Downed HorseThat didn’t take long. The annual Alberta Animal Abuse-a-thon known as the Calgary Stampede started just a few days ago, and already the brave cowboys and cowgirls in Canada have managed to kill four horses in a period of just over 24 hours. Is that some sort of record? While this year may have seen several horses killed in a very short period of time, so far 1986 still trumps 2010 for the greatest number of horse deaths. Twelve horses died during the 1986 Calgary Stampede.

Let’s review the carnage. According to CTV Calgary, one horse broke his shoulder competing in the chuckwagon event, causing such severe injuries he needed to be euthanized. Another horse died in a bronco riding event, when he broke his back bucking off a rider. One horse died of a heart attack while preparing for a chuckwagon run, and another died of a heart attack during a cattle penning competition. Note that two of the horses died in connection with chuckwagon racing, which has been called the Stampede’s deadliest event. It certainly has been this time around.

None of these deaths should come as a surprise. “There are animal deaths of one sort or another at the Stampede almost every year and the Stampede continues to make various excuses for these deaths, but it is part and parcel of what happens at rodeos,” says Peter Ficker of the Vancouver Humane Society. “There have been over 50 chuckwagon horses die since 1986 at the Stampede.”

One of those always ready to make excuses for animal deaths is Calgary Stampede mouthpiece Doug Fraser. In speaking about the four horses that were killed, Fraser had the gall to say, “We’ve had four incidents that are totally unrelated.” Unrelated, huh? I thought the deaths were “related” by the fact that all the horses were forced to participate in violent, dangerous rodeo events. Perhaps Doug Fraser needs a refresher course on cause and effect.

It’s scary to think the Calgary Stampede isn’t even half over. There are several more days in which animals can be brutalized, terrified, and perhaps killed. When asked about the four dead horses, Heather Anderson of the Daisy Foundation, a Calgary animal rights group, said, “It is horrific, and the fact that we still have quite a few days left [of the Stampede], it really makes me sad because there could be quite a few more deaths.”

Photo Credit: PETA