Rodeo — the state sport of South Dakota — holds a long legacy steeped in tradition and skill. Connecting people in rural communities across the state, rodeos big and small are a highlight of the summer.

These days many Rodeos are a multi-million dollar sporting event and draw competitors and spectators from around the world. But it’s humble beginnings could be found in a corral consisting of a circle of wagons, or after cattle roundups when cowboys gathered to show off their skills with horses and roping.

These inductees of the South Dakota Hall of Fame are just some of the many amazing figures in the history of Rodeo in our state.

James Madison is credited for having established professional rodeo in Western South Dakota. A one-time member of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show, Madison came to the Dakota Territory from Iowa in 1886. In the first decade of the 20th century, Madison began buying and raising bucking horses, winning the World Champion Relay Race in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1907. Madison began to stage rodeo events in the towns of Rapid City, Deadwood and Belle Fourche, expanding into neighboring states as well. Madison’s ranch on Nemo Road in Western South Dakota was used as the set for the 1920’s film, Ranges of Doom.

Jake Herman of Pine Ridge was an artist, writer, trick rider, fancy roper and most of all, a great rodeo clown. His rodeo career began with Jack King’s Wild West Show and the Rodeo Royal Circus. While he was rodeoing he was a crowd-pleaser in the bronc riding event and also in trick and fancy rope spinning. Sometime after 1918, Jake tired of traveling and following rodeos and decided to become a specialty act as a Wilde West Rodeo Clown. Clad in baggy pants, a swallowtail coat and derby hat, he entertained with the help of a pet skunk named Stinky, his devoted dog Tag, and a trick mule named Creeping Jenn.

Mattie Goff Newcombe developed her love of horses at an early age and became one of the pre-eminent women in rodeo during the 1920’s. Born in White Owl, South Dakota, on December 21, 1906, Newcombe’s first rodeo adventures were as a bronc rider. She later joined Leonard Stroud’s outfit as a trick rider doing such stunts as “The Roman Stand,” “Under the Neck” and “Slick Saddle Stand.” By 1926, Newcombe was being billed as the World’s Champion Lady Trick Rider. Wherever Mattie appeared she drew large, enthusiastic crowds. Appearances at events on the rodeo circuit netted Newcombe several first place awards. In 1927, she was named “All Around Cowgirl,” a title she held until her retirement.

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