10 August 2023

The Cootamundra Cat, Australia's oldest competitive cowboy returns to Mount Isa

| Edwina Mason
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Nonagenerian Cootamundra cowboy Bob Holder

Nonagenarian Cootamundra cowboy Bob Holder is the oldest competitive cowboy in the world, and he’s travelled 2000 kilometres with his daughter Kerrie to compete in this weekend’s world-famous Mount Isa Mines Rodeo. Image: Stephen Mowbray.

The sheer number of entries might be another one for the record books as the first chutes open at the world-famous Mount Isa Mines Rodeo this weekend, but nothing can beat Cootamundra’s own Bob Holder’s record.

92-year-old Bob – officially the world’s oldest competitive cowboy – is back in the saddle again and one of some 750 world-class competitors competing for Australia’s largest rodeo prize pool of more than $270,000.

After a year of tricky health – the return of the Australian Professional Rodeo Association (APRA) Hall of Famer, dubbed “Sir Bob”, is one of the highlights on the four-day event program.

Bob has made the 2000-kilometre journey north to compete in two events, one of which is set to make international rodeo history.

His travelling buddy for the 24-hour trip (and pretty much all trips) is his daughter, Kerrie Holder, who is well known on the APRA circuit as a national champion barrel racer.

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This year Bob, in his 77th year of competition, is teaming up for the Ariat Australia Open Team Roping with another local lad in 50-year-old Stockinbingal cowboy Glen Blackney.

Then on Sunday – around 11 am – he’ll rope in a new heeler in the form of two-time Australian bull ride champion – 56-year-old stock contractor Darren Brandenburg in the Over 55s Team Roping.

The team roping event features a two-rider team, where the steer is given a head start out of the gates.

The first rider, known as the header, ropes the steer around the neck, head or horns before the heeler moves in to rope the hind legs.

The rope is then wrapped around the saddle horn.

Once secured, the time is recorded when both horses are facing each other with no slack in the rope.

Winning times are around eight seconds, but improper catches result in disqualification and five-second penalties are incurred if just one leg is roped.

Bob – also known as the Cootamundra Cat – has been in the saddle for most of his life, starting out on the road droving with his father.

After a formal education he went on to become a successful real estate agent in Cootamundra, and after retiring nine years ago, still lives in the district.

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But rodeos have always been in his blood, from the first time he entered a competition as a novice, at age 14, at the Tumut rodeo where he won the bronc ride.

In the years following he continued to notch up the buckles in various competitions including bareback and bullock riding.

But once upon a time, he would compete eight times a day in every event on the rodeo roster.

In 1959 he was invited to appear on the American rodeo circuit, on a tour that culminated in a 17-night rodeo at Madison Square Garden, one of the first Australian cowboys to be so honoured.

A lung infection in 2022 is about the only thing that has unseated him thoughout his championship career, but this year he has seen a return to form.

With crowd expectations around 40,000 he can expect to get a huge welcome, not only for being one of the greatest cowboys to have ever competed in the rodeo arena in this country, but, say organisers, for being one of the kindest, finest gentlemen you’ll ever cross paths with.

Mount Isa Rodeo runs from August 10 until August 13 at the Mount Isa Rodeo Ground, Queensland. Tickets and more information about the event can be found on the Mount Isa Rodeo website.

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