However, any way you look at it, the roping and bulldogging events are cruel. They do NOT simulate actual work on the range in the good ol' cowboy heritage days, when the goal was not speed but efficient, stress-free, easy work on the cattle. Jerking a young calf to the ground from a dead run is appalling, and even at some of the bigger pro rodeos, you will see very rough handling of the horned stock (out of view of the spectators, of course). Bulldogging isn't a whole lot better, and it's got to be extremely stressful for the steer. The same thing with team roping. The way those cattle are "trained" to run isn't exactly humane, either....
At some of the real, good ranch rodeos, they practice a style of roping that is far more realistic for a practical working environment, and this shows a far more useful (if less flashy/impressive) skill as well as being far kinder to the cattle.
I will agree with you on the bulldogging, I don't like that either just because I don't see the point of it. Why jump off a perfectly good horse to wrestle with a steer?
However, I'm not sure where you're getting your idea behind the roping events having no connection to actual ranch work. Roping (especially team roping and even tie-down roping and steer tripping) is one of the few events that are commonly done on ranches every day, past and present.
Even in ranch roping, speed is necessary. Not every cow is just going to stand there calmly and wait for you to drape the rope around it's horns/neck or patiently wait for you to set up a good heel loop and then obediently walk forward into it. Even old broke cattle will run when you start to swing your rope and half the cattle on ranches these days have been "farmerized" to the point where they will commonly run when they see a horse
, let alone waiting for you to take your rope down. The last thing a ranch hand wants to do is chase a sick or injured cow for a half mile before they rope it just so it won't be running quite so hard when it hits the end of the rope.
Sometimes, the work on ranches is done by a single cowboy and he has to get...inventive
with ways to get everything from a newborn calf to a 2000 pound bull roped and tied down for doctoring.
Depending on who you ask and where they're at, methods can range from wrapping the rope around a tree to choking them down to tripping them to wrapping their back feet in the same rope that's around their neck (a trick my brother, a lifetime ranch hand, taught me), then trying to hustle and get them tied down so that you can get your rope off before they choke to death. All the time, hoping that your horse (who you left out there ground tied at the end of the rope) will keep the rope tight so the momma cow or bull can't get up and demolish you before you get them secured or go back up the rope after your horse and injure him.
Ranch work isn't all butterflies and rainbows either. Sometimes things don't go exactly right and the cow or a horse pays the ultimate price, there are just no spectators or camera crews there to document it all.