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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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Animal abuse is NOT entertainment.
In a world where people are so quick to sue one another for all sorts of stupid acts, it ceases to amaze me how much ignorance there is when it comes to those who do not have a voice to cry for help.
Ban rodeos, they serve no more purpose than slavery does.

481 days ago


what a load of crap. that fuzzy crappy picture dosent show a freaken prod!!! The announcer did a GREAT job letting everyone know what was going on so that no one thought the horse was being treated wrong, and that round of applause what out of respect for a fallen horse just like they would do for a cowboy or cowgirl that had fallen.

481 days ago


cattle prods will not kill a horse...ive been hit with them several times....quit trying to put animals on the same level as humans you crazy ass peta idiots

481 days ago


i think rodeos can be fun and a good hobby but to force someone to buck is pretty mean

480 days ago


It's a horse people get over it. Things die whether it's a person, an animal or whatever.

If there wasn't rodeo's there would be no need for horses what so ever. So this horse died doing what it was made to do.

I think it's funny when dumba$$es say an animals life is just important if not more important than a humans. Those people need serious psychological help.

480 days ago


I grew up in a rodeo family and my kids also rodeo. Rodeo people are animal lovers and those stock contractors take good care of their animals. Most of those bucking horses live much longer lives than regular horses. There are rules to protect the animals. If a cowboy does not follow them they are fined and disqualified. Once again this is just a bunch of misinformed people that jump on a band wagon! And yes, there are much more important issues in this country of ours to be concerned with! Long live cowboys and the great sport of rodeo!

480 days ago


Cruel rodeo event show the OPPOSITE way animals should be cared for and handled. Please read what Temple Grandin has written about them and the mistaken idea that they preserve any sort of accurate historic or cultural traditions. Go to SHARKonline website for videos and more do***entation from veterinarians and former rodeo participants. Animals being raised for food are protected by laws against cruel handling practices, so why the double standard? These animals are being abused for the sake of entertainment! Ban cruel rodeo events and practices, including those at the Calgary Stampede. These rodeos are being propped up by sponsors and sometimes with taxpayers' money! Is this abuse something taxpayers want to support or allow? Please boycott rodeo sponsors and contact the SPCAs in the area as well as elected officials to get them to stop rodeo cruelty.

480 days ago

News Flash     

All Rodeos are abusive not just this one. So many I can't name them all. The infamous Cheyenne Rodeo is a huge kill fest. The baby calves are roped and drug across the hard ground only to break necks, legs and horns right off their heads. Oh yeah, and they die. It's real entertaining to watch men rope wild horses then drag them to the ground, biting their ears, punching them and shoving their noses into the dirt so they can't breathe. Can you imagine the horror and stress these animals are feeling? Let's just beat them into submission in front of a live audience as they applaud wildly. You ask for what? To put a saddle on them and win a prize. This is Rodeo entertainment at its finest folks. Bring the kids along, better yet let them also participate.

480 days ago


How many people on here have ever been to a rodeo? Just curious because if you haven't been to one you have no clue what events go on there. It's not all bucking broncos. There are other events. Do some research before you pick up your pitch forks and torches and make judgements. Go to a rodeo and make a decision for yourself . That's the problem with this nation. People buy into what the media tells you instead of doing your research first. Be smart don't be a sheep.

480 days ago

Jason Curry    

It amazes me that people that have NO CLUE on rodeos or this type of life style comments on these things!! Please just STAY IN CALIFORNIA!!

480 days ago


I have been envolved in rodeo through out my life. The thing that many people don't understand is that these animals are loved and cared for better than most pets anywhere!! MOST people in our sport love these animals as much or more than other people. When tagedy occurs it is the rodeo contestants that shed more tears and have more heart ache than others. Enough said!! I saw a lady refer to it as being the same as dog fighting wow.....We love and take special care of Our animals there is a lot you don't understand obviously!!!!!!!!!!!!!

480 days ago


shark is a blackmailer a fraud if thir going to ban rodeo they might as well ban cooking shows and riding 4 wheelers. rip fuzzy i would have took your place any day

480 days ago


It's always sad when an animal is injured or dies, but no one is as upset as the stock contractor. I had a friend that who owned bucking stock, and he told stories about his horses like they were his kids. Funny things they had done, their personalities, etc. Horses he had that had died of old age, he missed even years later. He loved his horses and treated them well. I don't see anyone banning other sports events every time a child dies participating, or crying "abuse", even though that is a terrible thing that sometimes happens. As for using the hot shots on people, if you're around rodeo very long, your buddies have used the hot shot on you! But, as was stated earlier, hot shots are not used on the horses. They know the noise it makes and they don't like to hear it, so there's no need to use it on them. I love rodeos, and understand animals, so please, let's find out all the facts before we try and end someone's way of life.

480 days ago

mary jo     

These types of shows should be banned and the rodeo should be responsible for the life of this animal No animal should have to die like this . This was an uncalled upon death to this animal

480 days ago


It's funny how people that have no earthly idea of how things are outside of their realm are so quick to jump on the band wagon against something that they know absolutely nothing about.!! I work for a rodeo stock contractor this type of incident is few and far between and i can count maybe 5 or 6 times in the 20+years i have worked for them, that a animal has died in the arena.! I care for these athletes, yes i call them athletes and my friends,because to me that's what they are. And for you to say that they are mistreated is unfounded. You know everybody,there are and is things happening in this country to our own people and way of life,that are, i would say, more important to be dealt with than trying to destroy rodeo.!! My gawd what happened to people that made them believe something they heard was true without at least seeing things for themselves.!

480 days ago
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