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Return to 1908

Famous Paniolo

Through the years, many paniolo proved themselves exceptional athletes, horse handlers and cattlemen. Three drew the attention of a wider audience when they competed in the 1908 Frontier Days celebration in Cheyenne, Wyoming, the top contest of the day. Eben "Rawhide Ben" Low, owner and manager of Pu`uwa`awa`a Ranch, attended Frontier Days in 1907 and knew his ranch hands could do better than the mainland cowboys. In 1908, he sent three of his top men - Ikua Purdy, Archie Ka`au`a (Eben's half-brother) and Jack Low (Eben's brother) - to the competition.

The paniolo made a colorful entrance in Cheyenne, wearing their vaquero-inspired chaps and hats with flower lei. They wowed the spectators with their performances too. In the World Championship finals, Ikua Purdy won the steer-roping contest in 56 seconds. Archie Ka`au`a came in second and Jack Low, despite suffering an asthma attack during the competition, placed sixth. Against the best American cowboys, Hawaii's paniolo proved their worth.

In 1999, Ikua Purdy was voted into the National Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame, the first Hawaiian ever to be nominated. That same year he was the first inductee to the Paniolo Hall of Fame established by the O`ahu Cattlemen's Association. In 2003, a large bronze statue of Purdy roping a steer was placed in Waimea town on the Big Island, erected by the Paniolo Preservation Society.


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