With the sound of a whistle, every heart in Reliant Stadium leaps along with those hard-running ponies! Known for its tight turns at fast speeds, the chuck wagon races are a favorite at RodeoHouston.
Often called the “mess wagon,” the chuck wagon, so called because it carried the “chuck” — spuds, flour, beans and coffee — was a traveling cafeteria for cowboys on the range in the days of the Old West. Invented by pioneer rancher Charles Goodnight, the chuck wagon was the heart of any outfit. This canvas-topped wagon was more than just a place to eat; it was the locker room, a post office and a social club.
The camp cook was always the first to strike out toward the next stop. When traveling back and forth became boring and tedious, the rugged cowboys decided to race their wagons. The last to arrive was to pay for the first round at the town saloon — perhaps the real reason for organizing this rangeland derby. Traveling was more than just a journey; it was now a competition between the chuck wagon drivers.
Today, these chuck wagons race for entertainment. Unwritten rules require the lead driver to move his team to the outside portion of the track, giving up the inside lane so other teams can catch up. Pulled by specially bred teams of ponies, these lightweight chuck wagons perform in ways the ranch wagon never could.
Now one of the most popular events at the Rodeo, the miniature chuck wagon races feature teams racing up to 30 miles an hour, sometimes on two wheels, around the Reliant Stadium floor while the crowd of thousands cheer on their pick.