How 'mutton bustin' (sticking your pre-school child on a 180lb sheep) is taking hold in the U.S.

By Mailonline Reporter

A 'mutton bustin' girl clings on for dear life while riding a sheep at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, California. The children must be under the age of six and weigh no more than 60lb

Holding on for dear life to their wooly steeds, these wild west kids are getting in on some rodeo action by taking part in America's burgeoning 'Mutton Bustin' scene.

Wearing an ice hockey helmet, face guard and a child sized protective vest, any young bronco under the age of six and weighing no more than 60lb can take part.

The aim of the game is to hold onto the 180lb Cross Colombian ewes for up to six seconds as they are released from a gate into the 150ft long and 50ft wide run.

Most fall off after a second or so, but for those who can ride out the rough and tumble a place awaits at the Mutton Bustin world championships being held this October in Fresno, California and a £3, 200 prize.

"I have been doing this with my company Wool Warriors for 25 years," said rodeo entrepreneur Tommy G, who runs his sheep riding business out of Pueblo, Colorado.

"We own around 500 sheep and we take around 75 to around 14 fairs across the USA for the mutton bustin events.

"That way we ensure that they are rotated and properly rested and in no way over worked.

I'm slipping... This unfortunate rider's grip is loosened by the sheep at a fair in Missouri

Ouch, that's going to hurt. The rider is up-ended as the sheep veers off to the right

"They are more than capable of carrying a small child on their back and the Houston Livestock Board gave us the once over for safety in 2008 and declared that skateboarding or roller blading was more dangerous for the kids than this."

Originally starting as a filler during proper rodeo events in America, Tommy, 44, quickly so the potential for growth in riding sheep.

"The mutton bustin was done as a half time entertainment and always I would see 40 or 50 kids disappointed that they had missed their turn," explained Tommy.

"So, by setting up Wool Warriors and having our own purpose built track and seating capabilities lets us entertain every child who wants to have a go."

His legs firmly tucked in under the sheep, this boy holds on for dear life as he rides a sheep at the Ventura County Fair in California. Originally starting as a filler during proper rodeo event, organisers soon saw the potential for growth in riding sheep

Charging around £8 for the pleasure of riding a put upon ewe, Tommy estimates that during their countrywide tours around 8,000 kids get a chance to act out as their rodeo heroes.

"Safety is the key," said Tommy.

"They are padded and their head is protected. No child is forced to do it if they change their mind.

"And in Fresno this year we will be hosting the mutton bustin world championship.

"The winners of the 'Golden Buckle', from each of the 14 previous fairs are invited to play off against each other.

"We are expecting 300 kids and their families to arrive and the first prize is a £3,200 saving bond for the winner."

source: dailymail