Sitting in the bullpen, a rider and a bull anticipate the moment the gate opens. With adrenaline pumping and the crowd roaring, the rider gets ready for another fierce eight-second battle with a bull.
This is the norm for professional bull riders, who participate every weekend in what is dubbed the toughest sport on Earth. Professional Bull Riders Inc. made its annual stop in Chicago at the home of the Bulls and Blackhawks, the United Center, 1901 W. Madison Ave., for the Chicago Invitational on March 5 and 6.
The Chicago Invitational is one of 28 events PBR holds annually, culminating in the World Finals in Las Vegas.
“You’ve got to take it one bull at a time,” said bull rider Shane Proctor. “They always bring the best bulls to these Built Ford Tough series. You want to do your best in front of the Chicago crowd.”
PBR has been in existence since 1992 and has become one of the biggest revenue-generating sports in the country. It started when 20 rodeo bull riders decided to invest $1,000 each to found a company devoted to attracting a
More than 40 riders competed in the Chicago Invitational, with the winner, Robson Palermo, receiving $36,016 in earnings throughout the weekend.
To compete in an event, each rider is randomly paired with a bull and assigned to ride in one of six sections. When a rider and bull are together, the rider is judged on his or her success with the bull for eight seconds.
“It takes a lot of dedication, desire [and] practice,” said bull rider Chance Roberts, of Jewett, Ill. Roberts finished 13th in the Chicago Invitational.
From “Closet Gangster” to “MontanaCanvas.com”, each bull was born to
buck the rider with tremendous strength and agility. Unlike bull competitions in other countries, U.S. competitive bulls don’t have sharp horns—preventing serious injury to riders.
A rope is tied around the bull’s flank in front of its hips. This helps the bull buck its hind legs in an attempt to dislodge the rope, and allows the rider to have a less-erratic performance.
Roberts said when he is inside the bullpen, he doesn’t think about getting injured because the action of riding supersedes any fears or doubts.
“It’s always an adrenaline rush, and it keeps you busy doing it,” Roberts said. “You get to travel a lot, and you get to ride the best bulls in the world.”
For the championship round of the Chicago Invitational, the top 10 riders of the competition chose the bulls they would ride in the finals. Brian Canter, who finished fourth in the finals, needed three bulls to complete the
Canter rode Loaded Gun and finished with an average score of 84.25 and $1,200 in purse earnings.
“When you pick a bull, you’ve got the best in the top 10 round,” Canter said. “That’s the best of the best. You’re not going to get on a bad bull.”
While riders perform on a bull, they are jerked from left to right, thrown over the top or lifted over the animal’s back.
After an intense ride, Canter said he doesn’t have immense pain the next day but soreness is as prevalent as the danger when it comes to bull riding.
“I’m not really hurting in the morning,” Canter said. “I get sore sometimes in my hips, but that’s
really about it.”
For kids who look up to bull riders for inspiration, Canter said there is no better sport for them to turn to. He explained that riding is a way of life for most of the athletes, and he wouldn’t choose any other form of competition.
“This is what I do, and this is what I’ve grown up around” Canter said. “This is every little kid’s dream, and they look up to us. The fans are great, and you can’t beat it.”