The action inside Buck Jackson Arena was even spicier this year, thanks in large part to Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Bayou Bengal, a 6-year-old brindle bull that was on top of his game at the West of the Pecos Rodeo.
“He’s the kind of bull that, to me, you really think, ‘I better not stub my toe on him, or I might get knocked out,’ ” said Trey Benton, who was Bayou Bengal’s jockey that day. “You know that if you can ride him, he’ll take you to the pay window.”
Benton didn’t manage a qualifying eight-second ride, but he got to feel what it’s like to be on a spinning, twisting leaping muscle of greatness. After a regular season of high-marked performances, the athletic brindle has been named the PRCA Bull of the Year in a vote of the top bull riders.
“That bull is super athletic,” said Benton, a seven-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Richards, Texas. “It’s hard to believe that a 2,100-pound bull can get that high in the air; I bet you’d be able to drive under him when he’s bucking.”
Bayou Bengal will return to the NFR for the third straight year, and he’s had a season for many to remember. Over his lifetime, the big bovine has been ridden just twice: Creek Young scored 87.5 points to win the Lea County Xtreme Bulls title in Lovington, New Mexico, in 2021, and Jeff Askey was 90 points on him in San Antonio this past February.
“He really bucks hard, and he does it every time,” said Askey, a six-time NFR qualifier from Athens, Texas. “When guys think of the bull of the year, they think of one they see quite a bit. The top competitors want to see him at a lot of rodeos, and they want a bull that if you ride him, you’re going to be a lot of points but there’s a good chance he’ll throw a lot of guys off.”
Scores in bull riding are based on a 100-point scale: Half the score comes from how well the bull bucks, and the other half comes from how well the cowboy maintains control during the ride. In the case of Bayou Bengal, there were two times this past season that the judges marked him 48 out of a possible 50 points; one was with Benton in Pecos, and the other was with Dustin Boquet in Oakley City, Utah.
“I personally voted for him because I felt like over the past three years, he was one of the most consistently rank bulls going,” said Young, a three-time NFR qualifier from Nixa, Missouri. “I’ve never seen that bull have an off trip.
“As far as what I look for in a bull of the year, it’s something different each year just based on the competition of bulls. I just went with the bull that got rode the least and had the best scores.”
Consistency is the name of the game in rodeo. The regulars at the NFR tend to be the most consistent when it comes to riding. The same goes for the bucking animals. The Carr firm has nine bulls going to Las Vegas, the most of any PRCA stock contractor. Over the past two years, Carr has had 46 animals selected to buck at the NFR. In joining bareback horses Real Deal, Big Tex, Deuces Night and Dirty Jacket (twice in 2014-15), Bayou Bengal is Carr’s sixth world champion.
“Bulls of the year set themselves apart and really define themselves,” Benton said. “They are that one bull that everyone wants to watch go. If you know anything about rodeo, you know Bayou Bengal.”