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Denver takes stock.

From livestock to a rodeo, hunter and jumper competitions to an art sale, the West's biggest stock show is one bull market

Only female ducks quack. A pig is called a hog after it hits 126 pounds. Lettuce can be lethal to rabbits because they can't pass gas. And that's just some of the cool stuff visitors are learning on a barn tour that's part of Denver's big National Western Stock Show, Rodeo & Horse Show.

For travelers passing through Denver (say, on their way to Rockies ski slopes) or locals tired of watching football, a visit to the stock show is a great winter escape. And a tour is a sensible way to make introductions with this giant event - it sprawls over stockyards, a stadium, a coliseum, two arenas, and a horse show center.

Tour guide and master of farm trivia Sondra Wallace has the kids absolutely riveted. "How many teeth does a rabbit have?" one child asks. Wallace knows (32). She then leads the tour from the small animal pens down into cattle barns where breeds bear such exotic names as Gelbvieh, Tarentaise, and Maine-Anjou. Two-thousand-pound bulls are primped like beauty contestants - well, sort of: They're scrubbed, blow-dried, and brushed endlessly by owners prepping them for their ribbon walk. The tour group titters at Wallace's careful explanation of the characteristics the judges will be looking for in the cattle ("big butts," in particular, catches the group's collective attention). After all, most of these folks are city slickers - they think cattle are treated along the lines of the song from Rawhide: "Don't try to understand 'em/just rope 'em, pull and brand 'em." Which is why the barn tours are so necessary, and so popular.

In 1906, when the National Western began, they didn't need tours like this - most of the attendees pretty well knew their way around the barn. Then the show consisted mostly of livestock judging and sales with a few horse show events thrown in for fun. Today it's the country's largest livestock event and rodeo, but there's even more to it than that. The 94th annual show will spread over 16 days and include a bison show, Children's Ranchland (a petting zoo), and a Western art show and sale.

Once you're inside, you can watch a lot of great events for free, like the stock dogs competition and the sheep-shearing contest (a speedy event that takes more out of the sweating shearer than the animal, who sits quietly on his haunches as if getting a haircut). For horse lovers, there are hunter and jumper competitions. And all around, booths offer everything from Resistol hats and handmade saddles to horse trailers.

For many, the National Western highlights are the special ticketed events like Wild West Show (January 15-16), the Mexican rodeos (January 8-9), and An Evening of Dancing Horses (January 19-20).

Or maybe you're just into fascinating farm facts - whatever your interest, rest assured: Denver's stock show won't give you a bum steer.

RELATED ARTICLE: Denver stock show travel planner

WHERE: Off Interstate 70; exit at Brighton Blvd. or Washington St.

WHEN: January 8-23. Grounds open 8 A.M. - 9 P.M. daily.

COST: $5. Tickets to special events (Wild West Show, some horse shows) $8-$30 including grounds admission. Parking $4-$7.

CONTACT: (303) 295-1660.

Stock show guide

Check the Denver Post during the National Western - it runs a stock show section explaining the finer points of rodeo events like bronc riding. ITINERARY: Start at Expo Hall and the red booth where free barn tours leave every 15 minutes daily.

The best time to go is in the morning when the animals (and the guides) are fresh and lively. Upstairs is Children's Ranchland, where kids can reach out and touch some baby animals.

For the real business of the stock show, check out the action and the fast talking in the auction arenas (see the schedule for times). Virtually all the horse shows are at the Events Center, and if you go early, you can get a close look at the equine performers warming up in the paddock.

Downtown events

For all its modern sophistication, Denver still loves its cowboys and celebrates the annual return of the stock show with downtown events like a Western fashion show and the stock show parade (January 11), which starts near Union Station and travels down 17th St. For more, call the Downtown Denver hotline at (303) 478-7878.
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Title Annotation:National Western Stock Show, Rodeo and Horse Show 1999
Author:Finnegan, Lora J.
Publication:Sunset
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U8CO
Date:Dec 1, 1999
Words:738
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