as additional storage during the year).


The Rodeo celebrates 30 years at the Astrodome complex.


The Harris County Commissioners Court approves the construction of a new exhibition facility on the north side of the Astrodome.

Harris County begins construction of new parking lots on the west side of Kirby Drive.

Houston becomes the home of the new NFL franchise, and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo moves forward with Houston NFL Holdings and Harris County to build a new football/rodeo stadium.


Groundbreaking ceremonies are held in March for the new 70,000 seat, retractable roof RODEOHOUSTON/NFL stadium.

In June, groundbreaking ceremonies celebrate the beginning of construction for the 1.3-million-square-foot Harris County Exposition Center.

In October, NRG acquires naming rights for the Astrodome Complex. The renamed NRG Park includes NRG Astrodome, NRG Arena, NRG Hall, NRG Center and NRG Stadium.


Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo personnel move into new Rodeo offices on the second floor of the new NRG Center.

Astro Hall is demolished and the site paved for parking.

NRG Stadium opens with the first Houston Texans pre-season NFL football game on Aug. 24.


The 71st Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo celebrates its first year in its new homes: NRG Stadium and NRG Center.

Carruth Plaza is completed at NRG Park, creating a Western sculpture garden that is home to eight large-scale bronzes.


On Dec. 27, 2012, the Rodeo purchased 48 acres of land out of a 92-acre tract commonly referred to as the Astroworld property.