“The Kinder, Gentler Version of Bull Riding,” by Alpha Unit

Little Yellow Jacket was a famous Brangus bull – a Brangus being a cross between an Angus and a Brahman. He had one horn pointing up and the other pointing down. The Professional Bull Riders organization made him “Bull of the Year” three different times. That’s a record.

He was in good company as Bull of the Year. There was Mossy Oak Mudslinger. And Chicken on a Chain. There were Panhandle Slim, Cripple Creek’s Promise Land, Code Blue, and Dillinger. But nobody was as notorious as the 1,800-pound “World’s Most Dangerous Bull.” That was Bodacious.

Bodacious first appeared on the circuit in 1992. In no time he was found to be virtually unrideable. According to the ProRodeo Hall of Fame:

All muscle, the bull with the distinctive yellow coloring bucked off 127 of his 135 riders and became known for a bone-crushing style that sent many riders to the hospital, including world champions Tuff Hedeman and Terry Don West. Bodacious was known for his explosive exit out of the chute…His ability to buck riders off before they could nod their heads did not endear him to the cowboys.

The way he came out of the chute was bad enough. But what really made Bodacious so fearsome was his signature move: he would raise his rear end, his head to the ground, causing the rider to shift his weight forward. He would then jerk his head up and smash the rider in the face.

Tuff Hedeman, one of the few riders who ever stayed on Bodacious, had an infamous meeting with Bodacious in 1995 during the Professional Bull Riders World Finals in Las Vegas. A mere second after exiting the chute, Bodacious jerked Hedeman down and head-butted him, shattering every bone in his face below the eyes. It took 13 hours of reconstructive surgery and five titanium plates to repair the damage. Hedeman told reporter Burkhard Bilger that his sense of smell and taste never returned.

That same year in the National Finals Rodeo, Scott Breding chose to wear a hockey mask for his ride on Bodacious. He needed more than that. Bodacious head-butted him and knocked him out, breaking his nose and bursting one of his eye sockets.

The next day Bodacious was retired from rodeo.

If bull-riding is more thrill than you can handle, no problem. Not everyone can take on the likes of Little Yellow Jacket, but just about anyone can pretend to. Plenty of bars have mechanical bulls for their patrons. You can even rent your own mechanical bull for a birthday party, graduation, or other festive occasion.

Or go to the county fair. All over the United States during the summer you can find enterprising men and women who announce “Have Bull, Will Travel.” Like Jerry and Kathy Boone of New Plymouth, Idaho, who carry their mechanical bull, Samson, to county fairs and rodeos throughout the region. Or Cal Perkins, who makes mechanical bulls right here in the US and whose bulls are found in all 50 states and a handful of other countries.

Cal Perkins was a professional bull rider in the late 1970s and early 1980s but quit the circuit when he and his wife decided to start a family. After his sons became interested in rodeo, he began building bucking machines. He now custom-builds mechanical bulls at his shop in the tiny town of Murtaugh in southern Idaho. He brands his creations “the world’s best bucking machines.” The Times-News of Idaho reports:

Perkins takes great pride in the realistic look of his bulls. Each machine is upholstered with cowhide from Brazil and a real bull’s head from Mexico. That’s one of the reasons his bulls are so popular, he said.

Perkins travels with two mechanical bulls, one a miniature bull created for the little ones; it will take a rider up to 180 pounds. The set-up for his regular mechanical bull, which includes a protective air-filled mat, is designed to protect a rider up to 250 pounds.

And what about the rider? What do I need to know before I get on a mechanical bull? Professional bull riding champions Shane Proctor and Luke Snyder offer a few tips to would-be mechanical bull riders, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

  • “Have enough beer to drink so you can get your courage up.”
  • “Make sure to make really good friends with whoever is running the bull. It’s not like eight seconds with a real bull. If you piss off the ring guy, he can keep you on however long he likes.”
  • “Keep your chin down. Wherever your chin goes, that’s where your body is going to go.”
  • “Make sure your free hand is in front of you. It helps guide your direction.”
  • “Sit close to your hand holding the bull. It’s like a teeter-totter, so you want to establish your center of gravity. If you sit too far back, you will fall off.”
  • “Know you are going to wipe out, and know you are not going to look graceful, so have fun and just fall off.”


Filed under Alpha Unit, American, Animals, Cows, Culture, Domestic, ER, Guest Posts, Idaho, Sports, USA, West

2 responses to ““The Kinder, Gentler Version of Bull Riding,” by Alpha Unit

  1. Gary

    another take on bodacious :

    Bodacious the rodeo bull also wanted no trouble with anyone, but when someone did torment him, he figured out that the best defense was a good offense. Bodacious got a handle on the rodeos, and the people involved in them. They could force him into the filthy livestock trucks and haul him and his fellow victims for days only to be forced into a little holding pen outside the rodeo arena for hours, often in the hot sun or cold rain. The abusers could force him into the bucking chute with electric prods. But once the chute gate opened up, Bodacious figured out how to take control.
    The young bull developed some moves that turned the tables on rodeo contestants. He would sling his head back and forth, which rodeo riders hate because of the danger of being hit by the horns. Bodacious would pitch his rider forward, only to then throw his head up to slam the rider in the head – often the face. He started messing some people up, including one contestant named Tuff (don’t you just love some of these names?) Hedeman. He smashed Hedeman’s face but good, just like Humpty Dumpty, and all of Tuff’s doctors and all of Tuff’s plastic surgeons were just barely able to put Tuff’s face together again.
    The rodeo folks called Bodacious “The World’s Most Dangerous Bull,” and for a change, it seemed that they weren’t just hyping.
    Now if all the stories about the courage of rodeo contestants had any truth to it at all, you would think these guys would have been lining up around the block to take on Bodacious. It was time for our “brave boys” in their ridiculous John Wayne Halloween costumes to “cowboy up” and “git’er done” and “bite the bullet.” Now the rodeo people had a real chance to show what they were made of – and that’s just what they did – in the true tradition of rodeo anti-climax – by retiring Bodacious.
    You see, all the talk of dangerous bulls and tough guys riding them is just hype. Cowboy wannabes don’t want “dangerous animals” who are actually dangerous – someone might get hurt! When the rodeo people realized that this bull knew how to play the game of rodeo, they said “FORGET THAT!” Bye-bye Bodacious, no more rodeo cowboys for you to play with and turn the tables


    • Alpha Unit

      Professional Bull Riders (PBR) directly addresses the issue of animal welfare on its website, for those that might be interested.

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