DENVER, Colo. (CBS4) – A petition gaining ground in Colorado is aiming to get the National Western Stock Show to pull a popular event from its lineup.

The mutton bustin’ competition features kids between the ages of five to seven who try to hang on to the back of a running sheep for as long as they can.

Those who want to get rid of the popular event, however, believe the activity to be cruel and barbaric.

(credit: National Western Stock Show)

An online petition started by a woman who lives in the United Kingdom had so far gathered nearly 82,000 signatures.

“The entire Western Stock Show is a very violent event,” said Aidan Cook, an activist with Direct Action Everywhere, an animal rights group.

Cook is one of nearly 1,200 Coloradans who had signed the petition by Wednesday afternoon in an effort to put a lasso on Denver’s mutton bustin.’

“If we thought (this was) an event where we strapped kids to the backs of terrified dogs and ran them around for our enjoyment, people would be outraged. And it’s really no different to do the same thing to sheep,” Cook told CBS4’s Melissa Garcia.

Aidan Cook speaks to CBS4’s Melissa Garcia (credit: CBS)

Samantha Francis, the U.K. resident who created the petition said she had already been successful in stopping the sheep show at a venue in Great Britain.

Her petition states that the terrified prey sheep sees the child as a predator, often leaving animals seriously injured.

Coloradans throughout Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, and other cities across the state have posted hundreds of comments. One signer from Littleton wrote, “an embarrassment to Colorado.” Another from Colorado Springs commented, “animal and child abuse.”

(credit: National Western Stock Show)

The National Western Stock Show’s President and CEO was unavailable for comment Wednesday, but a spokesperson provided the below statement:

“The National Western Stock Show takes animal welfare and safety very seriously. Every mutton bustin’ event has strict, enforced rules that protect both animal and child. The sheep used for mutton bustin’ come from a certified working ranch in Colorado who have provided the mutton bustin’’ ewes for Stock Show for many years. Every animal has required health papers verifying animal wellness. The sheep carries the small child for just a few seconds before the child falls or is pulled off. Each child participating must be between the ages of 5-7 and not weigh more than 55 lbs for the safety of the sheep. Each registered mutton buster must wear a safety vest and helmet. National Western Stock Show has 24/7 veterinarian services, and mutton bustin’ events are staffed with experienced personnel from Justin Sports Medicine team, comprised of an Orthopedic and ER doctor to tend to the children if a need for medical assistance.”

Melissa Garcia has been reporting for CBS4 News since March 2014. Find her bio here, follow her on Twitter @MelissaGarciaTV, or send your story idea to

Comments (10)
  1. Eric Mills says:

    Lovely: Animal abuse meets child endangerment. Promoters and parents alike should be cited for both. Where are the animal/child protective agencies, pray? This nonsensical event has been banned in New Zealand at the behest of the NZ Veterinary Association, which deemed the sheep “not built to carry the weight.” The local cowboys agreed that a ban was “the professional thing to do.” Are American sheep any different?


  2. These people need to get a life!!!

  3. Cathy Clapp says:

    Oh good Lord. It’s the Animal Rights idiots from the UK meddling and getting PETA and H$U$ supporters going over here. No animals are harmed (I know they don’t care about the kids involved). Go home and walk your pet pineapple. This is just another shot to remove human/animal interaction. Only an idiot would think there was anything abusive about it. Probably the same people that think you kill sheep for wool and kill cows for milk.

  4. Hey now, we’ve got mutton busting in California! In fact, that’s the first place I saw it. Folks who would protest this are the same natters who claim shearing is “skinning sheep alive.” They’re not the sharpest tools in the shed. Anyone who’s actually seen a mutton busting event knows the sheep ALWAYS win, usually within a few seconds. And if the kids are “strapped on,” how do they fall off so quickly?

  5. Another group of imbeciles with nothing better to do? This has been a, “western” event since before the 1900’s. Why is someone from the UK getting involved in this? It is western heritage and does not harm the animal or the kids who enjoy it. I hope no one takes this seriously and if they do I feel sorry for them.

  6. Donna Marino says:

    Inhumane and idiotic activity masquerading as entertainment. Read a book to your kids instead. Maybe you’ll both learn something.

  7. These people who start these petitions don’t even have a clue. Aiden Cook made a statement that strapping kids to the backs of dogs would make us outraged, so apparently, he thinks that the kids are strapped to the backs of the sheep. That’s FAKE NEWS! The woman who started the petition lives in the U.K. It’s a fun activity that many kids love to do. The sheep are fine.

  8. Aidan Cook and the groups he is associated with are extremist people who steal livestock from hard working farmers. Stop giving these criminals attention. They don’t deserve coverage, and they need to keep their dietary choices to themselves. They are currently facing charges for livestock theft and trespassing.

  9. Too many elitist goody-two-shoes in this world. Mind your own business. To the broad from England..It6not your state, country or event so butt out.

  10. These people need to get a life or just move back to CA.

Leave a Reply