Barbara Lawlor, Gilpin County. On Monday afternoon, July 7, the Gilpin County Fairground hosted one of the biggest deals in the thrills and spills sport of bull riding.
One of the cowboys said that there was $2 billion worth of bull flesh contained in the county corrals. At least 110 three-year-old bulls traveled from all over the country to show the Pabst Blue Ribbon Professional Bull Riding tour their moves.
The bulls were testy to say the least. They bellowed as they charged around a small ring enclosed in the arena. They put their heads down and their rear legs shot straight up, giving the riders an almost vertical surface to hang on to.
Spectators leaned on the rails and watched intently as the cowboys eased themselves onto the testosterone-charged bodies. Each rider wrapped the rosin-coated rope around his hand, his one connection to the bull.
But as the chute gate opened, most eyes were not on the rider. They were on the bull. The professional bull breeders were looking to see what bulls would be chosen for the PBR tour. They watched the spins, the twists, the kicks, the aggression, the overall aggressiveness of the animal.
Bulls with blood lust draw the crowds. They also draw the riders, who want a big bad bull to showcase their riding skills. The meaner the bull, the higher the points; that is, if they can stay on for eight seconds.
In the second round on Monday afternoon, only one rider got the time. At one point the bull stopped and just stood there. The rodeo protection athletes, known as the clowns, yelled at the rider to sit tight until the bull moved again. They knew the bull was biding its time, waiting for the rider to get off and become a perfect target. It wasn’t going to happen this time. When the clowns aggravated the bull into chasing them, the cowboy slipped off and high tailed it to the fence. Safely.
The purse for the top rider of the day was $10,000. All of the riders were paid to put the bulls through their paces. A minimum price tag for one of the bulls is about $150,000. A top bull goes for over $1 million.
The PBR’s Touring Pro Division is the minor-league tour of the PBR, replacing the Challenger, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and Discovery Tours. As with the previous minor-league tours, it offers up-and-coming bull riders and those not competing on the elite Built Ford Tough Series the opportunity to compete in PBR-sanctioned events while earning money to qualify them for the BFTS and the PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals.
These are the critters you might see on the on televised bull riding for pros. Those who took part in the day of the bulls’ debut just might have seen a star in the making.