Rodeo bulls are often overlooked as athletes. Their careers are not looked at in the same way that, say, a wrestler or boxer. They are a valued part of the rodeo if talented. The Professional Bull Riders does keep statistics.
They are stars and yet remain rooted in the basics. Top bulls such as Tahonta, retired when he wasn’t bucking quite as hard as normal and a veterinary check revealed an injury in his hip, probably from another bull on the ranch when he was turned out. They’re big, they’re powerful and outside the arena they’re just bulls – they eat and fight for dominance and sometimes, like the average ranch bull, injuries happen. For a rodeo bull it ends their career – he becomes a breeding bull rather than an arena star. Those bulls who have sparkled in the public eye are revered. Oscar, Hammer, Nightlife, Clayton’s Pet and others are well known for their ‘bad boy’ antics that in the arena make them known far and wide.
There are bulls that become legends. A ten year old black and white speckled bull holds a lifetime PBR record of just over 90% success in bucking off the top competitors in the sport of bull riding in an average time of 3.71 seconds. His NFR record was 93.94% with 100% in his last year of competition. When word of his retirement broke messages came from around the world. His image is included in the PBR collector bulls. Blueberry Wine wasn’t a big bull as bulls go at around 1100 pounds – but he was quick. Like many athletes he had his quirks. “Some days, he’ll let you come right up and pet him. Other days you can’t get within ten feet of him,” owner Robbie Herrington of Herrington Cattle Company said of his “once in a lifetime” bull. Blueberry Wine was purchased from James Harper for a reported figure of $50,000. Early on in his career he was a picky eater, and it took some experimenting to find the right feed to help him maintain his weight on the road. He was athletic and had enough attitude to be a fan favorite and one competitors respected. For seven years he competed at the top level with an incredible record before retirement to breeding and attempting to produce more top bulls from a name that ranks among the best bulls in the game. Although only nine riders managed to last the full eight seconds on the quick, hooky bull those who did could count on a payday.
Sharing the headlines of retirement at the time was another top bull – Little Yellow Jacket. A PBR buckoff rate of 83.78% with an average buckoff time of 3.41 seconds. Owned by a partnership of Joe and Nevada Berger, Tom Teague and Bernie Taupin, Little Yellow Jacket is the only bull in history to win the PBR World Champion Bull title for three years in a row. He’s retired to North Dakota where he was inducted into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. The 1,800 pound bull red brangus was a force to reckon with – an athlete who could be counted on to perform at the top level. He is a son of PRCA Bull of the year Yellow Jacket – a testament to breeding programs that produce top rough stock.
Rodeo legends cannot be discussed in the bull arena without mention of a legend that draws awe and – for those who drew him – fear. Bodacious, a Charolais-Brahma bull is the stuff of legends. His retirement was brought on by a willingness to injure riders on top of a powerful desire to rid them from his back. This is the bull who shattered Tuff Hedeman’s face. He sent several people to the emergency room despite their wearing masks and other protective headgear. With 1,800 pounds Bodacious is debatable in the title of most dangerous top bull of all time. Tuff Hedeman once said “even top-ranked guys who weren’t afraid of anything were definitely afraid of Bodacious.” A ride of the giant that didn’t end with injury was a successful ride. Bodacious was such a powerhouse it wasn’t uncommon to see his belly from the top of the back of the chute – and if you can imagine being tied to something nearly a ton dropping even five feet then changing directions – and you don’t know what direction – you can imagine a very small glimpse of him. He was able to buck many off before they could nod their heads. In four years and 135 rides only six riders completed eight rides on him. He lives on only in artificial breeding – the big boy died of kidney failure in 2000 and is buried at owner Sammy Andrews’ ranch in northeast Texas. His offspring and their offspring continue the rodeo ways of the family tree – bulls like ‘Bo’s Excuse,’ ‘Erks Me,’ and ‘Fender Bender.’ Bodacious was the PRCA Bull of the year in 1994-95 and is in the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.
No talk of rodeo, bulls and legends would be complete without mention of the PRCA undefeated champion Red Rock. A Hereford-Brahman cross, Red Rock started life an orphan – his mama died birthing him and he was raised on a family milk cow. At two years old he began his career in rodeo when sold to Mert Hunking, a local stock contractor, where Red Rock spent the next six years tossing riders who tried to ride him. Mert was stricken by cancer and in an effort to find a home for Red Rock he contacted Growney Brothers where John and Don bought the bull sight unseen based on his performance. Blueberry Wine and Little Yellow Jacket were retired by 10 years – Red Rock was 8 and beginning his pro rodeo career. In 309 attempts not one rider stayed on for eight seconds. The bull was known to do a “victory lap” before leaving the arena – and he bucked off some of the top riders in the game including Lane Frost, who would have won the 1986 world championship except for coming off Red Rock. The next year Red Rock was named the world champion bucking bull and Lane the world champion bull rider. Red Rock was officially retired from competition unridden in 309 attempts.
In a seven event special matchup between Lane and Red Rock – during that series each competitor gave it all – Red Rock was ridden by Lane…it was covered by USA Today, rodeo magazines and Sports Illustrated. Lane was the only bull rider to ever ride Red Rock and the big bull remained retired. Both Lane and Red Rock were inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1990. On June 8, 1994 Red Rock died – he’d suffered a stroke and at 18 years old died while the vet was tending him. He is buried on the Growney ranch.