Oklahoma is known for rodeo. Many a ranch has been the training ground for a rodeo champion in our state. But, not only the champion riders, but also, the champion stock. Let’s talk about some champion bulls.
In rodeo, points are split, 50/50, between rider and bull. The bull’s tenacity, spirit and elegance are judged each ride, just as the rider’s skills are assessed. A crop of amazing bull riders passed through the sport over the years, so too have there been an equally impressive list of animals that rank at the top.
Bulls are just as much athletes as cowboys, and the great ones are respected, feared and admired. There are a few legendary bulls in the history of bull riding that will go down in history — some mean as blazes, others athletes who gave 110 percent. From the budding days of the sport to the now-popular Pro Bull Riding (PBR) series, these are some the bulls that have made watching rodeo thrilling whose history is tied to Oklahoma.
Tornado is one of the first truly legendary bulls in rodeo. In six years and 220 outs Tornado threw every single rider who attempted to last eight seconds. In many cases, riders who drew his name opted out. He was not nasty or ill tempered. In fact, his owner Jim Shoulders reportedly said he was incredibly docile out of the arena, grazing in the field. The 1,600-pound bull’s strengths were his muscularity, agility, and ability to spin quickly and change direction at the drop of a hat. When Tornado was finally ridden in 1968 by the late, great Warren Granger “Freckles” Brown, the rafters shook.
Tornado’s owner, Jim Shoulders, who was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame, was known as the ‘Babe Ruth of rodeo’. He was born May 13, 1928, in Tulsa, Okla., and died in Henryetta, Okla., on June 20, 2007.
Freckles Brown, who finally rode Tornado, is another Oklahoma cowboy. He was a friend and mentor to bull riding champion Lane Frost, who is buried next to him in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Hugo, Okla.
Oscar, another great bull, was a California bull. At 1,300 pounds he was considerably smaller than most rodeo. In the first five years of his career, Oscar was ridden by 100 cowboys and not one could stay on. While he was small, he could still make trouble for his riders, usually with a fast, violent spin to the left. By the end of his career, Oscar would be ridden eight times in 300 outs, by just a handful of riders.
Red Rock is one of rodeo’s most famous bulls because in the 309 outs during his PRCA career between 1983 and 1987, he was never ridden. Red Rock was unridable, not because he was mean or temperamental, but because he was smart. He could somehow sense a rider’s moves and then pull a swift and effective counterattack. It wasn’t until Red Rock made a brief return from retirement in 1988 that he was ridden. In this one-off “Challenge of the Champions”, 1987’s PRCA World Champion Rider and Oklahoma cowboy Lane Frost was pitted against Red Rock (himself voted Bucking Bull of the Year in 1987) for seven rides. Frost managed to ride Red Rock not just once, but four times out of seven.
Few bulls were as feared as Bodacious. The 1,900-pound bull was such a nasty son of a gun that he terrified even the most seasoned of rodeo’s riders. Bodacious would explode out of the chute at an impressive speed and, more sinisterly, would throw back his head using his skull and horns as weapons. In 135 outs, Bodacious bucked off 127 riders.
Bodacious, the world’s most dangerous bull, was born in 1988 on the Merrick Ranch in the Arbuckle Mountains of Oklahoma.
Bodacious had grown into his full adult weight of 1,900 pounds. “Bo was psychotic. He didn’t like people,” said bull riding champion Cody Lambert. “If you were on his back, he wanted to hurt you.”
An article in the New Yorker described the encounter, “… a split second after leaving the chute, the bull bucked forward with all his might. (Tuff) Hedeman did what riders are supposed to do: he leaned high over the bull’s shoulders and flung his arm back as a counterbalance. But just as he came forward, Bodacious threw his head back – smashing it square into Hedeman’s face. Hedeman stayed on somehow, his hand twisted in the rope, only to get head-butted again, thrown into the air, and bounced off the bull’s back like a rag doll.”
Hedeman lasted four seconds. ” When I hit the ground,” said the bull rider. “I felt numb.” What Hedeman could not see was how his face really looked; how much blood was on it. “When I was walking out of the arena I bit down and my teeth didn’t come together, so I figured my jaw was broken,” Hedeman recalled. “I didn’t realize my whole face was smashed. But when I looked at people looking at me, they looked like they’d seen the devil.” At the hospital, doctors diagnosed Hedeman and said every major bone in his face was broken. Hedeman went through two surgeries which installed six titanium plates and totaled 13 hours. On discharge, the swelling of his face was so extreme that his own young son could not recognize him. He called Bodacious, “the baddest bull there has ever been.”
Then, in the 9th round of the NFR two nights later, bull rider Scott Breding drew Bodacious. Breding gave Bodacious his final professional ride. It took less than four seconds for Bodacious to use the same move that he did on Hedeman to fracture Scott’s left eye socket and cheekbone. He also broke his nose and knocked him unconscious.
In round 10 of the next day, Dec. 11, 1995, the gate opened to reveal Sammy Andrews and then a yellow bull flashed out of a chute without a rider. Andrews announced that his famous bull was officially retired. The crowd was both shocked and relieved. Bodacious was seven years old at the time, still in his prime.
“I didn’t want to be the guy who let him kill someone,” Andrews said. Andrews said Bodacious would be used for breeding.
Bodacious spent his retirement on the Andrews Rodeo Company Ranch. When the breeding organization, Buckers, Inc., was formed, Bodacious was its first client.
Be sure to come out to the Pioneer Day Rodeo at Guymon’s Hitch Arena on Sunset, Aug. 21 – 23. The performance are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm, Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm. The bull riding is the last event at each rodeo performance.