On Saturday, eight contestants entered the dirt arena at the Greeley Stampede to go head-to-head with a four-legged foe for the American Bullfighting event, but it was local bullfighter Roper Rich who took the top honors.
Keeping close to the bull, Rich zigged, zagged and managed to stay out of harm’s way during his three 40-second performances.
“I tell you what, that was probably the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me. I started this last year during COVID, and I didn’t fight in front of any crowds,” the 19-year old Rich said. “So heck, this was exciting.”
Rich’s next bullfighting adventure will take him to Kansas.
“I’d like to be an NFR bullfighter and cowboy protector,” Rich said when asked about what his career aspirations are.
While Rich managed to keep away from the angry bull, three other contestants weren’t so lucky.
In the first round, Kirk Cowen from New Mexico was tossed in the air several times by his bull before the bullfighter managed to dive over the fence to safety. Cowen stood bent over behind the gate trying to regain his wits before heading to the staging area behind the arena.
The chute’s gate barely opened before Texas bullfighter Alex Parades’s bull charged at the man, taking him down and seriously hurting him.
As other bullfighting contestants hastened into the ring to take the bull’s attention off of Parades, rodeo staff and paramedics worked to assess Parades as he was lying on the ground.
Montana bullfighter Kyle Olsen made it to the second round of the competition before his bull bolted out of the chute and stomped him. Bent over, his face visibly showing pain, Olsen scuttled to safety, where again, paramedics assessed his condition.
Other bullfighters that participated in the event included:
- Colton Orcutt from Kersey
- Lane Dorr from Texas
- Dexton Draper from Utah
- Blake Starret from Oklahoma
The sport of American Bullfighting pits men against Mexican fighting bulls. The bulls are quite a bit smaller than the bulls used in bull riding, but they are much meaner.
“Can you imagine if the big bulls were as mean as these guys?” a wrangler asked his fellow cowboy while watching the bulls being loaded into the chutes.
During their performances, bullfighters try to stay as close to the bull as possible, touching its horns and head while twisting and turning around the arena. Some bullfighters ratchet things up a notch and jump over the bulls or try to place their hat on a bull’s head.
Points are accrued by how well the bullfighter performs as well as how the bull performs.
The bulls definitely had a mind of their own during Saturday’s event as the pickup men often had to rope the bulls to get them back into the pen. At times, the feisty bulls would go after the men’s horses.
Between bouts, JC and the Revolvers band entertained the audience. Singer Jesse Cornett even participated in the action by crawling into a big blowup bubble contraption for a beer run contest.
While Cornett’s partner shuttled glasses of beer from a bucket to a pitcher, Cornett had to fend off not only other human competitors, but an angry bull as well. During the contest, the bull was rolling Cornett tucked up tight inside his bubble around the arena.
“I talked to Ken Rich before the show and I thought he was kind of joking when he said, ‘You’ve rodeoed, you can get in there,” Cornett said in an interview with the Greeley Stampede. “I thought, ‘We will see.’ Then I got called out there. I was in the bubble and I’ve got hit by bulls before and I was thinking, ‘Oh no, oh no’.”
After walking away unharmed, Cornett took to the stage to finish out his set with the band.
Check out some of the American Bullfighting action at the Greeley Stampede website at www.greeleystampede.org.