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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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For more sports stories, check out tmzsports.com!
168 COMMENTS

No Avatar
76.

Samantha     

Who ever made this video needs to be prodded to get their brain to work. Any one that believes this non sense needs the same. First, learn about electricity! When something dies from electrocution it is very violent and requires electricity to continue to run thru the body UNTIL the heart stops, this requires about 30 seconds of a continuous electrical current at high power. A hand held, battery powered hot shot CAN NOT kill a human, little lone an animal that weighs another 1000 lbs. Second, if this horse died from electrocution IT WOULD NOT BE MAKE IT OUT OF THE SHOOT!!! Horses die from heart attacks, AAA, and brain aneurysms frequently! Like every living thing does! I want the person who started this nonsense of abuse to this horse to contact me. Ill help you understand the laws of physics and the concept that your a COMPLETE IDIOT!

424 days ago
77.

Samantha     

And shame on you for promoting this as neglect. A great athlete dies and people curse people for what the horse chooses to do. And yes it's their choice. If the horses didn't want to do it they wouldn't!!! You can't force a 1200 lbs animal to do something they don't want to.

424 days ago
78.

Chris    

Rodeos and rounding cattle have been around wayyyyy longer than your battery powered cars and fake ass coffee drinks. The reason we don't live in the city is because we don't want to see that kind of behavior. So if you don't, I suggest you don't attend those events. You cant stop it, its Americas heritage.

424 days ago
79.

News Flash     

Go to any rodeo, even the smallest and most insignificant, and you will hear that it has the world’s “meanest & wildest” animals, and the “greatest cowboys”. Rodeo stock contractors claim their animals are “born to buck.” According to the announcer at even the sorriest, most silly affair, it is a “world championship rodeo.” The truth isn’t nearly as impressive.

If rodeos animals were “born to buck,” they wouldn’t have to be spurred, have tormenting straps tightened around their flanks, or get blasted with thousands of volts of electricity.

Rodeo stock contractors victimize and abuse tame, domestic animals for profit. These animals are forced to act wild, run and buck through pain, fear and torment.

Decide for yourself if rodeo people really care about their animals.

424 days ago
80.

News Flash     

Cattle roaming the open land and horses grazing in the fields. Men repairing fences, kids grooming their ponies,and tractors baling hay. Now that is real ranching and real American Heritage.

424 days ago
81.

Maria Valenzuela    

The """"HUMANS''' destroy animals., ''KARM IS CAMING''''

423 days ago
82.

Maria Valenzuela    

The '''HUMANS'''' estroy animals., ''KARM IS COMING'''''

423 days ago
83.

Jason    

At the beginning of the video, you can see the person pulling the hot shots stick back after the gate has opened. The video clearly shows proof that it was used to poke Duke.

Rodeo's itself are not the problem. The handful of abusive handlers are. -my opinion

423 days ago
84.

Jason    

At the beginning of the video, you can see the person pulling the hot shots stick back after the gate has opened. The video clearly shows proof that it was used to poke Duke.

423 days ago
85.

RodeoPhotog    

While I can appreciate the concerns you have raised in this article I am a bit upset with the manner in which the story was told. I realize you are a sports reporter but it is evident that you are quite naïve in the sport of rodeo. These wonderful animals are bred to buck. They work for approximately 8 seconds a week. From start to finish, they are moved from the holding pens to the bucking chutes and are returned to the pens within 30 minutes. Often times a horse may "stall" in the chute when the gate is opened. This is a very dangerous situation for both the horse and rider. The majority of injuries to each athlete (horse & rider) occurs while being in the bucking chutes. Sometimes the horse needs a little encouragement to move into the arena and begin working. These so-called cattle prods are minor irritants used to ward off potential hazards. I have been zapped several times in jest by the chute crew with no real pain or injury.. No veterinarian would risk his reputation to lie about an incident like this by providing a false diagnosis. These horses are worth in excess of $100K each. They are the bread and butter of the rough stock contractor and are probably taken better care of than your pet dog or cat. Although these animals are large and tough, their genetic makeup can be as fragile as any human's. People usually don't survive their first heart attack and most likely weren't aware they were at risk in the first place.
This new age of instant news media should be handled with kit gloves. I thought a reporter was suppose to stay neutral and report the facts. I feel your style of writing this story can only add fuel to a fire that should never have been lit. Slow down and be an informed, responsible reporter of the events.
To the commenters, How many of you are licensed large animal veterinarians? Don't make accusations about things you know very little of. None of us are in the position to pass judgment. This is a tragedy pure and simple.
Background: I am a 2nd generation rodeo photographer.
While the animal rights activist are well meaning, they are also crying foul without being of the culture, nor know the acceptable practices utilized in the sport of rodeo.

422 days ago
86.

RodeoPhotog    

While I can appreciate the concerns you have raised in this article I am a bit upset with the manner in which the story was told. I realize you are a sports reporter but it is evident that you are quite naïve in the sport of rodeo. These wonderful animals are bred to buck. They work for approximately 8 seconds a week. From start to finish, they are moved from the holding pens to the bucking chutes and are returned to the pens within 30 minutes. Often times a horse may "stall" in the chute when the gate is opened. This is a very dangerous situation for both the horse and rider. The majority of injuries to each athlete (horse & rider) occurs while being in the bucking chutes. Sometimes the horse needs a little encouragement to move into the arena and begin working. These so-called cattle prods are minor irritants used to ward off potential hazards. I have been zapped several times in jest by the chute crew with no real pain or injury.. No veterinarian would risk his reputation to lie about an incident like this by providing a false diagnosis. These horses are worth in excess of $100K each. They are the bread and butter of the rough stock contractor and are probably taken better care of than your pet dog or cat. Although these animals are large and tough, their genetic makeup can be as fragile as any human's. People usually don't survive their first heart attack and most likely weren't aware they were at risk in the first place.
This new age of instant news media should be handled with kit gloves. I thought a reporter was suppose to stay neutral and report the facts. I feel your style of writing this story can only add fuel to a fire that should never have been lit. Slow down and be an informed, responsible reporter of the events.
To the commenters, How many of you are licensed large animal veterinarians? Don't make accusations about things you know very little of. None of us are in the position to pass judgment. This is a tragedy pure and simple.
Background: I am a 2nd generation rodeo photographer.
While the animal rights activist are well meaning, they are also crying foul without being of the culture, nor know the acceptable practices utilized in the sport of rodeo.

422 days ago
87.

Rob Tresun    

As horrific as it may be, horses are just as susceptible to dropping dead from heart attacks or strokes as any other animal. When are people going to realize that, for the most part, animal rights activists are nothing but a bunch of nut jobs with no other life. They don't seem to ever be happy unless they can find someone to blame for something.

422 days ago
88.

Deanna Rowan    

Electric prods/devices should never be used on horses as they have very low tolerance for electric wattage. Horses have been killed by electrocution to collect insurance on them as it is hard to trace and appears to be a natural death.

420 days ago
89.

bscheldt    

I bet this man was upset about loosing his horse! If he was that concerned about the horse, it wouldn't be made to buck in a rodeo. SHARK has do***ented proof that this has happened over several years, but nothing is ever done about it. Maybe Duke's death won't be in vain and something will come of this yet. Thanks TMZ for bringing this to light and getting SHARK's story out to your audience!

419 days ago
90.

bscheldt    

I bet this man is upset about loosing this horse! If he cared that much for him, he would not have him bucking in a rodeo! SHARK has recorded proof that this has happened over several years, but they can't get anyone to do anything! Thank you TMZ for bringing SHARK's story to your audience.

419 days ago
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