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Bull Riding

Copyright Mark Gunter

Photo: Mark Gunter

The most popular rodeo riding event and the most dangerous!  Cowboys (and some cowgirls) climb on the back of a tonne of bucking bull and try to stay there for eight seconds.

The risks are obvious and serious injury is always a possibility but the adrenaline is addictive.  Bull riding is EXCITING, demanding intense physical prowess, supreme mental toughness and courage.

The bull rider may use only one hand to stay aboard the twisting, bucking mass of muscle.  To stay aboard the bull, the rider grasps a flat braided rope, which is wrapped around the bull’s chest just behind the front legs and over its withers. One end of the bull rope, called the tail, is threaded through a loop on the other end and tightened around the bull. The rider then wraps the tail around his hand, sometimes weaving it through his fingers to further secure his grip.

Every bull is unique in its bucking habits and balance, flexibility, coordination, quick reflexes and, perhaps above all, a strong mental attitude are the stuff of which good bull riders are made.


Bull riding is judged like all other rough-stock events with points being allocated to the difficulty of the bull and who is in control; the cowboy or the bull. Two judges in the arena score from 1-25 points each for the cowboy and the bull, for a total of 100 points.

Whilst spurring a bull can add to the cowboy’s score, riders are commonly judged solely on their ability to stay aboard the animal. The bull rider is disqualified if he touches the bull or himself with his free hand. Riders do not receive any score unless they are able to stay on the bull for a full 8 seconds — that doesn’t sound like very long until you try bull riding!