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World's Best Bucking Bull About To Retire


It's going to be a big weekend for bull riding. PBR - no, not that PBR, you hipster beer drinkers - but the Professional Bull Riders will hold their 21st World Finals in Las Vegas. The organization is saying goodbye to one of the sport's biggest stars, an athlete with a win-loss record so great it would make Vince Lombardi blush. The bull's name is Bushwacker and he's retiring.

Nathan Rott has more.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Announcing) There are moments in this life that will never be forgotten. Welcome to one of those moments.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: This is professional bull riding at its Southern California best, in Huntington Beach. Palm trees and cowboy hats, the smell of sea breeze and manure, 15 of the world's top bull riders and 15 of its top bulls. But the sport's top athlete here today...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Announcing) He is history as it happens. He is the one and only Bushwacker.

ROTT: Bushwacker. All 1,750 pounds of him barrels out of the gates, kicking up dirt behind him, his snorts drowned out by the cheers. After a stop and a pose, he struts back behind the gates and that is all the world's best bucking bull is going to do. Just days away from retirement, Bushwacker is saving himself for his last rides this weekend. It turns out when you've thrown off 62 bull riders in under eight seconds, you don't even have to compete to be the main attraction.

CATHY GOLDWINE: When they brought him out, it was like, yes.

ROTT: Cathy Goldwine and Michael Steinhauser say Bushwacker's reputation precedes him. Four years on pro tour, a record 42 buck off streak, an ESPN label as the baddest body in sports. Steinhauser says that makes Bushwacker...

MICHAEL STEINHAUSER: The best of the best. I mean, there's big names in every sport. Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter, I mean, Joe Montana and then there's Bushwacker.

ROTT: So what makes him so good? Bull rider Cody Nance has given him four tries, none successful.

CODY NANCE: My experience on him last time was just realizing how smart that bull really is. He can throw you one direction and go the other just on a dime. You know, he's just that smart and he's that athletic.

ROTT: There have been a lot of top bulls to come through the sport. Bodacious, Bushwacker's dad, Reindeer Dippin, but none have reached Bushwacker's level of superstardom. I mean, we're talking action figures, T-shirts, beer cozies.

JIM HAWORTH: What does Derrick Rose from the Chicago Bulls and Bushwhacker have in common? They both have a Fathead that'll go on the wall.

ROTT: That's Jim Haworth, CEO of the PBR.

HAWORTH: Bushwhacker as a bovine athlete has taken us places no one else has been able to - accomplish that.

ROTT: Which is part of the reason Haworth is sad to see Bushwacker retire to a life of breeding. Bull rider J.B. Mauney doesn't entirely share that sentiment, for justifiable reasons.

J.B. MAUNEY: He's left me with a few scars under my chin.

ROTT: But he is sad to lose his rival. Mauney is the only rider to last eight seconds on Bushwacker during the bull's pro tour - and only just.

MAUNEY: Now, if I'd have had to ride him 8.2, I would've been out of luck.

ROTT: Out of luck like he was the other 13 times he tried riding Bushwacker. There's a chance Mauney will get another try at Bushwacker. The bull has two more outs during the PBR World Finals over the next few days in Las Vegas and Bushwacker's owner, Julio Moreno, knows that there's a chance his prize bull could lose his world title. But Moreno says even if he does...

JULIO MORENO: He's going out as the top bull ever and there probably will be at bull close to him, but never one better.

ROTT: And that's something that everybody can tip their hat to. For NPR News I'm Nathan Rott.


GREENE: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.