For those not familiar, bull riding is a sport that occurs during a rodeo, which is an event that showcases feats of good old-fashioned cowboy skill. Bull riding definitely requires great skill, as it’s one the most dangerous — and exciting — professional sports out there. Riders are required to have a physical and mental toughness that’s hard to quantify. Plus, a fairly loose grip on reality helps, too. While a bull ride seems quick, a lot happens in those few seconds, so here are the bull riding basics to help you better understand one of the most fascinating sports in America.
A rider begins in a chute, where he slides one hand under a flat braided rope harnessed around the bull and then gives a nod. Once he nods, the bull is released from the chute (a small enclosure that allows the rider to mount the bull safely) where the animal promptly begins bucking. A bull ride lasts eight seconds, and a rider will only receive a score if he remains on the bull for the minimum required eight seconds. The cowboy cannot touch the bull, the rope or himself with his free hand during the ride.
Like in most sports, points matter and the score is a fairly complicated result of watching both the rider and the bull, as each receives up to 50 points, for a total of 100. The rider is judged on his sense of control, style and rhythm with regards to the bull’s bucking. The bull gets points for the strength of his bucking, speed and agility. Sometimes bulls can score particularly low while a rider does well. In that case, the rider may opt to drop his score and take a second ride at the end of the others’ rides.
Like any dangerous athletic event, bull riding has specialty equipment that keeps the riders safe and protected from most incidents, while also protecting the bull from harm. Riders wear chaps to protect their legs, gloves to protect hands, cowboy boots to protect their legs and feet and grip the stirrups, and cowboy hats. Helmets are encouraged, but many riders feel they obstruct their vision or reduce their skills. Bulls wear vests that disperse impact, in order to reduce injuries, in addition to the rope the rider grips while performing. It also wears a flank strap to induce bucking.
Bull riding is serious business, but it’s also a lot of fun. Heading to the rodeo to catch this special event is a must for all families and aspiring cowboys.
Have you ever ridden a bull, and if not, would you?