Earl Thode, admittedly the best of the early-day saddle bronc riders who used the fore-and-aft, full-stroke spurring style now required by saddle bronc riding rules, may well prove to be the event’s best ever. He won the first ever world saddle bronc riding title in 1929. Born Dec. 7, 1900, he grew up on a ranch in South Dakota and entered his first rodeo at White River when he was 20 years old. He competed in local rodeos on weekends for seven more years before switching to the professional circuit as a saddle bronc rider and steer wrestler. In 1927, he won his first saddle bronc riding championship at Cheyenne Frontier Days and went on to win three more, a record at the time. At age 37, he won the saddle bronc riding title at the Calgary Stampede and then retired. He drowned on May 18, 1964, when his boat overturned while he was fishing on a lake in Arizona.
World championship: 3 (all-around, 1929; saddle bronc 1929, 1931)
Born December 7, 1900 in Belvidere, South Dakota
Died May 18, 1964 in Vernon, Arizona