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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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1.

Wow ...    

Entertainment should not be to the detriment of another or an animal. Sad!

417 days ago
2.

MLS    

I find it odd that they would immediately come out & state it was due to an aortic aneurysm as that would require a necropsy. What did they do, immediately cut open the horse & examine it's aorta? Highly doubtful. This is just plain suspicious.

417 days ago
3.

Dinka    

They have orders to NEVER use the hot shots on a horse...so why was there one at the rodeo, right next to the horses?

417 days ago
4.

LornaDane    

I vote we use the electric prod on the handler and see how he fares

417 days ago
5.

FROM HELL    

Good. Horses are disgusting!

417 days ago
6.

dreamer4u    

This is animal cruelty! Close these idiots DOWN.. Rodeos ought to be outlawed!!!

417 days ago
7.

IwuvTMZ    

I'm calling PETA!

417 days ago
8.

Bob    

Must be a slow news day... Wonder why TMZ isn't reporting on the FBI files released this weekend stating that Michael Jackson did molest over 20 children and Wade Robinson was in fact one of them.. And how Jackson paid millions of dollars to keep the families quiet and had people spy on the family... That seems like a bigger story than this one. Now the report on horse stories!

417 days ago
9.

Christine    

They ought poke the people with the electric probe.

417 days ago
10.

Sarah    

I grew up on a ranch and around the PRCA rodeo circuit so perhaps I can offer some knowledge of a hot shot. A hot shot is typically used on cattle. Although, growing up we did use them on each other-- they hurt to about the extend of touching your hand the electric fences they uses to keep in livestock (if anyone has ever done that). It is a slight shock, but not above a 3 on the pain scale I'd say...if anything it just jolts you awake.

However! What a hot shot does do is when you press the button they make a noise. And the cattle/horses don't like the noise. So a lot of the times an animal will react the same way to the noise as they would to the shock. I'm guessing that is why the hot shot was in there...for the use of the noise.

The horses that are used in these types of events are insured up to the hilt and worth a lot of money. So it wouldn't be uncommon for them to do an autopsy of the horse right away. Plus, on bucking livestock aneurysm's are incredible common.

417 days ago
11.

Sherms    

If this truly was an electro-shock thing, someone needs to do the same thing to the person who did it to the horse. That is absolutely terrible.

417 days ago
12.

wrong but funny    

I cried a little... how sad :(

417 days ago
13.

Carlav1    

The announcer sounded like the Mr Rodgers of rodeos

417 days ago
14.

Felicia    

I grew up at cowtown. Not the rodeo part (dont agree with them) but it's also a giant flea market. How does Cowtown which btw is in a very very tiny part of NJ make it on TMZ? I find that crazy.

417 days ago
15.

IEZ    

I suppose everyone complaining about this is a vegan right? Cause cows and chickens get treated a lot worse than this horse who was probably well cared for.

417 days ago
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