LOVINGTON, N.M. – Since its inception, the Lea County Xtreme Bulls has been one of the toughest competitions to win.
There have been 10 editions of the stand-alone bull riding, which kicks off the PRCA portion of the Lea County Fair and Rodeo. Each year, a different bull rider wins the crown. Kanin Asay, a five-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier, was the first Xtreme Bulls titlist inside Jake McClure Arena in 2012; he’s been followed by the very best the sport has to offer.
The greatest bull riders in ProRodeo will converge on Lovington for this year’s Lea County Xtreme Bulls, which takes place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 8.
They will battle for one of the most elusive crowns in the sport at one of the most cherished locations. With the fair and rodeo’s grand history, winning the Xtreme Bulls title is high on the priority list for the top contestants. Jeff Askey, also a five-time NFR qualifier, is the most recent titlist. He claimed the championship last August and is in position to possibly repeat the feat, becoming the first to have ever done so.
“I’ve won second at a bunch of (Division 1 Xtreme Bulls events), and I’ve won a pile of Division 2 Xtreme Bulls, but I’ve never one of the Division 1 events,” Askey said last year.
He took the title and nearly $11,000 out of Lovington. It propelled him not only to another NFR but also to the No. 6 position in the final world standings. It was a banner year for the Athens, Texas, cowboy.
He did it on a night that is memorable. Dallas-based Pete Carr Pro Rodeo is the livestock producer in Lovington, and Carr usually has a stacked deck of bull riding’s biggest bovine stars. Since bulls win most of the time, there have been moments where not many cowboys stayed on for the mandatory eight seconds. That wasn’t the case in 2022, where more than half a dozen cowboys made the whistle.
“I’ve never seen an Xtreme Bulls short round go like this,” Askey said. “It’s pretty common for guys to ride one, two, three or four bulls in these short (rounds). I’ve never seen them ride eight or night bulls and it get that tough.
“Normally if you win the long round and fall off in the short go, you might hold on to an average check, but after enough rides I thought, ‘Heck, I better stay on, or I might not win nothing.’ ”
Over the first 10 years, Lea County Xtreme Bulls has crowned big names, like world champion Sage Kimzey, who won it in 2017. Of the titlists, only 2016 winner Colten Jesse has not played on ProRodeo’s biggest stage, the NFR, which features just the top 15 cowboys in the world standings at the conclusion of the regular season.
“Everybody likes to watch the bull riding to see who’s going to get in a wreck,” said Kyle Johnston, the rodeo committee chairman for the Lea County Fair Board. “That’s just human nature. It’s a great event, and we have a lot of people who enjoy coming to the bull riding.”
Lea County Xtreme Bulls is a must-see event, and the cowboys know it, too. They’ll all put their names in the hat to have a chance, and someone will become the 11th champion this August.