Cheyenne Frontier Days has received a lot of criticism from animal rights activists over the years. In fact, the treatment of animals at CFD has been a controversial issue for over a century.

In 1905, the Wyoming Humane Society succesfully lobbied CFD officials to call off the calf roping event and prevent riders from wearing spurs.

One contestant openly complained about the changes in the Denver Post, saying, "Riding a horse without spurs makes him about as active as an extinct volcano.”

The new rules weren't well-recieved by fans, either. The debate was so heated that CFD organizers even threatened to discontunue the event altogether. The uproar ultimately led to the formation of the Cheyenne Frontier Days Committee.

The controversy has resurfaced in recent years. In 2006, American Idol winner and outspoken animal rights activist Carrie Underwood cancelled her scheduled performance at CFD, citing "personal reasons". Two years later, another popular band, Matchbox 20, withdrew from their concert due to alleged animal abuse.