The place to be for bull riding this week is the North Texas State Fairgrounds arena.
Bull riders from across the country have showed up to try their skills against some of the best buckers in the industry. For several decades, bucking bulls have been big business, with genetics and selective breeding shaping the current crop of bulls on the circuit.
The first night of competition at the North Texas State Fair and Rodeo’s Bull Blowout was close, with several qualified rides crowding the top of the leaderboard Thursday.
Stephenville cowboy Bryce Barrios claimed the top spot with his score of 85. In second place with an 80 was Lane Nobles of Mart. Third went to Arizona native Hadley Miller with a 78.5.
A big part of the success of the Bull Blowout is the annual cowboy protection match. Teams of two bullfighters work together to protect each cowboy after his dismount, with their main job keeping that rider from injury. The bullfighters often step into harm’s way to keep a rider from getting hooked or stepped on.
In the protection match, veterans Matt Baldwin and Chuck Swisher of Team First United Bank earned 182 points over several rounds for the win. The Texas Farm Bureau team of Chad Dowdy and Evan Allard finished in second with 179 points. Placing third was the Wells Fargo duo of Cody Webster and Nathan Harp with 175.
Competition in bull riding and protection bullfighting concludes tonight, when an overall winner will be presented a trophy buckle and a check.
Standalone bull riding contests evolved as a showcase for rodeo’s most popular event, often with a bucking bull competition held concurrently. Television helped to further popularize bull riding, and several organizations were formed to catalog bloodlines and promote the sport.
Bulls are bred for their athletic ability and temperament, with bloodlines going back to influential sires who built their reputations in rodeo.