Mutton Busting: Child and Animal Abuse?

By Lisa Spector, Canine Music Expert, Juilliard Graduate, and co-creator of Through a Dog’s Ear.

I almost couldn’t believe what I was reading and had to check twice for the date in the New York Times article. It’s 2011 and we are teaching our children to compete for prizes by riding sheep that they see as their enemy? Honestly? It appears that a new sport called Mutton Busting is gaining popularity all over the United States, particularly in suburban neighborhoods.

The goal is for the child to stay on the sheep as long as possible, assimilating a rodeo experience. Some parents think it’s just like a child getting hurt in a baseball or football game when they fall off the sheep and that it builds character, others think it’s child abuse. Personally, I think it’s child abuse and simultaneous animal abuse and it’s a horrendous sport to teach our children. In many cases, crying children are placed onto bleating sheep and encouraged by their parents to hold on to the sheep so they can win a prize. It’s not unusual that human bones are broken and faces are scraped while sheep spirits are also shattered, being forced to do something they don’t do naturally. In the meantime, kids are discouraged when they fall instantly and don’t win, receive loud cheers and applause from the spectators when they do win, and keep coming back for more.

The New York Times article interviewed several youngsters. Logan, 6, competed last year and returned to the fair “to rematch my enemy,” he said. “The sheep.” And two foot youngster Lachlan Murphy had a winning ride in Aurora, Colorado, even though his sheep scraped him off on the arena’s metal fence. He planned to compete again in the weekend championship. “It’s just a small sheep,” he said, clutching his prize. “I just care that I won.”

This video shows several youngsters mutton busting. Does this look like fun to you? Is it something you would cheer? Or do you think it’s child abuse? Animal abuse? Thanks for voting and  sharing your thoughts in a comment below.

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Cassee B.
Cassidy Abshire5 years ago

There is no way this is animal abuse or child abuse! I grew up in Longmont, Colorado, 30 miles north of Denver, home to the National Western Stock Show. I participated in mutton busting when I was child, and I cared for the sheep. This is way mutton busting isn't abuse:

1. The sheep are fed and kept in the best buildings for the rodeo. The sheep are cared for by their owners, who sell them out to people to raise. Do you think the owners would jeopradize their profits on the sheep by volunteering their sheep for this sport? Absolutely not.

2. The owners and breeders of these sheep do not make any profit off this sport, so they have nothing to gain by this.

3. According to regulations, the children are not allowed to ride the sheep if they are over 55 pounds. The sheep are more than strong enough to carry these children. Otherwise people in other countries wouldn't use these animals to haul goods over dozens of miles to and from the market. Do you get what I'm saying?

4. The children may or may not get a prize for staying on the sheep the longest. Some rodeos do, some don't. They don't tell the kids, so they don't go into the rodeo for a prize.

5. The children do not see the sheep as their "enemy". That's so far off. As a matter of fact, when I worked and participated in this sport, the children would most likely end up adopting the sheep to keep as family pets after the rodeo. The kids, including myelf, love the sheep. We would never even think to harm them!

Belinda Mirage
Belinda Mirage6 years ago

Is this any more dangerous than any other childhood sport? Looks like fun to me.

Christina B.
Christina B6 years ago

I think this is cruel to both kids and animals. :(

Diane m.
Diane M6 years ago

This is another sad sad way for some "one" person to make money off of animal and stupid people. Yeah I think its sick why must animals always have to pay for stupid people? Toddlers are not at fault ofcoarse its the toddlers dumb parents. Why do you think this is fun and builds character ?? I sure can't see it.

Johanna L.
Johanna L.6 years ago

Honestly as a child I was allowed to play with sheep and be in mutton busting too. It boosted my ego! It’s not sick! You know why?, because the animal is not being harmed. Occasionally a sheep will fall but that is due to the uneven ground. Children wouldn't beg their parents to ride a sheep if they didn’t love doing it. Burses, scrapes and bloody noses are all part of growing up. It is less dangerous then a child riding without a seatbelt on or with no car seat for them.

I love how people judge clearly when the bible says not to judge!!!!

Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado6 years ago


Irene S.
Irene S6 years ago

This is sick!!!

From the NY Times article:
“I think it builds character,” said Meredith Templin, a registered nurse whose son, J. T., 6, had begged to compete again after finishing second out of about 27 children at last year’s Arapahoe fair. She lamented “this age where we sanitize our kids’ hands every 30 seconds.”

“I think that same mentality of parents being overprotective is the same as not wanting them to experience failure,” she said.

Mutton busting IS NOT the only way to boost your kid's ego! What makes it even worse is that when this was a sport for rural children they knew the sheep and were more likely to respect them. Suburban kids have probably never seen a sheep before and now they'll probably grow up thinking all animals are their "enemy"!!!

Svetlana B.
Svetlana B6 years ago

I do not like this at all. An animal can never be an enemy, we humans invented hostile behavior. I feel equally sorry for these kids as for these sheep. Mutton Busting is abusive to children and animals.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G6 years ago

Mutton busting... are you for real? SICK!

Regina P.
Regina P6 years ago

This people are nuts. Thank you.