History of Rodeo Clowns

2 rodeo clowns in an arena distracting a bull.

It isn’t much of a rodeo without seeing a barrelmen or clown in a crazy costume with a face full of makeup putting on a funny rodeo clown act. Rodeo clowns play a big role in a rodeo and have been around since the early 1900s when the sport was first adopted. We asked our cowboys at our online western wear store to explain the history of rodeo clowns the role rodeo clowns play in the big event. 

Rodeo Clowns, Bullfighters, & Barrelmen

A rodeo clown or bullfighter is a performer who entertains the crowd with funny skits and gags in competitive bull riding competitions. The role of a rodeo clown evolved over the years as they started to also protect athletes that were thrown off the bulls, thus combining the duties of bullfighting and entertaining.

When rodeos began using short-tempered Brahma bulls in the 1920s, it was up to the rodeo clown to distract the bull and lure them away from fallen bull riders. A fallen bull rider is at great risk of serious injury, so the rodeo clown had to distract the bull to ensure the bullfighter is able to exit the arena safely. The use of barrels as a form of protection was introduced when Jasbo Fulkerson began including them in his act as a prop, giving the name barrelmen to rodeo performers. 

Today, the history of the rodeo clown has changed, splitting the job of the rodeo clown into two separate occupations. Bullfighters these days protect the riders from the bull while the rodeo clowns or barrelmen provide entertainment and comedy. Rodeo clown history has changed over the years, but the job of a rodeo clown is just as important as ever. They travel all over the country, performing funny rodeo clown acts in the best clown cowboy costumes with a face full of crazy rodeo clown makeup. 

What Is the Role of a Barrelmen in a Rodeo?

The sole purpose of the barrelmen is to entertain the crowd during slower moments in the rodeo event. This can occur while a rider is exiting the area, a fallen fence is being fixed, or while an injured rodeo athlete is receiving assistance in the arena.  At times, barrelmen are often seen tag-teaming with bullfighters to distract the bulls after a ride. Part of the role of a barrelmen in a rodeo is to allow each cowboy to exit the arena safely, while the bull and the audience are distracted by their rodeo clown skits and acts. 

As the need for audience entertainment grew in the rodeo industry, more and more barrelmen were needed to keep the crowd intrigued between events or if the competition was delayed. Otherwise, the crowds would leave the event when it started to lag. Today, rodeo clowns and barrelmen can be found dressing up in baggy clothes, putting together comedic acts, and protecting fallen cowboys at rodeos all over the United States.  

Who Was the First Rodeo Clown? 

In the sport of bull riding, the most famous rodeo clown and the first rodeo barrel man was a gentleman known as Flint Rasmussen. He grew up surrounded by rodeo culture at home and in the community because his father was a rodeo announcer. Flint Rasmussen originally worked as a rodeo clown at age 19 to help him with college expenses, but soon fell in love with entertaining an arena filled with people. Flint was a professional rodeo clown for 30 successful years and was inducted into the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame (ERHOF) in August 2019.1

Are You Rodeo Ready? 

At Sheplers, we love going to the best rodeos in the USA and witnessing incredible bullfighters, barrelmen, and rodeo clowns. If you are planning on attending a rodeo, make sure you are rodeo ready by visiting our western wear store. We have everything you need to dress up for the rodeo this season, from the best cowboy boots to western-style clothing for everyone in the family!  

Be sure to check out our western home décor for beautiful country-inspired western bedding options and more!


  1. Daily Record – A Revolutionary Clown 

Additional Reading: 

The History of the Rodeo 

How to Choose the Right Cowboy Hat for Your Face

How to Shrink Cowboy Boots

American Denim vs Levi Jeans  

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