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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.

Ban Rodeos

  • Yes
  • No
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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Previous 15 Comments | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7
91.

David Johnson    

Shame on NJ for not banning rodeos. As long as there are rodeos, there will be animal cruelty.

284 days ago
92.

Buddha Babe    

Rodeos are barbaric -- they are just organized animal torture, disguised as so-called "entertainment" and, like circuses, they need to be banned. Hope all the hee-haw dumb-a**es who saw this poor animal die feel they got their precious money's worth.

284 days ago
93.

caroline Ross    

Just read about the electric shocks given to horses in the name of entertainment. It's sickening and these practices should be totally banned.

282 days ago
94.

Marti    

This is a outrage!

282 days ago
95.

JW    

All of you protesters are clueless.!! You should realy take a good long look at yourselves in the mirror. You judge people on things you know nothing about and act like your are above the people who really know about the animals. The real truth is that you have nothing better to do than to get into other peoples business and cause problems.!!

282 days ago
96.

Meghanned    

I have heard Temple Grandin being mentioned several times in the comments as being virulently anti rodeo. This interview shows that as being WHOLLY inaccurate. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KAJ6GzTumY

280 days ago
97.

Diddy    

Horses are so much more sensible than humans and lots of other animals. Any person who says he or she got shocked and it was like nothing is an idiot who knows nothing about horses and yet is trying to make an excuse for an animal suffering to death.

270 days ago
98.

lucía    

Basta!!!!!

261 days ago
99.

María Isabel Ruiz Moreno    

Esta es la crueldad animal! Cerrar esos idiotas ABAJO .. Rodeos debe ser declarado ilegal!!!

261 days ago
100.

María Isabel Ruiz Moreno    

Esta es la crueldad animal! Cerrar esos idiotas ABAJO... Rodeos debe ser declarado ilegal!!!

261 days ago
101.

oscar    

stop!

261 days ago
102.

EquineRights QualityLives    

It's time to prosecute those that deliberately and intentionally wound, maim, kill animals for sport. The rodeos are all about pain for horses and other animals. Lock the individual away for life for abusing Duke and why on earth did the owner have the horse in the rodeo? That's a killer sport.

257 days ago
103.

ArtieP    

I was at Cowtown the week after Duke died. Cowtown Rodeo paid tribute to Duke by telling the audience that we lost a member of the Cowtown family last week, and that they were going to bring his family into the arena. I ha heard about Duke's death, but I'm sure that many hadn't. I'm sure that a lot of people were surprised when Duke's family member's, four or five horses, came trotting out of the gate and into the arena.

I spoke with Grant Harris, after the rodeo last Saturday night, August 31st. Cowtown Rodeo is a family run business and Grant Harris is a fourth generation owner. Cowtown has been in his family since 1929. There are PRCA representatives at every rodeo event and Grant Harris is a standup guy. Yes, Duke did have a necropsy, and the results showed that Duke died from a ruptured aortic aneurysm. There is no way to know that an animal, or a human being has an aneurysm because the presence of an aneurysm presents no symptoms. Duke had a great ride and collapsed on his way back to the exit gate. He did not, and could not, have died from an electric jolt. Also, it is AGAINST PRCA rules to use a shock stick on a horse. Believe me, Grant Harris would not destroy an 84 year family legacy by blatantly abusing his stock. Even one month after the death of Duke, Grant Harris is still upset over the loss of Duke. In over 30 years of attending rodeos, I have only seen one animal get injured, and that was a bull, who suffered a pinched nerve. They took great care in removing him from the arena, and the bull fully recovered. Now, who does get hurt at every rodeo event? One of the human contestants. Excuse me, but I don't see anyone crying foul over the injuries that rodeo cowboys suffer on a daily basis!

Obviously, those of you who are "outraged" by SHARK'S contentions are absolutely clueless about the rodeo environment. Those of you who are pointing the finger of blame at the sport of rodeo have probably never even attended a rodeo.

I have seen roping events where the cowboy ropes a steer, in such a way that it can cause harm to the steer, and he will always let the rope loose in order to not injure the animal. A cowboy has to pay an entry fee for each event that he takes part in. If he doesn't place, he walks home empty handed. In this case, the cowboy puts the safety of the animal over his desire to win. That is how rodeo cowboys are. They respect the animals, and nobody has more concern than Grant Harris, as the stock contractor and owner of Cowtown Rodeo, for the safety and humane treatment of his animals.

So, before launching all of your hateful and ignorant barrages at the sport of rodeo, maybe you should educate yourself about the inner workings of the sport of rodeo. And, by the way, what of Michael Vick? A man who went to prison for cruelty to animals (dog fighting)! What kind of message did the NFL put out when they allowed him back into the NFL after his release from prison. But I guess you Philadelphia Eagles fans can get around a real case of animal abuse and cheer Vick on as he furthers his NFL career. Talk about hypocrisy!!

224 days ago
104.

ArtieP    

I was at Cowtown the week after Duke died. Cowtown Rodeo paid tribute to Duke by telling the audience that we lost a member of the Cowtown family last week, and that they were going to bring his family into the arena. I ha heard about Duke's death, but I'm sure that many hadn't. I'm sure that a lot of people were surprised when Duke's family member's, four or five horses, came trotting out of the gate and into the arena.

I spoke with Grant Harris, after the rodeo last Saturday night, August 31st. Cowtown Rodeo is a family run business and Grant Harris is a fourth generation owner. Cowtown has been in his family since 1929. There are PRCA representatives at every rodeo event and Grant Harris is a standup guy. Yes, Duke did have a necropsy, and the results showed that Duke died from a ruptured aortic aneurysm. There is no way to know that an animal, or a human being has an aneurysm because the presence of an aneurysm presents no symptoms. Duke had a great ride and collapsed on his way back to the exit gate. He did not, and could not, have died from an electric jolt. Also, it is AGAINST PRCA rules to use a shock stick on a horse. Believe me, Grant Harris would not destroy an 84 year family legacy by blatantly abusing his stock. Even one month after the death of Duke, Grant Harris is still upset over the loss of Duke. In over 30 years of attending rodeos, I have only seen one animal get injured, and that was a bull, who suffered a pinched nerve. They took great care in removing him from the arena, and the bull fully recovered. Now, who does get hurt at every rodeo event? One of the human contestants. Excuse me, but I don't see anyone crying foul over the injuries that rodeo cowboys suffer on a daily basis!

Obviously, those of you who are "outraged" by SHARK'S contentions are absolutely clueless about the rodeo environment. Those of you who are pointing the finger of blame at the sport of rodeo have probably never even attended a rodeo.

I have seen roping events where the cowboy ropes a steer, in such a way that it can cause harm to the steer, and he will always let the rope loose in order to not injure the animal. A cowboy has to pay an entry fee for each event that he takes part in. If he doesn't place, he walks home empty handed. In this case, the cowboy puts the safety of the animal over his desire to win. That is how rodeo cowboys are. They respect the animals, and nobody has more concern than Grant Harris, as the stock contractor and owner of Cowtown Rodeo, for the safety and humane treatment of his animals.

So, before launching all of your hateful and ignorant barrages at the sport of rodeo, maybe you should educate yourself about the inner workings of the sport of rodeo. And, by the way, what of Michael Vick? A man who went to prison for cruelty to animals (dog fighting)! What kind of message did the NFL put out when they allowed him back into the NFL after his release from prison. But I guess you Philadelphia Eagles fans can get around a real case of animal abuse and cheer Vick on as he furthers his NFL career. Talk about hypocrisy!!

224 days ago
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