• CMTU History

Episode 21: Aloha Rodeo



When you think of the cowboy, what comes to mind? The long cattle drives of a Louis L'Amour novel? The shoot out at the O.K. Corral? Denim jeans, spurs, and a Stetson? The Marlboro Man?


My guest today shatters our preconceived notions of what a cowboy was and who he could be. Julian Smith is a journalist with a background in ecology who has written for several scientific publications including: Smithsonian, National Geographic, and and Wired Magazine. He joins me today from Oregon via Skype to discuss the book he co-authored with David Wolman, Aloha Rodeo: Three Hawaiian Cowboys, the World's Greatest Rodeo, and a Hidden History of the American West. Julian and I discuss the lengthy history of cattle herding in Hawaii that actually predates the famous cattle drives of the Great Plains, the dangers of cowboy life on a tropical island, how the sport of rodeo was born in America, and the three men who introduced the world to Hawaiian cowboy culture.




Key Points in Today's Podcast

Some of the major topics I discuss with Julian in this episode are:

  • How cattle first came to Hawaii

  • The specific dangers cowboys faced in Hawaii that made Texas cattle drives "tame" by comparison

  • How the sport of rodeo helped preserve cowboy culture in America

  • The three Hawaiian cowboys who put their home, newly added to the United States, on the map in the sport


For the Ever Curious

If you are interested in learning more about the paniolos or the authors of Aloha Rodeo, Julian Smith and David Wolman, consider checking out these resources:


Books by Julian Smith

Books by David Wolman


Photos & Video



  1. Ikea Purdy ropes a steer at the Frontier Days Rodeo in 1908

  2. Ikea Purdy, Jack Low, and Archie K'au'a

  3. The Ikua Purdy Monument, Waimea, Hawaii


Julian Smith's Website - Julian's website offers more information about himself and his books as well as links to several of his recent nationally published articles related to science, travel, and ecological preservation.


David Wolman's Website - David's website provides a biography, information about his books and articles, and a list of his numerous speaking engagements.


Paniolo Preservation Society - Located in Waimea, Hawaii, the Paniolo Preservation Society works to increase public awareness of the historical, present-day and future significance of Hawaiʻi’s ranching industry with an emphasis on the roles, traditions, and contributions of the paniolo. The Society also runs the Paniolo Heritage Center.


Frontier Days Rodeo - The same rodeo that the paniolos attended in 1908 is still in existence! Occurring every year in July, the week-long rodeo features numerous modern and historic events, including steer wrestling and bronco busting.



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