The Professional Bull Riders finals started last night in Las Vegas. This will be the last time we’ll see the champion bull Bushwacker. He deserves a good retirement to the easy life. — jtl, 419
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Bushwacker, a superstar among bucking bulls, is retiring at the end of October. That will mean a change in lifestyle for the 1,750-pound, chocolate brown bull accustomed to ejecting riders in seconds and being secluded on tour from other bulls so he won’t tangle with them.
Owner Julio Moreno plans to retire Bushwacker at his ranch in Oakdale, Calif. Priorities for the bull will be to relax and reproduce.
“He’ll have a pasture, maybe 15 acres, irrigated, nice clover, a little barn to come under, and he’ll probably have 20-21 girlfriends with him at all times. He’ll enjoy that,” Moreno tells USA TODAY Sports.
Moreno and the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) tour plan to announce Bushwacker’s farewell tour today in Oklahoma City, where Bushwacker will be matched with rider J.B. Mauney (pronounced moony) in a battle of No. 1’s on Saturday.
Mauney was the 2013 PBR world champion rider, and Bushwacker was the 2013 PBR world champion bull. They’ll meet Saturday in the 15/15 Bucking Battle, matching the top 15 bull riders and top 15 bulls from last year’s world finals (12 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS).
Last Aug. 17 in Tulsa, Mauney rode Bushwacker for the required eight seconds to snap the bull’s PBR record streak of 42 consecutive buckoffs over more than four years. Mauney is 1-10 against Bushwacker overall.
“In my mind, (Bushwacker) is the best there’s ever been. … It takes a real champion to ride him,” Cody Lambert, livestock director of the PBR and one of its co-founders in 1992, tells USA TODAY Sports. “And that champion is going to have to kind of get lucky at the same time.”
Bushwacker, also PBR world champion in 2011, has been ridden just twice in 52 times out of the chute since arriving on the PBR scene in 2009. He doesn’t mix with other bulls in the pasture or the pen.
“Not him. Bushwacker stays by himself,” says Moreno. He’ll have a pen. … Kent (Cox, the bull’s handler) lets him out once a day to exercise in an area. He bucks and plays, and that’s how his life is every day. And he gets fed super good.”
As Lambert says: “He has his own pen everywhere he goes because he’s so valuable, they don’t want to take a chance on him getting into a fight with another bull.”
Bushwacker will turn 8 this year. Some bulls buck until they are 10-12. Why retire him now?
“I want him to go out as the best bull,” says Moreno.
“Bushwacker is capable of going for longer,” Lambert says, “but it would be disrespectful to do it after he loses a step, if he slows down any.”
Moreno has never used Bushwacker for natural breeding, which he has done with other bulls while they are still competing: “I just didn’t want anything to get in the way of competition.”
Bushwacker has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars for Moreno in bucking fees from the PBR and performance bonuses. Lambert says Bushwacker alone won $200,000-$300,000 in bonuses as a 3-4-year-old. Had Moreno sold Bushwacker a few years ago, Lambert estimates he would have for up to $1 million.
“But the big value is the breeding,” Lambert says.
In past years, Moreno says he has sold semen collected from Bushwacker for $3,000 per refrigerated, plastic straw. He says he might raise that to $5,000 – if he sells any at all. But for Bushwacker, Moreno definitely plans natural breeding with female species (cows) at his ranch.
“Then I can have some little Bushwackers,” Moreno says.
Bushwacker was born in the spring of 2006. His father was a top bucking bull named Reindeer Dippin. His mother, Lady Luck, was the daughter of Diamond’s Ghost.
“Dianmond’s Ghost was a really good bull, but he wasn’t anywhere in Bushwacker’s league. But his father, Reindeer Dippin, was physically gifted like Bushwacker is,” says Lambert.
What are those gifts?
“He can jump higher and move faster and change directions faster than just about any bull,” says Lambert. “There are a few bulls that have those physical gifts, but then mentally he’s a competitor. He knows his job is to throw the guy off, and he does whatever it takes.”
Some bucking bulls are 2,000 pounds or more. Mississippi Hippy currently goes about 2,300. “Biggest on tour,” says Lambert.
Moreno says Bushwacker was about 1,600 pounds a year and a half ago. “He’s gotten bigger (1,750), but he’s in shape right now,” says Moreno.
He also has an attitude, even around his owner.
“He’ll try to come and hook you,” says Moreno. “I think Kent gets along with him better than anybody.”
He’s also photogenic. “He does like people coming to take pictures of him,” says Moreno. “He’ll stick his head up. … Honestly, I really think the bulls know he’s the greatest.”
Bushwacker’s career was threatened in early 2012 by bone chips in the ankles of his hind legs. But that was repaired via arthroscopic surgery by veterinarian Gary Warner of Elgin, Texas. “We didn’t know (pre-surgery) whether he was ever going to be able to buck,” says Moreno.
Besides Mauney, the only rider to stay on Bushwacker for eight seconds on the PBR tour and get a score was Thiago Paguioto at the world finals in 2009 (Bushwacker’s first PBR season).
“He doesn’t have a set (bucking) pattern where he always spins to the left or the right or he always goes two straight jumps before he does it,” says Lambert. “He feels the rider, and the tougher the challenge the harder he bucks.”
When Mauney rode Bushwacker last August, the bull was coming off a 15-week summer break. Saturday in Tulsa, Bushwacker also will be coming off a break. He hasn’t bucked since last October’s world finals.
Might he be easier to ride?
“Everybody says that. I’m not 100 percent saying that’s true,” says Moreno.
Mauney will find out Saturday.
Come October, after the PBR finals in Las Vegas, Bushwacker’s bucking days will be over. Some bulls live to age 14-15 or longer. He might spend half his life in retirement.
“Next year in the spring, I will turn him out,” Moreno says, “and just let him run his little 15 acres there and be the king again.”
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