Mutton Busting is an event held at rodeos, similar to Bull Riding, in which children ride sheep. In this event, a sheep is held still by an adult or in a small chute, while the child takes a riding position on the sheep. Once the child is atop the sheep, it is released and will generally start to run in an attempt to make the child fall off. Prizes or ribbons are often given to the children that can stay on the longest.
Most of the children that participate in this event are knocked off in less than 8 seconds. Age, height and weight restrictions on the participants are placed to prevent injury to the sheep. Inmost cases, children are required to wear helmets to prevent injury, and parents are asked to sign a waiver, to protect the business operator from legal action in the event of an injury.
The practice has been documented as having been introduced to the National Western Stock Show, at least by the 1980s, when an event was sponsored by Nancy Stockdale Cervi, a former rodeo queen. At this event, children ages five to seven who weighed less than 55 pounds could apply and seven contestants were selected to each ride a sheep for six seconds.