Rodeo competition, in the beginning, was a natural extension of the daily challenges cowboys confronted on the ranch – roping calves and turning broncs into saddle horses.
In contrast, bull riding emerged from the fearless and possibly fool-hardy nature of the cowboy. The risks are obvious. Serious injury is always a possibility for those fearless enough to sit astride an animal that literally weighs a ton and is usually equipped with dangerous horns.
Regardless, cowboys do it, fans love it and bull riding ranks as one of rodeo’s most popular events.
Like bareback and saddle bronc riders, the bull rider may use only one hand on a braided rope to stay astride during the eight-second ride. If he touches the bull or himself with his free hand, he receives no score. When the cowboy nods, the chute gate swings open, and he and the bull explode into the arena.
Every bull is unique in its bucking habits. A bull may dart to the left, then to the right, then rear back. Some spin or continuously circle in one spot in the arena. Others add jumps or kicks to their spins, while others might jump and kick in a straight line or move side to side while bucking.
Similar to other roughstock events, an 8-second ride can earn the contestant up to 100 points. But unlike the other rough stock contestants, bull riders are not required to mark out their animals. Additionally, spurring is not required, but can add to the cowboy’s score. Riders are commonly judged solely on their ability to stay aboard the twisting, bucking mass of muscle. A good score in the bull riding is in the 90’s. There has been one perfect score of 100 in the PRCA.
After the ride, bull riders are aided by bullfighters or rodeo clowns who distract the bull, allowing the cowboys to escape safely. It is dangerous and exciting, demanding intense physical prowess, supreme mental toughness and courage. Bull riding has taken on a life of its own with the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) tour, and its popularity shows no signs of slowing down.