Stealing the thunder from cowboys

A cowboy rides a bull at a PBR event in Oklahoma City. (Josh Vascil/KOKH)

“I’ve been watching PBR since I was knee high to a grasshopper,” said Oklahoma’s very own Ryan Dirteater. He’s currently ranked fourth in the world as a professional bull rider.

He’s been to the PBR finals nine times.

“I hope to make it 10 this year,” Dirteater said.

PBR events are spectacular affairs with explosions, entertainment, rodeo clowns, and of course the bull riders.

But it’s the bulls who are stealing the thunder.

Half of a rider’s score depends on the bull. Their athleticism and difficulty to ride bring in the points. A wild animal can help a rider win, because riders who make Top 15 at an event get to choose who they’ll ride in the finals.

“I choose something that’ll fit my riding style,” said Cody Rodeo Tyler. “(It’s) normally a bull that’s got a lot of up and down.”

Mean bulls with a history of high scores can be worth their weight in gold.

“Some of the people who own the top bulls of today, wouldn’t sell them for $2 million,” said Cord McCoy.

McCoy rides bulls and runs the McCoy Ranch in Tupelo, Oklahoma, where he raises, trains, and sells bucking bulls. He says some of the best are right here in Oklahoma.

“There’s people who only raise 4 or 5 bucking bulls a year that some of the champions come from,” McCoy said.

McCoy says the names of these superstar athletes play into their reputation, which translates into their worth.

“There’s Widow Maker, there’s Dennis, there’s Killer, there’s anything you could think of,” McCoy said. “The worst is if you get bucked off Little Bunny Foo Foo.”

Bucking bulls are all over social media where fans and riders study their statistics and videos.

“You can get on Pro Bull Stats, you can look them up and see their videos,” said Dirteater. “You’ve got Instagram, Facebook, and all the stock contractors will post (pictures) of their bulls.”

“We know all these bulls, we want to keep an eye on them,” said Brennon Eldred, another pro bull rider from Oklahoma. “We want to know their inklings.”

King of them all is a bull named Bruiser. He’s the product of another Oklahoma ranch, the D&H Cattle Company.

“(He’s) a back to back world champion bucking bull, one of the greatest ever,” said Eldred. “He’s from right down the road in Ardmore, Oklahoma.”

Dirteater says studying the bulls and knowing their behavior helps when it’s time to get face to face.

“When that chute gate opens, you just go with him and dance with him,” he said. “He’s a dancing partner.”

That dance is the most exciting eight seconds in sport. It’s man versus bull. Even if that bull is becoming more famous and more valuable.

“If those bulls ever learn how to sign autographs, they’re going to put us out of business,” McCord said.