The Professional Bull Riders organisation, also known as PBR, recently visited Madison Square Garden in New York. Part of PBR’s Built Ford Tough Series, the event saw 35 of the best bull riders in the world competing for a championship prize of more than $100,000.
While much of the spotlight shines on the riders themselves, we wanted to showcase the bulls, or “animal athletes” as they’re referred to by PBR. Each bull rides only once per night. During each ride, the cowboy riding atop the bull aims to stay on for a period of eight seconds. The judges’ score combines the rider’s ability to stay up for eight seconds, along with the performance of the bull during the ride.
This was the highest-scoring ride of the weekend:
PBR recruits stock contractors that breed and raise bulls that buck the hardest, resulting in challenging rides for the professional cowboys.
Of course, any sport that involves animals is destined to receive criticism from animal rights groups. Although PBR has been outspoken about the fact that it is not a “rodeo” event, it receives the same scrutiny that rodeos have gotten for decades.
PBR dedicates a section of its official website to “Animal Welfare,” where it shares specific information about how the bulls are treated regarding nutrition, exercise and travel conditions.
We reached out to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for a statement, and shared this information with them. PETA has criticised PBR in the past, and they sent this statement in response to our inquiry:
Like all rodeos, Professional Bull Riders spectacles are violent events in which prey animals are terrorised and goaded into behaving frantically for crowds. Painful spurs and bucking straps are used to irritate normally docile cows and horses and provoke them into displaying “wild” behaviour in order to make the “cowboys” look brave. Oversight of these events is minimal at best, as the federal Animal Welfare Act offers no protection to animals used in rodeos, and while some states prohibit rodeos, others exclude them from anti-cruelty statutes. That’s why every animal-protection organisation, including PETA, opposes rodeos outright because of their inherent cruelty.”
We sent this response to PBR, and a spokesperson responded with this:
“PBR is fully committed to ensuring the health, safety, welfare and respect of the animal athletes in our sport. The care and treatment of PBR bulls is a top priority for our organisation, and we operate under a zero tolerance policy for any mistreatment of an animal associated with the PBR. PBR bulls are carefully bred to compete. Bucking is in their DNA. Contrary to popular myths, the bulls are not agitated in any way, particularly in the area of their genitals.”
One common assertion is that the bulls’ testicles are tied in order to anger them and make them buck, a claim that PBR has flatly denied. They even made a video refuting the claim, which you can see here.
Here’s some of our own footage showing a bull in action:
From what we could tell after observing three straight nights of PBR competition, the bulls’ testicles did not appear to be constrained in any way.
Regarding the spurs — which most, if not all of the riders wear — PBR said that the spurs “are dull and not harmful to the bull.” PBR made a video about the spurs used in its events.
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