What is Bull Riding?
Why do women not compete in sports that men are predominant in? Well, here is why! This Blog is a 7- to 10-minute read.
American bull riding has been called “the most dangerous eight seconds in sports.” To receive a score, the rider must stay on top of the bull for eight seconds with the use of one hand gripped on a bull rope tied behind the bull’s forelegs. Touching the bull or themselves with the free hand, or failing to reach the eight-second mark, results in a no-score ride. Depending on the bull riding organization and the contest, up to four judges might judge the rider and four-judge the bull on their performance. For most organizations, a perfect score is 100 points. In general, most professional riders score in the neighbourhood of the mid-70s to the high 80s.
Outside of the United States, bull riding traditions with varying rules and histories also exist in Canada, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, the Philippines, Japan, South Africa, England, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Australia and New Zealand with the majority of them following similar rules, especially with the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) organization.
Rules and regulations
Each bull has a unique name and number (called a brand) used to help identify it. A sufficient number of bulls, each judged to be of good strength, health, agility, and age, are selected to perform. The rider and bull are matched randomly before the competition, although starting in 2008, some ranked riders are allowed to choose their own bulls from a bull draft for selected rounds in PBR events.
A rider mounts a bull and grips a flat braided rope. After they secure a good grip on the rope, the rider nods to signal they are ready. The bucking chute (a small enclosure which opens from the side) is opened and the bull storms out into the arena. The rider must attempt to stay on the bull for at least eight seconds, while only touching the bull with their riding hand. On the other hand, must remain free for the duration of the ride. Originally, the rules required a 10-second ride, but that was changed to the current eight seconds.
The bull bucks, rears, kicks, spins, and twists in an effort to throw the rider off. This continues for a number of seconds until the rider is bucked off of the bull or dismounts after completing the ride. A loud buzzer or whistle announces the completion of an eight-second ride.
Throughout the ride, bullfighters, also popularly known as rodeo clowns, stay near the bull to aid the rider if necessary. When the ride ends, either intentionally or not, the bullfighters distract the bull to protect the rider from harm.
Many competitions have a format that involves multiple rounds, sometimes called “go-rounds”. Generally, events span two to three nights. The rider is given a chance to ride one bull per night. The total points scored by the end of the event are recorded, and after the first or first two go-rounds, the top 20 riders are given a chance to ride one more bull. This final round is called the “short go” or sometimes it is called the championship round. After the end of the short go, the rider with the most total points wins the event.
Points and scoring
Scoring is done consistently within a rodeo organization. The two largest sanctioning bodies are the PRCA and PBR. They vary slightly in how they score bull rides. There are many other organizations, and each has their own particular rules on how they score, but most follow rules similar to the PRCA. The rider only scores points if he successfully rides the bull for 8 seconds. The bull is always given a score. In the PRCA, a ride is scored from 0–100 points. Both the rider and the bull are awarded points. In the regular season, there are four judges, two judges scoring the bull’s effort from 0–25 points, and two judges scoring the rider’s performance from 0-25 points. There is the potential for the rider and the bull to earn up to 50 points each. The two scores are added together for a total ride score of up to 100 points. Scores of zero are quite common, as many riders lose control of the animal almost immediately after the bull leaves the bucking chute. Many experienced professionals are able to earn scores of 75 or more. Scores above 80 are considered excellent, and a score in the 90s is exceptional.
In the PBR, a ride is scored from 0-100 points in total. Up to 50 points is scored for the rider and 50 points for the bull. The rider only scores points if he successfully rides the bull for 8 seconds. The bull is always given a score. Four judges award a score of up to 25 points each for the rider’s performance, and four judges award up to 25 points each for the bull’s effort. Then all the scores are combined and then the total is divided in half for the official score.
Judges award points based on several key aspects of the ride. Judges look for constant control and rhythm in the rider in matching their movements with the bull. Points are usually deducted if a rider is constantly off balance. For points actually, to be awarded, the rider must stay mounted for a minimum of 8 seconds, and they are scored only for actions during those 8 seconds. The ability to control the bull well allows riders to gain extra style points. These are often gained by spurring the animal. A rider is disqualified for touching the bull, the rope, or themself with their free arm.
Bulls have more raw power and a different style of movement from bucking horses. One move particular to bulls is a belly roll (“sunfishing”), in which the bull is completely off the ground and kicks either his hind feet or all four feet to the side in a twisting, rolling motion. Bulls also are more likely than horses to spin in tight, quick circles, and are less likely to run or to jump extremely high (“break in two”).
For the bull, judges look at the animal’s overall agility, power and speed; his back legs kick, and his front end drops. In general, if a bull gives a rider a very hard time, more points will be awarded. If a rider fails to stay mounted for at least 8 seconds, the bull is still awarded a score. The PBR and PRCA record bulls’ past scores so that the best bulls can be brought to the finals, ensuring that riders will be given a chance to score highly. Both organizations award one bull an award for the best bull of the year, decided by bull scores in both buckoffs and successfully qualified rides. The award brings prestige to the ranch at which the bull was raised.
If a rider’s scores are sufficiently low due to poor bull performance, the judges may offer the rider the option of a re-ride. By taking the option, the rider gives up the score received, waits until all other riders have ridden, and rides again. This can be risky because the rider loses their score and risks being bucked off and receiving no score. A re-ride may also be given if a bull stumbles or runs into the fence or gate.
In some PBR events that use an elimination style bracket, if both riders in a bracket fail to reach eight seconds, the rider who lasts longer advances to the next round. Otherwise, the rider with a higher score advances.