Bull riding began in Mexico and originated as an opportunity for equestrians and ranchers to demonstrate their riding skills. Equestrian and ranching skills are referred to as charreadas and allow ranch hands and riders to engage in competition to show off mastery of certain skills and riding techniques. The earliest form of bull riding emerged during the 16th century in a contest called a jaripeo and originated as a type of bull fighting.
During the earliest tournaments, participants in Mexican bull riding competitions rode for long periods of time, and the end goal was to ride bulls to the point of extreme exhaustion, which typically ended in their death. By the 19th century, however, competitions shifted to human performance, and the winners of bull riding competitions were the riders who stayed on their mounts the longest before being bucked off. Although bull riding competitions emerged in Mexico, they quickly spread throughout central America and gained popularity in the southwest region of the United States, particularly in Texas and California. The introduction of bull riding allowed ranchers in the United States a chance to learn techniques in riding and bull handling from Mexican masters. As the popularity of bull riding competitions grew, the events expanded beyond just riding events and included food, music and celebration.