In rodeo, points are split, 50/50, between rider and bull. The bull’s tenacity, spirit and elegance are judged each ride, just as the rider’s skills are assessed. And so while a crop of amazing bull riders have passed through the sport over the years, so too have there been an equally impressive list of animals that rank at the top. Bulls are just as much athletes as cowboys, and the great ones are respected, feared and admired. There are a few legendary bulls in the history of bull riding that will go down in history — some mean as hell, others athletes who gave 110 percent. From the budding days of the sport to the now-popular Pro Bull Riding (PBR) series, these are the bulls that have made watching rodeo thrilling and have proven in every less-than-eight-second ride that cattle are much more than just beef.
One of the first truly legendary bulls in rodeo, in six years and 220 outs Tornado threw every single rider who attempted to last eight seconds. In many cases, riders who drew his name opted out. It wasn’t that he was particularly nasty or ill tempered — in fact, his owner Jim Shoulders reportedly said he was incredibly docile out of the arena grazing in the field. The 1,600-pound bull’s strengths were his muscularity, agility and ability to spin quickly and change direction at the drop of a hat. When Tornado was finally ridden in 1968 by the late, great Warren Granger “Freckles” Brown, the rafters shook.
Though most wouldn’t consider Oscar petite, at 1,300 pounds he was considerably smaller than most bulls who have competed in rodeo. In the first five years of his career, Oscar was ridden by 100 cowboys and not a single one could stay on. While he was small, he could still make trouble for his riders, usually with a fast, violent spin to the left. By the end of his career, Oscar would be ridden eight times in 300 outs, by just a handful of riders. Shortly after his retirement he was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, in 1979.
Red Rock is one of rodeo’s most famous bulls because in the 309 outs during his PRCA career between 1983 and 1987, he was never ridden a single time. Red Rock was unridable, not because he was mean or temperamental, but because he was smart. He could somehow sense a rider’s moves and then pull a swift and effective counterattack. It wasn’t until Red Rock made a brief return from retirement in 1988 that he was ridden. In this one-off “Challenge of the Champions”, 1987’s PRCA World Champion Rider Lane Frost was pitted against Red Rock (himself voted Bucking Bull of the Year in 1987) for seven rides. Frost managed to ride Red Rock not just once, but four times out of seven.
Few bulls were as feared as Bodacious. The 1,900-pound charbray was such a nasty son of a bitch that he terrified even the most seasoned of rodeo’s riders. Bodacious had two signature moves that earned him his hellacious reputation: he would explode out of the chute at an impressive speed and — more sinisterly — would throw back his head using his skull and horns as weapons. It was the latter move that would send famed rider Tuff Hedeman to the hospital with every bone in his face below the eyes broken. Because he was so dangerous, success on Bodacious was nigh impossible to achieve, and thus in 135 outs, Bodacious bucked off 127 riders.
Little Yellow Jacket
Besides being a worthy adversary for rodeo’s top riders, Little Yellow Jacket is regarded by many in rodeo to be an absolute class act. He never injured a rider, and while most bulls will go after a downed rider, Little Yellow Jacket would not only abstain but would seemingly go out of his way to avoid a fallen cowboy. But Little Yellow Jacket could be a handful to ride. He was extremely quick and athletic, especially given his 1,800-pound weight, and could spin at speeds that bewildered riders. LJ, as he is often called, could buck off a rider at an average of 2.6 seconds and was only ridden 15 times in 93 attempts. LJ was the first bull to win the PBR World Championship three times, which he did consecutively between 2002 and 2004.
Heralded as the best bull to never win a championship, Blueberry Wine only gave up nine rides in 93 outs. He was an absolute featherweight at 1,100 pounds, but while he may not have had the stature of the big boys, he made up for it with speed and effort. He didn’t have any tricky or dirty moves, but he could buck incredibly fast, which would unseat even the best riders in PBR. Blueberry Wine competed for seven years until he was 10 years old, and though that isn’t incredibly old for a bull, for a competing bucking bull that made him the Bovine equivalent of Brett Favre.
Bushwacker, at 1,750 pounds and outfitted with a nasty temperament, is a force to be reckoned with. But besides brawn, he’s also quick, smart and unpredictable, which is why many regard him as the greatest bull to ever compete in rodeo. During his six-year career in PBR, Bushwacker has only been ridden the requisite eight seconds twice in his 66 outs: once in 2009 (his debut year) by Thiago Paguioto, and in 2013 by rodeo legend J.B. Mauney. However, most riders can only manage to hold on to Bushwacker for 3.3 seconds. Bushwacker has subsequently been the PBR World Champion for three years (same as Little Yellow Jacket) and has the record for most consecutive buck-offs in PBR at 42 over the course of four years.
For five-time World Champion Dusty Tuckness, rodeo bullfighting isn’t just saving fallen cowboys from hooves and horns — it’s turning the escape into a masterpiece. Read It Now