Pro bull riding is big. The bulls are big, the crowds are bigger and the riders’ hearts are huge. Of course, so is the prize money. Bull riding came about as a separate sport from rodeo in 1992 when a group of 20 American cowboys got together, chucked in $1000 each, and kicked off Professional Bull Riders Incorporated – PBR.
The group wanted to promote what it believed the most popular part of rodeo. It’s almost an American tradition: take the most exciting bits of something, dump everything else, stage it in an arena and sell it like crazy– like the way motocross became supercross. The idea seems to have worked. Around a decade after PBR started an investment company chucked in some cash, and a little later the whole shootin’ match was bought by a huge sports-promotion conglomerate. Those poor ol’ cowboys who started it in 1992 is rich kidz now. PBR television broadcasts reach half a billion households in 130 territories around the world.
More than 1200 cowboys from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Australia hold PBR memberships. They’re bucking huge events with prize pools regularly around the $3 million mark. At this Las Vegas final in 2017 for instance, 20-year-old Jess Lockwood became the youngest PBR champion in history and took home a bonus cheque for a cool $1 million.
It rounded out a year where the youngster picked up an estimated $1.5 million.
That would buy a hell of a lot of Dencorub! Along with all that cash goes a rootin’, tootin’ trophy: a belt buckle.
“The million is just icing on the cake. This buckle is what means the most,” Lockwood told Star-Telegram.com, raising the concern that perhaps he’d fallen on hisnoggin just once too often.
Mind you, the belt buckle is reportedly worth $20,000, so maybe Jess isn’t so horn- swaggled after all.
When asked by 406mtsports.com what he was planning to do with the cash, Locko mumbled, “I’m going to buy more cows,” as he stumbled toward the medical centre.
A GOOD DAY
Jose Vitor Leme from Brazil actually won the 2017 World Finals event title as the only rider to go a perfect six for-six at the five-day bull- a-thon.
At 21, the 2017 PBR Brazil Champion had played semi-pro soccer in Brazil, is an accomplished competitor in karate and had been in the US for only eight days before picking up the handy $300,00 in pocket money. Before that his year had been looking a bit of a bummer with only just over $115,000 in earnings to scrape by on.
Leme was named the 2017 Rookie Of The Year after his astounding performance, shooting him from 53 in the world standings up to a top-10 ranking.
“I think I’m still dreaming,” he said in Brazilian. “I trained and worked hard to win the World Finals, but I didn’t think I had a chance to win Rookie Of The Year. To accomplish that is without a doubt the best day of my life.”
The world title is based on points earned throughout a 10-month regular season capped off with the six rounds in Las Vegas.
Lockwood said it took determination to win the title.
“It took a lot of grit, just cow boy in gupeach and every weekend,” said the young’n. “You have to make the most out of every single bull.”
Throughout the year Lockwood had been mentored by former National Finals Rodeo bull- and saddle-bronc-riding qualifier Cody Lambert, the PBR’s livestock director (Lambert is one of those 20 cowboys who founded the PBR in the first place, by the way. So he’d be grinning).
“He’s a better bull rider at 20 years old than I think I’ve ever seen,” said Lambert, trying not to fall off his wallet. “He’s just a well-rounded young man in his faith and he wants to do the right thing. He enjoys doing the right thing. He enjoys where he’s at right now. A lot of 20-year-old people do not know where they want to go. But he’s known for a long time where he wants to go.”
Onya, Lambo. You’re a bull artist.