Broncos are, in modern terms, simply bucking horses. Derived from the Spanish language, the word broncos, which translates to mean rough or surly, was originally used to described wild or untrained horses that were prone to bucking. Today, broncos are the bucking horses used in rodeo events, which are actually trained domestic horses. Rather than calling the horses "broncos," the term broncs is more commonly used.
Bronc riding has been a popular rodeo event for years. There are two types of events that use bucking broncos – saddle and bareback bronc riding. Bareback bronc riding is widely accepted as the more difficult of the two. In either event, the cowboys aim to stay on their broncos, or broncs, for a full 8 seconds. The riders are scored on a scale of 0 to 50 and the horses are scored on the same scale. The wilder the horse appears to be, the more points the rider can score.
There are two different opinions regarding bronco riding. Rodeo supporters maintain that the broncos used in rodeo events are well cared for animals, raised for performing and breeding. Animal rights activists oppose rodeos because they believe that the broncos suffer abuse. Rodeo commissioners and proponents of the circuit staunchly deny that abuse occurs and that there are strict rules regarding the use of the animals.
Prior to the domestication of horses, broncos were simply wild horses. The mustangs that once roamed the plains of the western United States and Mexico were unpredictable. They were often captured and left to roam fenced corrals until they were mature enough to be broke in for riding. During breaking, a horse would buck, which is a natural physical reaction of horses for various reasons, and thus became known as "broncos" or "bucking broncos."
The domesticated horses kept today on cattle ranches, raised for the sport of riding, and used for racing are not trained to buck and in fact, bucking would be an undesirable behavior. However, rodeo horses are trained and encouraged to throw their riders, but can also be ridden normally.
The symbol of a mustang or bronco is associated with wild and free as well as fast and is found on various products as logos and as team mascots. The Ford Motor Company’s long-time best selling sports car, the Mustang, is one example and the NFL team the Denver Broncos is another.