how the event works

Bull riding is rodeo’s most dangerous and exciting event, where competitors must ride a bucking bull for eight agonizing seconds with no more than a bull rope as a handhold.

Like bareback and saddle bronc riders, the contestants in bull riding must get on the back of a 2,000-pound animal and stay on for an eight-second ride. Grasping onto a flat braided rope tied around the chest of the bull with one hand, his other hand will need to stay above his head. If at any point his free hand touches the bull or himself, he will receive no score. One end of the bull rope called the “tail,” is threaded through a loop on the other end and is tightened around the bull. Unlike the other roughstock contestants, bull riders are not required to mark out or spur the animals (have their spurs touching the bull). While spurring a bull can add to the cowboy’s score, riders are commonly judged solely on their ability to stay on the bull.

Like bareback and saddle bronc riding, the judges not only look at the cowboy’s performance during a ride, they also look at the roughstock. Both bull rider and bull can receive a max of 50 points each during a ride, meaning they could score a total of 100 points. The contestant is scored on elements such as their ability to stay balanced on the bull, display quick reflexes, and ability to coordinate with the bull’s movements. For the bull, a judge will be looking at their unique bucking style to help come up with a total, final score for the ride, as no two bulls have the same type of style. For example, while one bull may prefer to make tight spins in a continuous circle, there are other bulls that will jump high in the air or buck.

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With one hand in the air and one holding on to the rope, the bull rider must hold on for eight seconds in order to be a scored.