Rodeo Terminology in the Navajo Language – Video

Rodeo, or known as Ahóóhai in the Navajo language, is a very popular sport on the Navajo reservation. Since many Navajos have cattle, it’s not suprising that Navajos undertaken this competitive sports event. This video basically covers the names of the events in Navajo, both timed and rough stock events. This video also covers the names of key individuals involved in a rodeo, for example:

Akalii: Cowboy:
Dóola Bil Naalgeedígíí: Bull Rider
Hastiin Lá At’ínígíí: Rodeo Clown
Bil Nída’algeedgo Nídayiiláhígíí: Pick-Up Man


The term “rodeo” in Navajo comes from the word “Naa’ahóóhai,” which means “chicken” in Navajo. Rodeos on the reservation initiated around a “chicken-pull.” Over time, this word got shortened to “ahóóhai,” and rather than being named after chicken pulls it became the term for “rodeos” as rodeos got popular on the reservation. Also, some people will use the term “Naa’ahóóhai” or “Ahóóhai” for agricultural shows; tribal, county, or state fairs.

The names of the rodeo events in Navajo:

Líí’ T’áá Dilkoohgo Naalgeedígíí: Bare Back

The breakdown:

Líí’: horse
T’áá Dilkoohgo: in a smooth manner (i.e. without a saddle)
Naalgeedígíí: the one that is bucking

Líí’ Bik’ídahaznilgo Naalgeedígíí: Saddle Bronc

The breakdown:

Líí’: horse
Bik’ídahaznilgo: things are set on it (i.e. it is saddled)
Naalgeedígíí: the one that is bucking

Béégashii Alts’áá’ Wódleehígíí: Team Roping

The breakdown:

Béégashii: cow
Alts’áá’: on each side
Wódleehígíí: the one where it is roped

Tóshjeeh BinaagoL?íí’ Náádadiilwo’ígíí: Barrel Racing

The breakdown:

Tóshjeeh: barrel/water container
Binaago: around it
Líí’: horse(s)
Náádadiilwo’ígíí: the one where they run around

Béégashii Yáázh Wódleehígíí: Calf Roping

The breakdown:

Béégashii: cow
Yáázh: the little one (i.e.calf)
Wódleehígíí: the one that is roped

Béégashii Bik’os Náágisgo Nehe’nílígíí: Steer Wrestling

The breakdown:

Béégashii: cow
Bik’os: it’s neck
Náágisgo: it is turned
Nehe’ní?ígíí: the one that is taken down

Dóola Naalgeedígíí: Bull Riding

The breakdown:

Dóola: bull
Naalgeedígíí: the one that is bucking

Béégashii Yáázh T’óó Yisdlohígíí: Ladies’ Break-Away

The breakdown:

Béégashii: cow
Yáázh: the little one (i.e. calf)
T’óó: merely
Yisdlohígíí: it is roped

Since rodeos have become a key fixture in Navajo culture, I had to include this video in my series of Navajo language terminology! Enjoy, and hopefully if you hear these terms at a rodeo on the reservation, you won’t be too confused anymore! 🙂

This video was filmed at Double “R” Ranch, in Round Rock, AZ

Source: Daybreak Warrior (Terry Teller)


  1. Including the language on your website is excellent. I have a dear friend who is Navajo and speaks fluently. I love to inject little phrases into my exchange of emails – he likes that.

    I think it would be helpful to include a phonetic guide with the words in how to pronounce them. I understand that info is on the video, but it would be helpful to see that in writing near the word and definition. I have created my own little Navajo lexicon to which I refer and pull words and phrases. I’d like to also include how to say them so I don’t forget.

    And, I LOVE all the photos. You have an engaging, informational site. Great job!