Imagine surfing a monster wave during a typhoon on one leg with both hands tied behind your back. That gives you a sense of just how much skill it takes to ride a bucking bull. Except bull riding is harder than that.
Riding one of the crazed bulls that bolts from a rodeo chute is one of the most intense events on the extreme sports landscape. The only thing a rider has to grip is a braided rope wrapped around the bull’s chest. No stirrups, bridle, or saddle.
Learn more about the hardcore sport pursued by old-school, can-do Stetson wearers with names like Ryan Dirteater.
Ropes, reins and rawhide: 10 bruising facts about bull riding
1. Bull riding burst onto the map in 1864. Then, two cowboy clans from neighboring ranches met in Deer Trail, Colorado to settle a row about which was better at executing ranch tasks. The ultra-physical sport soon gained traction and built momentum.
2. After a rodeo bull barrels out of the chute, it bucks, rears, kicks, spins, and twists, furiously determined to throw the rider off.
3. In its frenzy, a bull may also execute a bizarre manoeuvre known as “sunfishing”. That means the bull leaves the ground and kicks his hind feet or all four feet to the side: a spectacle in itself.
4. The buzzer telling the rider to prepare to dismount sounds after just eight seconds. The reason: the bull’s bucking ability fades fast thanks to fatigue and adrenaline loss. The speedy conclusion keeps the bull’s spirit high and healthy and stops it “breaking” – becoming tame like Daisy the cow.
5. Throughout the ride, those bizarre stalwarts of health and safety, “rodeo clowns”, stand by. At the end, they distract the bull as the rider scrambles over the arena walls.
6. The world bull riding champion is Brazilian Silvano Alves. Alves was the fourth Brazilian in six years to win the world championship, proving Brazilians have flair for more than just soccer.
7. Beyond Brazil and America, bull riding happens in Canada, Mexico, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia where it keys into earthy Outback culture.
8. Rodeo bulls can eclipse their riders in fame. Take Houdini: the stud name after the famous escape artist set to be played by Aussie actor Hugh Jackman on Broadway. The horned Houdini appears on more calves’ family trees than any other bull. His total number of children is a mystery, but according to the American Bucking Bull Inc., he has some thousand sons over the age of three — several have been champion bulls.
9. Houdini’s frozen semen, which will be on the market for decades to come, fetches up to $400 per unit. The twist is that Houdini has been dead since 2010.
10. Whether you are riding a Houdini thoroughbred or an everyday raging bull, success depends on having iron thighs, exceptional balance and nerves of steel – you must be unafraid of the bull. Being made of rubber also helps because you will spill. Yeehah! More info