Cattle Classes

Rodeo Cowboys

   1. Cattle Class Rules
   2. Individual Penning
   3. Team Penning
   4. Team Cattle Drive
   5. Cattle Trail
   6. Cutting Horse
   7. Working Cow Horse
   8. Team Sorting
   9. Dummy Calf Roping
10. Breakaway Roping

1. Rules of Western Cattle Classes

The following procedures must be observed at any show affiliated to the BRCA.

Horses may be shown in any humane bridle.  Martingales or tie downs are permitted.  Protective boots are permitted.

Working the Cattle
Competitors are expected to work cattle WITH THE MINIMUM OF FUSS AND EFFORT. Excessive harassment of cattle will result in a caution from the judge followed by disqualification if repeated.

Turning the horse's tail to the cow being worked will result in disqualification in the Cutting Horse contest only.

2. Individual Penning

Each competitor will be allocated a cow by the judge or it will be decided by a prearranged draw. The judge will ensure that each cow is used only once where numbers permit or alternatively in strict rotation.

The horse and rider will be judged on their calmness and ability to move a cow with the minimum of fuss and effort. Competitors should show a deep cut in the pen and the position of the horse will be judged in the pen, on the outward trip and the return trip.

The gateman on the pen will only follow the instructions of the competitor. The time starts when the horse's head enters the entrance to the pen. The competitor will select the allocated cow from the herd and remove it from the pen. Failure to select the allocated cow will result in disqualification. Should more than one cow leave the pen, the competitor must return all unwanted cattle to the pen before beginning work with the allocated cow.

If the competitor is still working when the two and a half minutes are up the judge will stop marking at that time. Regardless of points scored any competitor failing to return the cow to the herd pen within the two and a half minute time, must be placed below all competitors who complete the course.

Course A
The competitor shall drive the cow along the rail, through the gateway and into the pen at the other end of the arena. The competitor shall hold the cow in the pen for 10 seconds, such time to be counted by the judge and on a signal from the judge the competitor shall return the cow to the herd by passing through the gate. Both cow and competitor must follow the course. The clock will stop when the cow re-enters the entrance to the herd pen and the gate is closed upon which the competitor will indicate completion to the judge.

Course B
For this course the holding pen should be positioned 20 feet from the end wall in the diagonally opposite corner to the herd pen. There is no central gate to go through, otherwise competitors proceed as in Course A by taking the selected cow from the herd pen, driving and holding it in the opposite pen for 10 seconds and then returning it to the herd.

            15 points in the herd pen
            20 points on the outward trip
              5 points for return trip

Penning Courses A & B

3. Team Penning

The objective of team penning is that within a two and a half minute time limit, a team of three competitors must cut three designated cows from the herd and pen them.

Regardless of the size of the arena, the dimensions in the diagram must be followed.  Markers at either side of the arena shall indicate the start line.

As each team must work with three head of cattle and leave a substantial herd, it is recommended this class is only held where a good size herd of cattle is available.

The cows will be individually numbered.  Each team will be advised on the starting line the three numbers they have drawn.  Judges should try and ensure that each team has no three cows the same as another team.

The contest will be timed against the clock with a maximum time limit of two and a half minutes.  The judge will act as starter.  The team will be on the pen side of the start line.  The time starts when the nose of the first horse crosses the line.

The team will proceed to the herd and cut the three allocated cows.  The cut cows will then be driven to the pen and penned.  If more than four head of cattle cross the start line then the team will be disqualified.

The clock will stop when all three cows are in the pen and the nose of the first horse enters the opening of the pen, whereupon the competitor can call time.  However, the clock will continue running until any fourth unwanted cow is on the cattle side of the start line.  Such time to be considered penalty points if it exceeds the two and a half minute limit.

The judge will give a thirty second warning before the two and a half minute time limit is up.  A team can call for time with only one or two designated cattle penned.  However all un-penned cattle must be on the cattle side of the start line, or the clock will continue as previously described.  Teams penning three cattle place higher than two, and two place higher than one, regardless of time.

All three competitors must be on the pen side of the start line when time is called.  Failure to be in this position will cause disqualification.  A team calling time with any wrong cattle in the pen will be disqualified.

The herd must be settled for the same length of time for each team.

Team Cattle Penning

4. Team Cattle Drive

The team of three competitors will be judged on the ability to control the cattle as a herd with the minimum of fuss and effort.

An odd cow breaking away from the herd would not necessarily be penalised if handled well and returned quickly.  Splitting or scattering the herd, lack of control or undue harassment should be severely penalised.

The herd should be worked in alternate directions for each team entering.

Scoring: 60 to 80 with 70 denoting an average performance.

Remove cattle from pen, drive herd in figure 8 through gateway and back to pen using the full size of the arena for the figure 8.

This event is best done with a dozen or more cows, but any available number will do.

Note:  All horses must follow the course.  Failure to do so will result in disqualification.

4.1 Novice Pattern                  Time Limit: 2½ Minutes

Team Cattle Drive

4.2 Senior Pattern                  Time Limit: 3 Minutes

Snr Team Cattle Drive

4.3 Four Post Cattle Drive  (Grandma's Feather Bed)
  1. The way of going is at the judge’s discretion.  Each team will be given a different start barrel and a different direction, to the left or right.
  2. A minimum of 10 cows is recommended.
  3. Think of the course as a four poster bed.
  4. The cows are settled in the centre of the bed before the class starts.
  5. There is a time limit of 3.5 minutes.

Four Post Cattle Drive

  1. The team may consist of 3, 4 or 5 riders, but riders 4 and 5 will each start with a 10 point penalty for the team.
  2. A penalty of 5 points is given for each cow who breaks away from the herd.
  3. A penalty of 5 points is given for each cow who comes off the bed, except to turn the correct barrel.
  4. A penalty of 1 point is given each time a horse is out of position.
  5. Credit may be given for good control of the herd, and for settling to finish.
  6. Loss of control of the herd will result in a disqualification.

5. Cattle Trail

This class was devised to demonstrate the handling of cattle by a team of cowboys around everyday obstacles found around the ranch.

Mandatory Obstacles

1. At least 4 barrels in a straight line 21ft apart.
2. A 15ft holding pen.
3. A cattle race to single file.
4. A coned bunching area.

Optional Obstacles

1. Load cattle into a trailer.
2. A water hazard.
3. Any safely constructed obstacle at judge’s discretion.

The team may use 3, 4 or 5 horses, but 4 and 5 will each start with a 5 point penalty.

A minimum of 10 cows must be used.

6. Cutting Horse

Note: Your work as a Turn Back is also judged, and the scores are added for a result.

The back fence should be designated by the judge and agreed by the majority before the class starts.

Credit should be given for the following:

1. Each horse is required to enter the herd deep enough to show the ability to make a cut and must do this quietly with very little disturbance to the herd or to the one brought out. One such deep cut will satisfy the requirement of this rule.

2. When an animal is cut from the herd it is more desirable that it be taken towards the centre of the arena. The horse should drive the cut sufficient distance to ensure that the herd will not be disturbed by the work, thereby showing the ability to drive a cow.

3. Riding with a loose rein throughout the performance.

4. For setting up a cow and holding it in a working position in the centre of the arena.


Faults against the horse


Points penalised


Failing to satisfy rule 1, above.


3 points


Unnecessary roughness, such as a horse actually biting or pawing a cow.


3 points


A competitor may quit a cow without penalty when it is stopped or moving away from the back fence. Quitting under any other circumstances will be penalised.           


3 points


If the cutting horse or its rider creates a disturbance throughout his working time it will be penalised:




a. Any noise directed by the competitor towards the cattle.


2 points


b. Each time a horse runs into or scatters the herd.


2 points


Each time the back fence actually stops or turns a cow.


2 points


If at fault of the horse, additional cattle are picked up from the herd


2 points


Each time the horse goes past the cut to the degree it loses its working advantage. 


1 point


Each time it is reined or visibly cued in any way after leaving the herd. At the judges discretion this may be left to section 3.


1 point


If a cow gets back to the herd whilst being worked


5 points


Changing cow while still committed to one


5 points


If a horse quits a cow


5 points


If a horse clears the herd with two or more cows and fails to separate a single animal before quitting (but no penalty if time expires)


5 points


If a horse turns with its tail towards the cow being worked




Any competitor who allows the horse to quit working or leaves the arena before the time is up.




If any part of the competitor intentionally comes into contact with the cattle at any time.



Judging a novice cutting, points may be used as a guide only.  An overall impression may be more practical.

60 to 80, with 70 denoting an average, half points may be used.

Working time:
2½ minutes.  The class starts when the horses name is announced.


Credit should be given for the following:

1. Honesty and good sportsmanship, as you may be competing against the Cutting Horse.

2. Being in good control of herd while the cut is being made.

3. Riding with a loose rein throughout the performance.

4. Holding the cow in a working position in the centre of the arena.


Faults against the horse


Points penalised


Failing to follow a signal from the cutter.


3 points


Unnecessary roughness, biting or pawing a cow.


3 points


Any noise directed by the Turn Back toward the cattle.           


2 points


Each time a Turn Back is out of position to the degree it loses its working advantage.


1 point


If a cow gets back to the Herd through the fault of the Turn Back.


5 points


If a horse quits a cow. 


5 points


Any competitor who allows the Horse to quit working or leaves the arena before time is up.




If any part of the competitor intentionally comes into contact with the cattle at any time.



60 to 80, with 70 denoting an average.

7. Working Cow Horse

BRCA pattern no. 1

Both the cattle part of this event and the reining part are mandatory.  Scoring will be on the basis of 60 to 80, with 70 denoting the average performance.  The same basis of scoring shall apply to the reined work and cow work.  Fall of horse and/or rider while being shown either in the cow work or the reined work shall not eliminate the entry. 

The following characteristics are considered as faults:-
  1. Switching tail.
  2. Exaggerated opening of the mouth.
  3. Hard or heavy mouth.
  4. Nervous throwing of the head.
  5. Lugging on the bridle.
  6. Halting or hesitation while being shown, particularly when being run out, anticipation of being set up, which is characteristic of an over trained horse.
  7. Losing a cow or being unable to finish a pattern because of a bad cow. The competitor should be penalised at the judge's discretion.
The characteristics of a good working cow horse are:-
  1. Good manners.
  2. Horse should be keen, shifty, smooth, and have his feet under him at all times, especially when stopping.
  3. Head should be maintained in its natural position.
  4. Horse should be able to work at a reasonable speed and still be under the control of the competitor.
  5. Credit should be given for the horse showing initiative and cow sense.
7.1. Reining Section

The competitor will walk to the judge for inspection, then make their way to the end of the arena.  From there they will begin their run up the length of the arena close to the rail or wall, stop at least 20ft. from the end, settle and then pivot at least twice in each direction with no hesitation, then roll back towards the rail and run down the length of the arena, stop 20ft. from the end and roll back with no hesitation towards the rail, run up past the centre, stop and back-up at least 10ft.  Turn toward the centre of the arena and begin a large fast figure eight to the right, changing leads at the centre.  Complete the figure eight with a final lead change.

Working Cow Reining

7.2. Cattle Work
The cattle work shall be as follows:-
  1. One animal shall be turned into the arena and the competitor shall drive the cow away and hold it long enough to indicate to the judge that the horse is watching the cow.

  2. The competitor shall attempt to turn the cow at least once each way against the fence or wall.

  3. The cow shall be taken towards the centre of the arena and the cow must complete a circle in each direction. Return the cow to the pen, before leaving the arena.

  4. The cattle work must be completed within 2 minutes.

  5. At the judge’s discretion a re-run may be given if the cow being worked leaves the arena.

8. Team Sorting


Ten cows are need for this class, clearly numbered on their backs 0 - 9.


There are three competitors in each team, and each must draw for a start number.  (For example - if you draw a 6, the team must first cut out cow number 6 from the herd and drive it across the score line and hold it there, then one at a time, cow number 7 then 8, 9, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).  Any cows getting back to the herd must be cut again, in order, before carrying on; any cow crossing the line out of order must be cut back before carrying on.

The fastest time wins.

Team Sorting

Time limit 4 minutes.

9. Dummy Calf Roping

1. Starting before the dummy gets to the start markers incurs a 5 second penalty.
2. The competitor must stay on the outside of the dummy calf.
3. The horse must not get in front of the dummy calf.  This will result in disqualification.
4. Once the dummy calf passes the end marker, the throw is over.
5. No hard and fast ropes.

Dummy Calf Roping

10. Breakaway Roping

This is a timed event with a one-minute time limit.
  1. Horse must start from behind a barrier.  A 10-second penalty will be added to the time for breaking the barrier.

  2. One rope is to be tied to the saddle horn by a heavy string, in such a manner as to allow the rope to be released from the horn when the calf reaches the end of the rope.  A visible cloth or flag must be attached to the end of the rope tied to the horn to make it easier for the flagger to see it break free.  Alternatively, a break-away honda may be used.

  3. The rope may not pass through bridle, tie-down, neck rope or any other device.

  4. The competitor shall not attempt to rope the animal until the barrier flag has been dropped.  Any attempt by a competitor to position his horse behind the barrier, enabling the competitor to rope the calf without leaving the barrier or box, shall be considered a disqualification.

  5. Time will be called from drop of flag at barrier to the break of rope string from the saddle horn, or honda breakaway.

  6. A legal catch is a clean bell collar loop that causes the string to break away from the saddle horn, or honda breakaway.  A bell collar catch is defined as the loop passing over the head of the calf, ahead of the tail and no feet or legs in the loop.

  7. Roping the calf without releasing the loop from the hand is not permitted.

  8. A competitor who breaks the rope from the horn by hand or touches the rope or string after the catch is made, shall receive no time.

  9. If the rope dallies, or will not break free when the calf reaches the end of it, the competitor shall receive no time.

  10. A judge may, at his discretion, use the ring steward, other show officials or approved BRCA judges to assist as barrier judges, and to help determine legal catches or any rule infractions.

  11. It is recommended that whenever possible, that the judge be on horseback and flag the class.




All material Copyright ©British Rodeo Cowboys Association 2012