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Cowtown Rodeo

Horse Dies During Live Show

Allegations of Foul Play

7/1/2013 11:22 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Exclusive Details

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Tragedy struck at the famous Cowtown Rodeo in New Jersey this weekend when one of the horses died during a live performance ... and animal rights activists say there's evidence the horse was electrocuted.

The rodeo -- which has been running since 1929 -- came to a screeching halt when a 9-year-old horse named Duke came bucking out of the gate Saturday ... only to collapse after experiencing what appeared to be a seizure.

After the horse went down, staffers raced to its side as Duke died in front of the live crowd.  Duke was eventually carted away.

After the incident, the animal rights group SHARK -- SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness -- says one of its members was in attendance and witnessed Duke being secretly shocked by an electric device right before he was released from the gate in order to get Duke to buck more wildly.

The SHARK member shot footage of the incident -- which shows someone holding a "Hot shot" electric prod in Duke's holding gate.

Cowtown insists Duke's death was as natural as it gets due to an "aneurysm of his aorta blood vessel."

The rodeo explains, "Our vet has assured us that this had nothing to do with the rodeo event and it is a natural (although rare) occurance to have a horse pass from this reason."

However, when we called Cowtown owner Grant Harris -- who also owned Duke -- he told us the device in Duke's pen DID appear to be a "hot shot" ... but says everyone at the rodeo is under strict orders to NEVER use the prod on a horse.

Harris notes that in the video ... the device does not appear to ever touch Duke.

Harris tells TMZ he raised Duke from birth and says he loved the animal ... adding, "I am going to be talking to everybody who's been in contact with the horse to find out if Duke was mistreated."

For its part, SHARK says it will be contacting the SPCA to demand animal cruelty charges be brought up against Cowtown.

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168 COMMENTS

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31.

ladybug    

that looks way too delayed to be from electrocution, that looks like a seizure. I am not saying it is impossible, but it doesn't seem very likely to be due to the prod. I have grown up around horses and rodeo and the comments saying that rodeo is abuse is absurd. Of course there will always be the buttheads in the world who ruin the rodeo reputation, but the majority of the time the people involved in this are huge animal lovers. No one goes to a rodeo to hurt an animal, but sadly, things can go very wrong no matter how careful you are. I just wonder why someone did not go out there with an anticonvulsant immediately when the horse began to spaz.

376 days ago
32.

Luisa    

So what is the f******* hot shot prod doing in the cell if it not to be used on the horses? are the using it to make the cowboy hold o better to the saddle??i call BS on that statement! Poor Duke! it looked like he had a seizure, when he went down :-( makes me sad to see that..and all that only for ENTERTAINMENT.....

376 days ago
33.

Horsefan    

It appears from the horse's movements that it wasn't a seizure but a heart attack most likely. Sadly, you do see this from time to time in sport horses... (i.e. horse racing and jumping competitions/ steeplechases.)

If this horse was shocked by a prod, it would definitely effect its heart rhythm and could be potentially deadly in any horse that had previous heart issues. So sad!

Disgusting if that's what the rodeo handlers were doing to create an exciting show. My heart broke watching this.

376 days ago
34.

Victoria    

They should use this hotshot on all you idiots who don't know a thing about rodeos. I have been to many many rodeos over the years and have never seen a horse die from being bucked out. Rodeo stock is some of the most pampered animals in the world. How do you think they break horses to ride.

376 days ago
35.

BethyW    

If you want to hate any rodeo sport, why dont you hate horse tripping. At least broncos get fed, watered, and cared for, for the most part... horse tripping horses are nothing but glorified moving targets.

376 days ago
36.

Tammy LM    

I want to first say that I do NOT support PETA. I think they are a bunch of domestic terrorists and are ruining their own cause by the way they drum up support for it.

However, that being said, this is BULLSH%T! That horse was dead by the 3:00 mark on that video. That whole announcement speech was for nothing but to divert what was really happening from the crowd's attention. It was all for show. That was not a proper Gurney. It was an old piece of playwood or a palet left outside with weeds growing on it they just brought in to drag the horse off on. There was no immediate veterinary team on hand. Just a bunch of rodeo crew. They announcer was saying the horse was still breathing and he was not. They were pulling on his head and his stiff legs to give him some visable "movement " for the crowd. Tying that horses's legs up after he was already DEAD! Tying him up was all for show. And the announcer's BS all through that situation. Horses' cost the roseos 200,000. BULLSH!T!!!!

Those horses are mostly two hundred dollar rescues. And if they aren't using the taser on the horse, it wouldn't BE IN THE PEN WITH HIM. Even if that taser was only shown to the horse......it's being shown to him because he will remember what it felt like the days he WAS shocked with it. They're lying through their teeth. They don't give a damn about any of the animals in that show. Not one damn one of them. And I hope the rodeo is shut down.

376 days ago
37.

Woot    

YOU SUNZA BIOTCHES!!! I swear to god, if I was there, I'd be hauled off to prison RIGHT quick for what I'd have done to those effing MONSTERS!!!!!!!!

STOP THESE LUNATIC EVENTS IMMEDIATELY!

376 days ago
38.

bob_bitchin    

Caught red handed harming animals in the name of entertainment....it's just as bad as kicking a dog

376 days ago
39.

Scary    

Unless this is common practice at rodeos, I don't see banning them all, since as far as I know, they're just riding and roping events. But of course, the knee-jerk reaction is to automatically ban everything. And I gather people are picking and choosing their ethics for what's convenient: are 62% of you vegans/vegetarians?? Abortion is also cruel - yeah, fetuses don't feel pain same as fish, right? And while the fetus is dependent on the mother to survive, how can people say it's just a part of her body, as if it's no different than her arm? I'm just saying, be consistent in your ethics and morals.

376 days ago
40.

slo2ga    

I've spent my entire life around horses from working on ranches to competing all around the United States with my American Quarter Horses. This horse appears to have had a heart attack. These animals are very expensive and treated better than many people in our own country. While Duke's death is very sad, he more than likely would have had died anyway because of a heart condition.

376 days ago
41.

Bonnie    

If you've seen a horse unfortunately die from this heart problem - you'd recognize the symptoms. Look up the death of Eric Lamaze's horse, Hickstead on Youtube.

376 days ago
42.

Kathy    

I've been shocked by those cattle prods. Hurts like hell but there's not enough power to kill anything.

376 days ago
43.

ricky D    

how is this celebrity news?

376 days ago
44.

Britches    

The horse clearly had a heartache sad but it happens. I didn't see anything wrong I doubt that horse was zapped.

376 days ago
45.

ad44    

Rodeo's, racing, dressage and polo should all be banned. It's disgusting the amount of death in these sports. As soon as a horse stops making the owner money they put it down, and 1000's of horses die every year from being raced to hard. Do you know how many professional horses die from natural causes and old age, 12%.

376 days ago
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