Giodone explained that the sheep he leases for his events -- all ewes -- are bred for meat and wool, which makes them stronger and hardier than other breeds. And according to Giodone, they're less likely to get injured when carrying anxious children on their backs, although most mutton busting events enforce a strict weight limit. Rodeo Houston, for example -- one of the largest mutton busting events in the country -- only allows children aged five or six who are between 35 and 55 pounds to ride.
According to Glennon Mays, a clinical associate professor specializing in livestock at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine, weight limits should, in theory, protect mutton busting sheep from harm -- so long as the limits are as strictly enforced as rodeo organizers claim they are. "If an object or person were excessively heavy and were to be placed on the animal's back, could it injure, or produce soreness or some musculoskeletal problem?" Mays posited. "It's certainly possible."