Touted as “the world’s toughest sport”, professional bull riding is an exhilarating and equally bizarre niche sport that places individual sportsmen in a pot-boiling situation many of us wouldn’t dare consider, let alone devote our lives to mastering.
Witness the intensity of this competition first-hand when both Australian and international riders come together for the 10-part series Pro Bull Riding Australasian. It promises to be a live one.
What on earth is pro bull riding anyway?
If you’ve never seen a cowboy or cowgirl ride a real bull, chances are that pop culture has exposed you to the mechanical variety. This recreational attraction is often found in middle-American bars and strip clubs, and is basically a static and less dangerous version of the rodeo event. The mechanical bull aims to replicate the experience of riding a live animal and test the skills of entertainers or (usually inebriated) patrons.
The official sport, however, is far less predictable. Participants must stay atop a bucking bull with one hand on a rope and the other aloft. The average time a bull rider must remain in position is less than 10 seconds – remember the 1994 Luke Perry film, 8 Seconds? Who could forget it. This might not sound like much of a challenge, until you count off eight seconds and imagine that for the entire time you’re being violently jerked from underneath by an animal infinitely stronger than you’ll ever be.
Who started all this craziness?
Competitive bull riding is thought to have originated in Mexico in the 1600s with an event known as Jineteo de Toro. The goal was to ride the (then-smaller) bulls until they relented and stopped bucking, at which point the rider would dismount and land upright, kind of like a gymnast. Over the next few centuries, Texan rangers who were partial to a bit of Mexican culture began holding their versions of the event – though at the time it was all far less regimented and closer to a bloodsport than a sport.
It wasn’t until the mid 1930s that the US-based spectacle turned into some version of a governed sport. While Australia saw bull riding competitions throughout last century, it wasn’t until 1992 that it fully entered official territory with the formation of the National Rodeo Council of Australia (NCRA).
While our riders compete in world events, this series focuses on the Asia Pacific Pro Bull Riding Tour, which takes place in seven Australian cities and features competitors from seven countries. Each week, the stakes grow higher as riders fight to survive the cut, facing stiffer competition with each stage of the tour.
By the end of the 10-episode run, only one cowboy will remain.
Watch Pro Bull Riding Australasian on Mondays at 10pm on NITV .