‘The Ride’ showcases the next generation of tremendous bucking bulls
An athlete is born that way, a combination of genetics and God-given talent; an elite athlete must be willing to put in the work it takes to get to the next level.
Michael Jordan is one example. Adrian Peterson is another. The Aug. 12 episode of “The Ride with Cord McCoy” turns the audience’s attention on yet another, the athletic animals that are part of the annual American Heritage, a bucking bull competition for rising stars in the sport. The show airs at 1-11 p.m. Eastern on Monday on RFD-TV.
“Other than the PBR World Finals in Las Vegas, the American Heritage is the biggest event throughout the regular-season tour,” said McCoy, the show’s host who also rides and raises bucking bulls.
Organized by American Bucking Bull Inc., the sport’s registry system and a producer of numerous competitions each year to showcase the next generation of bucking power, the American Heritage took place at the Lazy E Arena near Guthrie, Okla., in June and featured a massive purse.
“This is the greatest opportunity, from the ABBI’s, standpoint for us to take these planned matings,” said Russ Gant, who had served as the interim executive director of the ABBI at the time of the American Heritage. “We have a database where we take these planned matings and can go back and see the DNA.”
That DNA comes into play in the arena; think the Mannings in football, where Archie Manning was a star quarterback in the 1970s and sons Peyton and Eli are Super Bowl champions playing today. Bull breeders try to match known superstar bulls with cows that have a strong bloodline.
“There are some bulls in here that breeders have spent thousands of dollars on these matings and thousands of hours getting them ready,” Gant said. It’s not just about beating their competitors but about bringing value to ranch. It’s not just the swell of winning, but there’s money in there, too.”
Whether it’s selling a top-of-the-line animal athlete for big money or earning it through competition, bull breeding is big business. The competition featured hundreds of young bulls, all showcased and cared for in comfort inside the Lazy E, an arena built in 1984 specifically for Western events. The Lazy E has been involved in the bull riding business since 1989, when the late Lane Frost worked with the arena’s producers to develop Bullnanza, a stand-alone bull riding event that featured the top cowboys in the game, all of whom had ponied up the $1,000 entry fee.
“We were pre-PBR,” said Robert Simpson, director of events, sponsorship and marketing at the Lazy E. “In 1994 was the first PBR World Finals. From 1992 to 1994, Bullnanza was the entire tour except, I believe, for George Michal’s event and Tuff’s (Hedeman) event in Fort Worth (Texas).
“From those first days when we hand-selected those bulls … we brought about three to four bulls from 30 different contractors. Now you’ve got 150 contractors that have 50 great bulls. The industry, in how it’s exploded, is phenomenal.”
That history is why the Lazy E continues to be involved in the industry.
“Just the caliber of bulls … untouchable,” Simpson said. “The purse is just phenomenal. It’s just awesome to see that kind of purse for a bucking bull event.
“We are very prideful in it. We want to think we do it the best. When you come here, we’re going to try the hardest.”
How big is the American Heritage to those who raise bucking bulls? The winning animal’s owner collected a check for more than $92,000. Royd Doyal, a former bull rider who judged the event, said he and other officials who worked the event based their opinions on the criteria provided.
“I’m going to look for the one that really stands out,” Doyal said. “Usually the winner or top two to three bulls will separate themselves by being exceptional in one or two of those criteria.”
The episode showcases the true magnitude of the competition and what it takes to develop the next generation of amazing bucking beasts.