Not what you expect to see on the Gold Coast, the mecca of sun and surf, professional bull riding on Australia Day
Bull riders work in an environment where they are the only thing that is under their control. Displaying this calm inner-self moving on top of a bucking bull creates a visual feast for spectators that is gathering a dedicated following in Australia.
The book gives some background of the sport, explaining that the majority of the bulls now involved have been specially bred for this role because genetics play a major part in being fit for the competition. The bulls are given top treatment and are fed a high protein diet to help them develop the strength and endurance that they need to compete. The average bull weighs in between 700 and 900 kg, and when they are not on the tour, they spend their time in spelling paddocks on properties around the country.
When the bull consistently receives high marks in the ring, he becomes more valuable, with some worth more than $20,000. After retirement from working in the ring, they are used as sires in breeding programs. Although the riders do wear spurs, they do not cut into the bull’s hide, because it is seven times thicker than human skin. There is a vet present at all the professional bull riding events, and any injuries that do occur to the animals are treated very quickly.
The richest bull riding event is held in Las Vegas and has prize money of $1 million. Qualifying to compete at this event can be achieved by competing in the professional bull riders circuit in Australia. Riders can compete in Brazil, Canada, Mexico and the United States as well as at home, and accumulate points towards their overall standing in the sport.
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One young rider, Cody Heffernan, was selected for a college scholarship in the United States and spent three years there testing himself against American bulls. He declares that the bulls over there are faster, and plans on competing in both countries. Each ride is only eight seconds, and then a planned dismount and run to safety. Adrenaline sport indeed!
One of the cameos is about Dakota Brandenburg, who is one of the youngest contractors involved in bull breeding. Her father was involved in the sport and began the bull breeding venture. They travel all over Australia, trucking the bulls to wherever they are required for the show. When they arrive, they look after the animals until it’s time to take them home again. At the age of twenty-one, she always knew that she wanted to be involved in the sport, and has found a way to do this.
Parting words from Justin Paton who comes from Nebo in Queensland, and says that bull riders are often compared to boxers. However, the boxer trains for months for one fight, but bull riders are fighting every weekend! I loved this book, it’s a great insight into a sport that is developing a strong following.