Clown Bert Davis, his dogs a hit at Steamboat rodeo |

Clown Bert Davis, his dogs a hit at Steamboat rodeo

— No doubt, skill matters plenty in rodeo. A little bit of luck never hurts, either.

There may be nothing in the world of cowboys and cowgirls as valuable as a good animal, however, and although he doesn't compete, that fact certainly isn't lost on Bert Davis, the Texan who's set down in Steamboat Springs this weekend as the clown and specialty act at the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series.

Davis got into the business at age 16, and his work as a barrel man and a clown has taken him and his wife, Frannie, to 44 states and five Canadian provinces. Along the way, he said, he's relied on talented animals of nearly every sort, from trick horses to trick goats.

It's been dogs since 1995, though, and on Friday night, his troupe of nearly a dozen furry friends had children on their tiptoes, pressing against the fences to soak up every second of his act.

"Two or three decades ago, a lot of people owned horses," Davis said. "A lot of people don't own horses anymore, but they do own dogs, and people can relate to that. They see what I can get a dog to do out in that ring, and they go, 'Holy cow!'"

Davis said he was near his peak in rodeo popularity about a decade ago, thanks in large part to an amazing dog named Kelsey. Kelsey eventually died, and several other dogs he performed with at that time also passed away.

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In 2005, he and his wife opted to restart their pack, and they built their current show from scratch, fighting their way back into the rodeo clowning circuit.

Now, he has nine pooches who roll through his two nightly routines, leaping through hoops, over one another and often into his arms.

"I started with rodeos in 1973,” Davis said. “I was told by legendary rodeo clown Wilbur Plaugher, 'Do things with kids or animals, and they'll love you forever.'”

Davis made his Steamboat Springs debut Friday night. He'll perform again at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and he's already booked for two weekends next summer.

He's just one of several big acts the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series has on tap in coming weeks. Troy "Wild Child" Lerwill takes to the center of the ring for two performances next weekend. A big name in the industry, he's also become a Steamboat Springs favorite, making repeated stops in town.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email

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