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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

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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what is michael vick running this show? thats animal cruelty! those people need to be electrically prodded!

479 days ago


Its very disheartening when people put down rodeos and call them cruel. They must not realize that the ANIMALS are the competitors. They are the heart and soul of the rodeo community and are treated with the utmost respect. They get the best feed, vet care, transportation, and love every day. I've grown up with rodeos and have been lucky enough to ride along with a stock driver and I can tell you that the ANIMALS are treated 10 times better than any cowboy out there. No one wants to see an animal injured and they sure don't want to see one die, but unfortunately, like my family knows, horses die, just like any other animal. Rarely do you see it in the area, but it happens. I wish people would take a moment and learn about something before condemning it.

479 days ago


That was too sad to watch all the way through.

479 days ago

Andy cody (uk)    

"Let's all give a round of applause for the horse that has just been tortured to death for your entertainment come on folks."

479 days ago


There are alot of people that just dont give a sh.t about animals! Wish the owners were tortured like their horse's!

479 days ago


**** you tmz. This is not an appropriate article for this website. **** you tmz.

479 days ago


****ing cowards. Treat horses like ****. No wonder they fall down and die. BECAUSE COWARDS like the people that do rodeos mistreat them. It should be down right BANNED worldwide. End of discussion. RIP Duke

479 days ago

Az Heat    

Rodeos should be banned and I have zero respect for hunters!! Shooting an animal that can't defend itself is no better than a child molestor!!!

479 days ago


i like the horse"s hose..

479 days ago


There is nothing entertaining about rodeos. Bulls and horses are made to buck via bucking straps pulled on their bodies, calves are choked by lariats thrown around their necks, and animals are abused by companies who buy these poor creatures cheap and use 'em till they drop dead. Yeah, that's entertainment for some, total abuse for me. Hate rodeos, it is not a sport.

479 days ago


So interesting all these facts and personal experiences being stated here and how many have stated these animals are not mistreated and no harm to them just keeping them in line. I am curious to know the number of animals that have been personally interviewed to have stated such facts....

479 days ago


Before you allow the misleading and uninformed nature of this article to have you make a knee jerk reaction in regards to the sport of rodeo a little research should be done.

I have never in 25 years of competing and working in rodeos seen a hot shot used on bucking stock in the chute. It's completely unnecessary not to mention incredibly dangerous for the rider on the animals back. Hot shotting an animal in an environment like that would cause panic which may lead to the rider becoming crushed against the gate.

A horses skin is on average 3-5 times thicker than a humans. I personally have been zapped by one of those prods and while it hurts like hell, it's certainly not a strong enough jolt to induce a heart attack in an animal of that size, with that thick of skin. For me it was comparable to touching a hot wire fence, which certainly isn't going to kill you...Just make you rethink getting near it.

The "flank strap" on a bucking animal is covered in felt, wool, or neoprene and it has to be free moving. Now let's stop and use an ounce of common sense here. If you had a strap cinched up right around your belly or genitals, as some of the more intelligent commenters have stated, how hard are you going to buck? Not hard at all because that's going to be miserable. If an animal were in distress because something is cinched up too tightly they may buck wildly for a few seconds but then they are going to stop moving to alleviate the pain. Not carry on for a full 8 seconds and then some.

Rodeo livestock are specially bred. These are not $200.00 auction finds that are discarded like garbage. Decades go into breeding these animals in order to create livestock that buck hard and more importantly like their job. The same way you would go about breeding a hunting dog or a sport horse. These animals can cost upwards of $100,000.00 and aren't sent to slaughter once their careers are finished but instead become breeding stock. It's not fiscally smart to abuse an investment like this.

Here are a couple of links if you are actually interested in learning something about animal welfare as opposed to animal rights and the sport of professional rodeo. Of course there are bad apples in every bunch and some don't take care of their animals as they should but the families I grew up with and still work with today spend a lot more feeding the horses and cattle than they do themselves.



479 days ago


Stop them. Stop the rodeos and stop using animals in carnivals and stop using animals to fetch bombs and stop using animals to guide people across the streets. Animals are not slaves.

479 days ago


It's absolutely sickening how we treat the beautiful creatures who share the world with us.
It is incomprehensible to me why anyone would vote for rodeos to not be banned.

479 days ago


Bucking horses are incredibly valuable, there's no way that horse was electrocuted. My horse died last week of a ruptured heart valve.... it happens. Bucking horses are really well cared for, lets not all jump on the abuse wagon.

479 days ago
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