Mutton Busting: children riding terrified sheep.

Urlesque has posted a collection of videos that document a sport I wish did not exist: "Mutton Busting."

And while 'mutton busting' sounds categorically filthy, it is, in fact, merely the act of a child riding a hyper sheep bareback.
I'm of the mind that it's, ah, not a good thing for the child or the sheep. But here I am, suggesting in muted horror from the safety of my desk that you watch the videos.

Mutton Busting, In Which Parents Let Their Young Children Get Tossed From Sheep


  1. I have seen dozens of these events, and they are a ton of fun, and not at all harmful to the sheep. Really.

  2. As someone who’s owned/ranched sheep, ‘mutton busting’ is not that bad a thing.

    I’ve had a 75 pound ewe pick up a 200 pound man and take off with the guy riding on her back.

    Didn’t hurt her one jot and she came right back to head butt him.

    They’re not terrified. They’re sheep. Terrified is when a dog or coyote gets in with them and starts munching.

    They’re run down a chute, a kid hops on their back, they run out of the chute and the kid falls off.

    The whole thing is over in eight seconds.

    And that’s it for the day for that sheep. Go watch sheep at a junior dog trial (sheepherding) if you want to see terrified sheep.

  3. It’s the go-carts of the rodeo circuit. Amusingly, this is probably a revelation for most of bngbng’s readers.

  4. Such a Western tradition… Not the least scary if you’ve ever been around it much

  5. To describe sheep as ‘horrified’ really gives sheep a lot more credit than they deserve. Having had sheep, and taught my dog to herd them, I have seen sheep chased and wrestled and sheared, and all of it they shake off and walk away and go back to grazing. They have no fear of the future, or sense of dread that something will happen again. What happens. happens, and is forgotten when it is over. I love them, they are peaceful, gentle, sturdy, and don’t hold a grudge. I doubt they care they had to run across the arena with a small child on their back :)

  6. I’m not feeling the horror.

    First, on endangering the kids, this is the same site that promoted Free Range Kids ( They have full protective gear on and they are only falling a couple of feed onto rock-free relatively loose dirt.

    Second, I don’t think it’s damaging the sheep in any way. It’s probably mildly annoying to them but I don’t really think any permanent psychological or physical damage is occurring.

    Is this event necessary? No. Is it kind of fun? Seems like it.

    Yes, the animals are forced to do something they don’t want to do but of all the things animals are forced to do this is definitely a lesser evil.

  7. Full protective gear, a light little kid on a sheep’s back, I’m failing to see the horror. Does everyone put their kid in a kevlar bodysuit with a full face helmet before they step outside? I remember doing things more dangerous than this as a kid, as I’m sure many others do.

  8. How on earth is this horrifying? Amusing and strange maybe, but definitely not horrifying.

    Is BoingBoing finally succumbing to “WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN” syndrome, rampant in almost every single media outlet these days? How is the thing portrayed in this video any more dangerous than riding a bicycle or a skateboard? At least the kid in question is getting exercise unlike most kids today.

  9. I don’t find it clever or ethical myself, but I can’t see it being more traumatic to the sheep than being rounded-up by the farmer and his dogs for shearing. Then of course there is the shearing process itself….

    By contrast, one could argue that fishing with the intention of releasing after landing the fish is cruel and traumatic. No one seems to get too upset about that.

  10. 1. By the time the sheep stop running they have forgotten what happened. They are sheep.

    2. This is common on the Prairies in Canada anyway. I actually did it once. And a greased pig contest too (though I blocked that out for about 20 years).

    3. If you think that’s bad, try really dangerous kids sports like ‘living in the suburbs’.

  11. @k0an and @ilovechocolatemilk, I think this is simply a perfect storm of “look at those irresponsible redneck parents” and “OMG THE POOR CUTE ANIMALS”.

    Free Range kids are cool.
    Sheep spazz out and sprint like that all the time anyway. They’re not being harmed.

  12. #13 I suspect that rather then “Won’t Somebody think of the children?!” this is an example of “Won’t Somebody think of the sheep?!”

    But I could be wrong.

  13. Oh, it’s not so bad- not like the abhorrant bullfighting, where the bull suffers a torturous death. These kids dream of becoming rodeo stars. While I’m not a fan of rodeo, I know that the bulls and broncos develop a reputation, which means repeated fights, and they are probably valued as breeders, so they get what we deprive most of our pets of- what many people think is the greatest joy in life- sex.
    I’ve never seen a bull injured, but I must confess I enjoy seeing the jerk on its back get jerked around. It’s a rare sport where the animal has a chance of winning. It could be worse for the lambs, so let them all get some exercise and excitement. It’s less dangerous than bicycling.

  14. Actually, “a child riding a hyper sheep bareback” sounds worse to me than “mutton busting”.

    Just sayin’.

  15. I was a free range child and tormenting animals played no part in the risks we took. Oh, there was the occasional boy who, like George W. Bush found pleasure in torturing small animals, but our parents told us to stay away from said juvenile sadist. That said, I’m not calling these kids torturers or sadists, but in a country that seems to be embracing torture as an accepted form of interrogation, it behooves us as parents to teach respect for all living things. Behavior such as making sport of a terrified sheep MIGHT pre-dispose a child to feel little or no empathy for his/her “enemies”, “perps”, etc. Is this the 2nd or 21st century?

  16. You can tell that it’s the middle of the night in the UK because there hasn’t been a single joke about Wellies.

  17. antinous – the welsh aren’t hanging around to make funnies, they’ve all suddenly felt the urge to go for a walk in the fields…

  18. Holy crap! My sister won a contest to take part in this while she was in kindergarten.
    The rodeo clown let the other girl win. was hilarious while it lasted (about 10 seconds)!

  19. And that’s dangerous … why, exactly? Sheep are fluffy, children don’t have that many bones as adults…

  20. I have to agree with several of the commenters above in that I really don’t see a need for any outrage over mutton bustin’. This little blurb and the story it was inspired by really smack of highfalutin city-type folk looking down their noses at those poor, backwards country people. As a matter of fact, it seems damn hypocritical that two sites so encouraging of getting America’s children outside and being active would be so quick to condemn a rather harmless and fun activity that does just that. I certainly find this no more or less disturbing than parents in the suburbs encouraging their young children to join the youth soccer, football, baseball, etc. teams that have become staples of our society.

    Furthermore, I don’t find this in the least bit harmful to the sheep, especially considering what livestock are put through everyday on even the most accommodating farms. And, having grown up around two sheep when I was very young, I can tell you that the sheep are just as quick to return such ‘abuse’. I have several distinct memories of our ram, Butthead, knocking my young self to the ground repeatedly only for his own amusement. As a matter of fact, I can think of few experiences that better prepared me for life in the real world than some animal ramming me down each time I got back to my feet while my parents looked on and laughed.

  21. Just remember when you say it, it’s Mutton Bustin’. Not Mutton Busting.

    Also I got hurt a whole lot worse than this when riding my skateboard in parking lots than these kids will while riding sheep. Hit a rock, fell, broke two bones in my arm and one of the bones popped out of the skin. Think I would have been safer in full protective gear and on a sheep running around in the soft dirt of a rodeo rink…

  22. I don’t remember wearing a helmet when I did this as a child (just once, while visiting cousins in a slightly more rural area). It was fun. I seriously don’t think those sheep are terrified, nor that there is any harm to them at all. It’s definitely funny to watch.

  23. what are you teaching the child? Why?

    An example that sticks in my memory: a seagull tethered by one leg. A toddler. A father patiently urging the toddler to pick up stones and kill the gull.

  24. bah, no harm there except maybe to the kids and they’re made out of cartilage at that age. chuck wagon racing is the gruesome one. i saw a pile up at the stampede two years ago that almost made me vomit.

  25. Yeah… I guess just not harassing animals is just not in some people’s blood. OK, so probably not permanently dangerous or scarring to the animal. But… c’mon, is there any reason why you need to pester any animal for your own jollies like that?

    Maybe they don’t have ‘feelings’ like the rest of us. But so what? Obviously, no animal is going to enjoy a kid riding on it like that. So why do it, just to get some kicks?

    God…. people, grow up a little.

  26. Watching this video I held my breath. A sheep’s hooves in the face or throat would not be cute. It would be interesting to get the kids’ stories. Did they do this out of their free will? Did their parents force them, coerce them, or taunt them not to be babies. The more I think about it and see how small those kids are, I think the whole thing stinks. Hey, for real excitement try barrel racing and other real sports where animal and human are trained and perform because they want to.

  27. Best. Thing. Ever.

    The only downside is that the kid might grow up to want to ride bulls.

  28. children don’t have that many bones as adults

    I must have missed that anatomy class.

  29. #26 Anonymous You’ve got it wrong,Boyo.It’s them Scots tha’ wear tha’Wellies and they’re too daft to untie the string,so says tha’ big yin,Billy Conolly.Tread softly,or you might get visit from the Dreaded Lurgie and you WILL eat the leek!

  30. I must have missed that anatomy class.
    I didn’t, children have quite a few more bones which fuse over time as they mature.

    Xeni you live in a bizarre world, because if you find this horrifying then surely you never consume any product derived from sheep. I guess that leaves more wool clothing, lanolin, sausage casings, artist’s brushes, high-carbon steel, baseballs, crayons, candles, floor wax, hand cream, makeup, brake fluid, and tasty tasty meat for us cretins to enjoy. Sucks to be you tho.

  31. Mutton busting is safer for kids than learning to ride a bicycle, and safer for sheep than being sheared. Plus, it’s good clean American fun and gets kids out of their living rooms and away from their Nintendos. So what’s the problem?

  32. Yeah, I used to have sheep and on occasion when getting them to be sheered they would decide this was a good idea while I was hanging on. Would have been more fun as a kid with a helmet.

  33. Oh God the horror! Seriously, given some of the activities engaged in by the monitor tanned, mutton busting is pretty harmless, and the sheep don’t really give a foetid dingo’s kidney about it.

  34. #44 I’d like to see a reference for “safer than learning to ride a bicycle” – sounds unlikely to me.

    However, assuming you are correct, my response is that riding a bicycle is useful. It also gets them out of the living room, both while learning and when actually using the skill of riding a bicycle. They won’t be doing much sheep riding later in life, except the maybe half of 1% of them who might join a rodeo.

    @#35 I bet the (mostly?) boys who do this need v little encouragement from parents. More likely that they need some discouragement. Most kids will do dangerous stuff on their own intitiative.

    I do think the somewhat whiny, PETA style “feeling the animal’s pain” response to this is misplaced, or at least could be placed better. I can think of far worse examples of animal cruelty than this.

  35. “And while ‘mutton busting’ sounds categorically filthy, it is, in fact, merely the act of a child riding a hyper sheep bareback.”

    I have to say, “riding a hyper sheep bareback” doesn’t sound any less filthy.

  36. I knew a farmer once who, in the dead of winter, decided to take his sheep on a shortcut across a frozen lake to another paddock. Unfortunately the owner of the frozen lake did not like this, and ran out yelling, “See here! You can’t pull the wool over my ice!”

  37. Boy, don’t ever go see a rodeo. That’s really tame. The kids even wear helmets. When I was a kid we never wore helmets for anything. It was common for my granddad in Oklahoma to drive me down the dirt roads with me sitting on a lounge chair in the back of his pickup. And we use to jump bikes, ride dirtbikes, skate… pretty much everything with no safety equipment whatsoever. I’m always amazed how it is now considered abuse what was perfectly normal when I was a kid. Not to mention roaming the neighborhood for hours unsupervised by any adult… And yes I know about the free range kids movement. I imagine when I have kids I will be a supporter, but they can wear helmets, nothing wrong with that.

  38. Come on, Xeni. The kids have helmets on, the sheep aren’t being harmed…this isn’t bad at all, certainly not anything to be horrified about.

  39. At some of the same country fairs that feature mutton busting, kids in 4h Clubs raise livestock for contests. After the contests are over, many of these animals are sent to slaughter.

    According to the accepted BB majority, does this teach children responsibility as well as connect them to the food supply (after all, meat doesn’t just show up at the supermarket magically)? Or is this a way to raise uncaring animal-hating sadists?

    In case you are unable to spot my sarcasm, I will put it plainly. I am having a really hard time dealing with misplaced outrage and reconciling some of the values recently demonstrated at BB.

    Free range kids = good.
    Mutton busting = bad.
    Violence suffered by people = bad.
    Violence suffered by people, about which we can joke = good.
    Free speech = good.
    Speech that is critical of BB = bad.

    Unfortunately, I strongly suspect that pointing out hypocrisy is valid grounds for disemvoweling or not posting this comment.

    1. RationalPragmatist,

      It’s grounds for reminding you that you have a scroll bar and that you should use it to bypass posts that you find uncongenial. If you find BB so objectionable, why are you here? It’s hard to muster much sympathy for someone who keeps jamming a thumbtack into his finger and yelling ‘Ow!” over and over.

  40. I skateboarded without a helmet, too. I am not and was never a wimp. I grew up in a free California, no city snob thing, dogs, horses, no high-fallutin’ city folk. And I call it like it is. Child and animal abuse. Why do people have children and risk their precious children’s health and well being for a few seconds of attention in a rodeo arena? I don’t let children near my gentle GSP’s face because the kids are worth so much more than a quick hug from a beautiful “doggie”. I could take this conversation a step forward and equate putting little children on grown sheep for entertainment to those parents who get their children in show biz re: M.J. Parents+kids+sheep at a money making venue=someone making money at all the poor suckers’ expense.

  41. This is great fun, and not nearly the most dangerous activity at a rodeo.

    Might I submit an activity called “suicide poker” or “cowboy poker” in which participants sit around a table and see who can be the last one sitting while an angry bull is set loose.

    But this isn’t even the most dangerous sport at a rodeo, that is reserved for barrel racing. Of course its the most dangerous because that’s when everybody gets hurt rushing to the beer garden or restroom.

  42. Free range kids=good.
    Harassing animals=bad
    Why must being a free kid include pestering a poor animal whose life has been cruel and dismal already and until the day it is slaughtered?
    I still say, parents who put their kids on those animals=bad and sad they prop them willy-nilly on a sheep for what? Is there money involved?

  43. Antinous,

    Never said I found BB or its posts objectionable, did I? I was honest when I said that I am having a hard time reconciling some of the values demonstrated. The analogy for me is like having a friend you have known for a while suddenly say something that seems out of character – I am wondering what is up.

    I wasn’t looking for sympathy. What gave you this impression? Not jamming a thumbtack into my finger, either. Just scratching my head.

    I appreciate that you have a difficult task in moderating the comments and that BB can post whatever strikes the fancy of its contributors. But I am not challenging any of that or attacking anyone.

    My point was that I enjoy BB, but I have been confused over some of these contradictions. If I didn’t enjoy BB or care about it, I wouldn’t have wasted my time with my comment. To return to my analogy, perhaps I just misjudged my friend.

  44. Did it when I was a lass. Chose to do it. Begged to do it. Asked my mother and was denied- ran to my stepfather and asked him before he realized she didn’t want me to and got tossed onto a sheep.

    One of the most entertaining experiences of my young life. The ewe didn’t much care afterwards, either- as I stood up and dusted off she butted me down once more then wandered off.

    Dunno. Maybe not the best of things. No worse than bull-riding. The fact that it isn’t as bad as some things doesn’t excuse it, I guess. I strongly hope that those of you who are severely upset about this do not kill insects, or use meat products. If you are horrified by mutton bustin’ and think it unnecessary fright… maybe you should see how some animals are slaughtered. The unnecessary fright they undergo then. Again; that doesn’t excuse this. But please get bent out of shape over everything.

    Most of you never have nor ever will be a part of a rodeo. But most of you probably eat hamburgers. Just because you don’t see the cows in their stableyards with weeping sores because of the antibiotics they are force fed, the distended rumps and trickling noses, doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

    Also consider that all animals that humans keep, save a comparatively low proportion of pets, must serve humanity in some form or fashion or it isn’t financially feasible. Rodeo animals get food, water, shelter, etc.

    1. I met a veterinarian once who told me that the hazing at her vet school consisted of castrating a ram. With your teeth. I’m pretty sure that she wasn’t making it up.

  45. Wow. To paraphrase P.J. O’Rourke, the country is so urbane, we think skim milk comes from cows doing aerobics.

  46. The argument that those who find “mutton riding” objectionable should not kill insects or eat meat is just simplistic. I kill insects that pose a threat to my health and I eat meat. But I want the animal that becomes my meat to live a life close to nature and meet its’ end as humanely as possible. Read Temple Grandin P.H.D. U. of Colo. the autistic woman who is famous around the world for her insight on how animals view the world of (much like autistics and Aspies) and who designed a stress free slaughterhouse for cattle.
    Rodeo animals get food, water, shelter? What don’t you understand about exploitation of the helpless so some schmucks make money off them as long as they are able to stand on their four feet?

  47. Truth be told, this has been going on for years. When I was a kid, tucking my Wrangler jeans into my boots (I grew up in a town of <300 people in Montana where my family still lives now) the only events for kids at the rodeo were riding calves and sheep.

  48. Annoying an animal isn’t animal cruelty. If they made the same sheep do it all day, then maybe it would be since the sheep could be being harmed. A 50 lb kid on a sheep is the same thing as a 200 lb adult on a horse. The horse doesn’t want you on it’s back either.

  49. #64 I would say this country has become so urbane it doesn’t know animal abuse when it sees it. On the contrary, it tells itself this is the stuff of the “Heartland”. Rough and tumble, good clean fun. Why do you think the A.S.P.C.A. was established in freaking 1866?

  50. If you’ve never hung around farm animals I guess it looks kinda violent or cruel. But really, good fun and the animals are ok as a few mutton busters have pointed out. On the whole much less contemptible and harmful than say, maintaining a well watered, fertilized and mowed turfgrass lawn in the suburbs.

  51. The reactions to this is yet another example on BB of the wide, no very wide gulf, in between the techculture urbanites and rural country folk. Just sayin’.

  52. #69 Why do you assume anyone who finds “mutton busting” stupid (Okay, I’ve said it) lives in the suburbs and has spent no time around animals? I don’t and I have. Try having an open mind and look up Temple Grandin on the internet, read one of her books. Then get back to me. P.S. She grew up on a ranch in Colorado. No urban folk, she. Now make fun of my grammar.

  53. If you’re posting on this thread to complain about how the poor animals are being treated then you’d better be a vegetarian. If I were a sheep I’d much rather visit a rodeo than an abattoir.

  54. I am a vegetarian, and while I do have some problems with this, I also come from a rural background. I am part of this kind of culture, and adore the salt of the earth folk that choose to farm and work animals.

    Often, they love their animals like they were part of the family. I would bet these sheep are “show” sheep. They probably belong to the children who are riding them.

    I have seen true animal abuse. What we should be concerned about is what happens to the bulls after the rodeo. These animals are the true losers in rodeo sports.

  55. #73 no, you don’t have to be a vegetarian to speak up to animal abuse. Read Temple Grandin. It won’t hurt you to get another perspective. You might ask yourself how many rodeos those sheep are trucked around to before they ARE deposited at the nearest abattoir, because that will be their fate.

  56. I’ve seen it at a state fair and thought the kids loved it and the sheep were completely unfazed.

    We don’t have it in the UK, but I wish we did.

  57. What? Come on! That’s hilarious! I’d pay $10 to see my kid ride a sheep like that!!!

    And their SHEEP…helLO! It’s not like their going to retain some lifelong trauma or even remember it happened 10 minutes later.

  58. As a kid I lived in a rural area of north-western Europe, on a farm, surrounded by other farms. I guess we would have been called “free-ranging” but the term didn’t exist yet in the late fifties-early sixties. During long summer vacations we used to roam the country. There were no sheep in our area, but there were calfs and pigs. We were healthy, strong and brazen. You connect the dots.
    P.S. No kid or animal were ever injured as far as I can recall.

  59. It looked like plenty of fun, but I do worry about the little sheep hooves piercing the skin in any especially important places… I’m sure there are some skills involved that the kids learn to avoid that. Honestly, though, it looks fun as hell.

  60. When I was 10 years old and my family farmed sheep I tried this twice. The second time the sheep figured out how to brain me on the corner of the barn as it ran by. But my hands were moisturized by soothing lanolin and the sheep were fine. And delicious. (Why else did you think we raised them?)

    (captcha: mullet objections)

  61. The kids are wearing helmets and certainly aren’t falling very far, and I really doubt they weigh enough to hurt the sheep.

    I can think of a dozen more dangerous things I did growing up, and I had a very tame childhood.

  62. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who thought “What’s the problem?” closely followed by “I’d have loved to do that when I was a kid!”…

    Yay for Mutton Busting!

  63. I once had a girlfriend tell me “if you’re gonna ride me, at least pull my hair”. This has nothing to do with toddlers riding sheep, but I always liked it.

  64. I’m just annoyed that i grew up in an area with loads of sheep farming and no-one ever thought of this.

  65. Thought

    (1) sheep are stupid as bricks (that’s why I enjoy lamb – it rescues the creature from that awful journey from fun, gamboling fluffy ball to apparently drugged-out, mob-mentality, weird-eyed idiocy)

    (2) Might be fun for the kids

    (3) Sheep are heavy and can stomp on kids, not like a horse which will actually try not to

    (4) Helmet won’t save neck, which looks to me to be in prime position for damage. Head-on impact with other sheep being a clear risk.

    Tell me (4) has never happened anywhere and I’ll start to grin.

  66. Lamb is to undermine the safety of their children than learning to ride bicycles, and more secure instead of being sheep shearing

  67. Mutton busting is good clean fun. The children aren’t any more likely to suffer injury than the animals. If city folk think there is something wrong with this, they’re living a very sheltered life.

    Give thanks to those who live in rural areas and farm your food for you now and then. You probably have no clue who they are or what kind of lives they live.

    And while you’re at it, go learn where electricity comes from, where the water from your tap comes from, where the stuff in your toilet goes, how the truckers get food on your table, and how your phone service works.

    Too many people have been living in sheltered city life for so long that they have forgotten what makes it possible. This article is an example of that very ignorance.

    This ignorance is not Xeni’s fault. But it is a dangerous thing. If we expect our cities to be the centers of law and learning, what does that say about the quality of either?

  68. I grew up in the Mt Isa, in Australia. We had the biggest rodeo in the southern hemisphere, every year. I have experienced both the city life and the country life, and while I agree with animals being raised for meat, I don’t think they should be used for sport. There is just no need for it.

    That includes horse racing, dog fighting, baiting, seal clubbing, sport fishing, trophy hunting.. etc.

    And if you think Xeni is sheltered, you haven’t been reading her articles.

  69. What I’d like to know is why a lot of folks think sheep are stupid. Sheep have very complex social groups within a flock. They can remember a face forever. They have friends and enemies within a flock. So who made each of you “sheep are stupid” people such experts on how intelligent a sheep is? Sheep may look stupid when you expect human intelligence to come out of them. But they’re much smarter about being sheep than you ever will be.

  70. I struggle to understand your mind, Xeni. Children riding on the backs of sheep fills you with horror, but a man dying in an industrial accident at a chocolate factory is fodder for lulz.

    I really don’t get it.

  71. I don’t mean to be a drop in an ocean here, but I think mutton bustin’ is awesome! I grew up in Kansas though, so I may be biased by my first-hand experience.

  72. I grew on a sheep farm – I was free range, so were the sheep – though after their tour of the pastures they slept in a barn and I slept in a house. I can say with great certainty that sheep are the dumbest of all livestock animals. I have seen a sheep drown itself in 3 inches of water. I have been charged and butted by sheep – they are not stompers, no fear of that – the trick is to simply slap their nose in another direction as they charge you – they will simply continue running in the direction their nose is pointed.

    Docking tails, the sheep dip, shearing – those scare the heck out of sheep, but as others have pointed out, as soon as it’s over it’s like it never happened. Sheep don’t worry too much about the past or the future, and their window of “present” is very narrow. I sincerely doubt that being ridden by a child is even a tenth as scary as getting packed in the truck to go to the rodeo in the first place for the sheep, and if they can find something to eat it’s like none of it ever happened.

    Yes, I grew up on a farm where we raised food animals, but we don’t just think of animals as objects, we raise and take care of them as anyone who has spent a winter night lambing or an hour massaging the mastitis out of a sheep’s udder can attest to …it’s just that we don’t tend to get hung up on personification issues either.

    They’re sheep. Get over it. No animal likes to have someone sitting on it but I don’t see anyone freaking out that people ride horses – sometimes even for sport! Horses don’t like being ridden until they’re trained, and are a lot more sensitive than sheep.

    That humans use animals as a food source and to do various kinds of jobs and sometimes even for entertainment may be a moral issue for some, but outside of that militant context, to single out rodeo events that aren’t actually cruel is nothing short of foolish.

  73. Simple fact,the more you try to protect your children from everything, the weaker they become. A child insulated from germs has a weaker immune system. A child who takes no chances,and gets no bumps and bruises becomes an adult who hides away from the world and tries nothing for fear of getting hurt.
    I look in horror at my sister-in-law’s son who at thirty won’t even climb down the ladder to the basement to turn off the hose because his mother spent his entire life telling him he couldn’t do things because he might get hurt.
    Also I cannot think of a single example of a sheep being injured in one of these events.

  74. I did this when I was a kid. At a city festival. It was free, I didn’t wear a helmet or a chest protector. I was only about 6, and I fell off nearly immediately. I remember crying afterwards for a minute or two, probably because of the shock of suddenly being on the ground, and the shame of losing. Once I got over feeling sorry for myself I continued having fun for the rest of the day at the egg toss, sack race, and tug-of-war (seriously).

    If it taught me anything it was to give animals a bit more respect; as a proud first-grader, it was humbling to realize that you could get taken out by a lowly sheep.

  75. I have never heard of Mutton Busting before, and am outraged at the potential for harm to the children that this has. One good stomp to the testicles, throat, or abdomen, and that child may never recover.

    In fact, I was so appalled, I just sent this email off to a few places that perpetrate this crime against humanity. Please feel free to send it along to any other criminal organizations:

    Today I was made aware of the horrific “sport” (more properly called child and animal abuse) called Mutton Busting. Small children are coerced and/or forced into riding an energetic and unpredictable animal that are several times the child’s body weight.

    Astoundingly, despite the real injuries that the children sustain, the real tears that they cry, and the visceral horror that any normal bystander feels when they observe such “entertainment” (indeed, dwarf tossing comes to mind as similar “entertainment”), the activities continue unabated! It is a shocking affront to human dignity that parents of apparently low intelligence, low moral standing, and poor character are allowed to sign “waivers”, permitting the reckless endangerment of their child! One seriously doubts both the moral character of someone who accepts such a waiver, or that such a waiver will stand up in a court of law when the inevitable death of a child eventually happens during this child-torture.

    I am appalled, outraged, and appeal to your basic humanity. Please re-sensitize yourself to the innocence and meekness of children, and stop exploiting, injuring, and traumatizing the future of humanity for your mere commercial gain. At the very best, it is a morally repugnant affront to the human race. At the very worst, it casts the perpetrators in the same light as pedophiles, who also exploit the innocence of children for their personal pleasure.

    I am writing, as a parent of a 6 year old specifically, and a member of the human race in general, to categorically condemn this form of child abuse and animal abuse, and I vociferously challenge to immediately cease promoting it and engaging in it.

  76. Another article i wish i could “Anti-Favorite This.” I mean, i support the article and like being informed, but don’t appreciate the practice detailed.

  77. @Grey Not Grey:

    Your comment made me think of this:

    “From another direction he felt the sensation of being a sheep startled by a flying saucer, but it was virtually indistinguishable from the feeling of being a sheep startled by anything else it ever encountered, for they were creatures who learned very little on their journey through life, and would be startled to see the sun rising in the morning, and astonished by all the green stuff in the fields.”

    — Douglas Adams on sheep

  78. Taukan-
    the difference between falling off of a sheep which is in no way restrained and stoning a captive bird to death is self-evident. The sheep aren’t harmed, nor are they terrified. They just want to get back to their flock as fast as they can. The bird, on the other hand, is tied up and is killed. If you could grab a seagull’s legs and ride up over a pond for a few minutes before dropping into the water whilst the gull flew away it would be similar.
    The image of the father teaching his child to kill things for no reason is chilling. Humans raise and tend animals for their utility to humans and sheep are often killed to be eaten, usually in as painless a fashion as possible. You can’t eat seagulls-they taste terrible.

  79. Are we running out of things to rage about? Because I’m not entirely sure what the problem is here. Your kids are just as likely to get themselves seriously injured in any other childhood sport and I doubt the sheep are are harmed in any way.

  80. This does remind me of how the Mongols used to (and possibly still do) train their kids to ride from almost before they could walk, by tying them to the back of a sheep at the age of about 2.

    I think it’s good fun- doesn’t hurt the kid or the sheep. The sheep might get a bit scared, but that’s because sheep are evolved to scare easily- same reason why they’re so easy to herd.
    And to those saying that sheep have a horrible short life until they’re slaughtered- usually not the case. Sheep tend to be free-range animals, as they can live off land that other animals can’t, and that you can’t grow food on. Also, especially in more traditional farming cultures, sheep tend to have a pretty long life, as the farmers need the milk and wool.

  81. Man, so much discussion. I thought this was a small blurb about a cool thing kids get to do at rodeos.

    As somebody that has been called a troll by Xeni, I would like to live up to that by once again mentioning how mutton bustin’, a fun and wholesome activity is much funnier than somebody dying from being concussed by a chocolate mixer.

    I lol’d at this, I didn’t lol at that.

  82. @ #103

    Please tell me that my sarcasm meter is broken this morning. You cant really believe the idiocy coming from your mouth.

    Parents that let they’re children ride SHEEP = the likes of pedophiles. What the hell are you smoking?

  83. I don’t think it’s very horrible. Are the sheep “terrified”? Maybe. They don’t look that terrified to me, but how would I really know. If they saw a wolf on the other hand, THAT would be terror.

    This is actually less troubling than regular rodeo bull-riding which looks a lot more invasive to the bulls (and I’m OK with bull-riding).

    Traditional Spanish bull-fighting is horrific and stupid and pointless (does the bull ever win? Even if he manages to kill the matador, he will be put down– that’s hardly a fair fight.)

    Eventually the human race will start being a lot more humane with regard to animals. I guess I just don’t have enough outrage in me to be concerned with “mutton busting” right now.

  84. Chocolate-covered Mutton Busting: children riding terrified sheep into vats of molten chocolate…
    Everybody’s happy!

  85. Sorry Xeni, I think you misinterpreted public opinion on this one. Take solace that it doesn’t happen often!

    I am a Free Range Dad and a member/supporter of our local SPCA. I have also spent lots of time on farms and have seen both the good caring side of animal husbandry, and the not so pleasant side of animal processing for human consumption. I have grown up in Western Canada and while I no longer attend rodeos, simply because I do not have a strong connection with them, I do still celebrate the Western heritage that was instrumental in establishing this part of the continent.

    The point is that these are farm kids, both girls and boys. If you’ve ever known one, by in large they are much tougher than kids who grow-up in the confines of the city, they really enjoy proving that they are stronger than their older siblings, and they grow up with this kind of thing every day.

    And sheep, well they are sheep. Go out an meet one someday and you’ll see what I mean.

  86. Mutton Bustin’ is my favorite thing at the rodeo.

    If you are ever in Austin TX, there is an Imax movie called “The Story of Texas” and it has a segment about the rodeo. There are some clips of extremely slo-mo Mutton Bustin’ that is incredible. It’s the best part of the mediocre film.

  87. This little blurb and the story it was inspired by really smack of highfalutin city-type folk looking down their noses at those poor, backwards country people


  88. If it were a dog, it would be called “playing” but since it’s a sheep, and sheep aren’t normally kept as pets, it’s torture.

  89. For me the central conflict here is much less rural/urban and much more it’s okay to tell parents how to raise their own kids/it’s really inappropriate to do so.

  90. I agree w/ Frank W @#78. I’m not sure why kids riding sheep is terrible but a man mutilated by factory equipment is funny.

    I don’t remember Xeni cracking jokes when the Basij murdered Neda Soltani. Maybe if they dropped her in a cocoa-mixing vat then it would be a real knee-slapper?

  91. “Mutton busting” (stupid name) is a common, long-standing rodeo event that the kids look forward to all year and the sheep forget within seconds.

    It’s no more deplorable than bronco busting, even if sheep are cuter.

    Deplore both, if you like (and certainly some do), or deplore neither.

  92. Waitaminute..

    Forget the kids, where can I do this?!!!

    (I’ll need a big sheep, though.)

    Meanwhile,a Bull got hisself some satisfaction out at Pamploma today…

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