The basics of bull riding: A look into the ‘most dangerous 8 seconds in sports’

Bull riding is unpredictable, riveting to watch and can be extremely dangerous for competitors.

Bull riding has been dubbed “the most dangerous eight seconds in sports” and rightfully so.

The sports’ roots come from Mexico, where it first began in the 1600s. It wasn’t until the 1800s that it started to become popular in the United States. 


A common misconception about bull riding is that it only takes place in southern states. While that is where the sport’s popularity mainly lies, Professional Bull Riders (PBR) has tours that travel throughout the country, so you can get the experience of watching live. Competitions are also broadcast, so viewers can watch from home.

The general rules for riding a bull are pretty simple. Riders must hold the rope with one hand and keep their other in the air while sitting atop a bull.

If, at any time, the free hand touches the bull or any part of the rider’s body, no points are awarded for the ride.

A rider must remain mounted on the bucking bull for at least eight seconds to earn any points. This may seem speedy, but it drags on for a rider or audience member.

For riders who are able to stay on the bull for eight seconds, judges provide their score. Up to 100 points can be awarded, 50 for the rider and 50 for the bull.


The bulls used for riding are specifically bred for competition. They range from 1,200 to 2,000 pounds and have a typical lifespan of 15 years.

These bulls will usually start to compete when they are 3 to 4 years old and will continue to compete for two to four years.

PBR, which is headquartered in Pueblo, Colorado, is the top league in the sport.

According to PBR’s website, the league was founded in 1992 by 20 bull riders who wanted to get the sport more mainstream attention. To do so, they each invested $1,000 of their own money.

“We wanted to create a better product for the fans, so that when they tuned in they were seeing the best of the best every time,” said PBR co-founder and nine-time World Champion Ty Murray, per PBR’s website. “Those expectations have been exceeded immensely, and the fact that this sport continues to grow is a gratifying notion, one that supports all the hard work and dedication of every member of the PBR.”


Now, there are more than 800 members who have PBR membership, according to the site, with more than 200 events each year.

The top competition in the PBR is the “Unleash the Beast” tour, which runs from November to May.

Riders are eligible for membership when they are 18 years old. Once an individual gains eligibility, they can compete in different tours where they can earn points to qualify for “Unleash the Beast.”

PBR events are held in the United States, Canada, Australia and Brazil.

Bull-riding teams were launched in 2022 as part of the Camping World Team Series.

Eight teams participate in an 11-event season that runs opposite “Unleash the Beast.”

The 2023 team championship in Las Vegas was won by the Texas Rattlers.

Bull riding is an extremely dangerous sport in which injuries run rampant.

There have been a few deaths in competitions. In 2019, rider Mason Lowe died from injuries at a Denver event where a bull stomped on his chest.

In 2021, Amadeu Silva was killed at an event in California when he got caught underneath a bull.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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