Skills perfected by cowboys who rode the ranges of the old West will fascinate crowds at Sunday's Tauranga A&P Show.

The ''cowboy challenge'' competition will be the first time that most people would have seen the equestrian disciplines needed when mounted cowboys worked cattle on the American prairies.

It was one of two exciting new additions to the usual A&P Show favourites - the other was a competition to find Tauranga's strongest man. The strength event would include the placement at chest height of a large boulder.

''A lot of these young fellas can pick up rocks that I could not even move with a tractor,'' A&P Show president David Harricks told the Bay of Plenty Times.

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The annual show where town met country was a magnet to families, with lots of free activities for children throughout the day.

He said the show would also feature an international flavour, with two Frenchmen joining a top lineup of Kiwi shearers for the sheep-shearing competitions.

Cowboy challenge organiser Annette Wakefield of Tauranga Western Riders said the challenge was a recent offshoot of the club.

It would be the first time the challenge had been seen at a predominantly public event in the North Island, and had only been going for about five years in New Zealand.

''It is exciting to bring it to the public and showcase what we do. It will be really interesting to watch- it is gaining a lot of interest.''

Wakefield said it consisted of a series of obstacles that tested the relationship of the horse and the rider. A lot of the obstacles were things that naturally scared horses and the horse needed to trust the rider not to put it in danger.

Riders in the timed event needed to display very soft contact with their horses so they weren't pulling on the reins to keep control.

''The focus is similar to dressage but quite different.''

Obstacles were roughly based on what cowboys encountered on the range herding cattle such as pushing through things and going sideways over a log.

Harricks said Tauranga was no longer a farming area and people came from far and wide to compete in a big range of traditional A&P show activities such as showjumping, dairy and beef cattle events, arts, crafts and baking, and many trade sites.

Adventurous fun would be provided by a rock wall and water slide.

Axe men will show their prowess in wood chopping shows, with a big range of food stalls to take the edge off appetites.

Children could enjoy the petting zoo, pony rides, the kids' zone, with the fun of the fairground for the young and young at heart.

Filling out the programme were the ever-popular alpacas, goats and vintage cars.

Tauranga A&P Lifestyle Show

Where:

Tauranga Racecourse, Greerton.

When:

Sunday January 14, 10am to 4pm

Admission:

Children under 13 free and everyone else $10

Food & drink:

Available for sale or bring own food and non-alcoholic drinks