By: Susan Bedford July 25, 2014@ 03:00:00 PM
It may be hard to believe now, but I remember when Bushwacker first started his career — and there were some serious naysayers.
Bushwacker was different, and people sometimes don’t accept different right off the bat. Bushwacker just did things bulls shouldn’t be able to do. He didn’t fit the mold. Everyone agreed he was a remarkable athlete, but some thought his style didn’t fit what a bucking bull “should” be. They thought that, if he even got to the BFTS, he wouldn’t make it to the top.
By year two of his ABBI Classic career, no one was saying that. Folks were coming to watch ABBI events at the start of the season just to see him. Some of the world’s top cowboys could be found sitting in the stands at ABBI Classics to check out the animal that could be their foe at an upcoming BFTS.
Just as PBR helps to develop cowboy talent, the ABBI exists to develop bull talent (and to record and preserve their valuable bloodlines). But whereas the bull riders start in the Touring Pro Division and then eventually move up to the BFTS if they have the right stuff, the ABBI Classic bulls gets a taste of the big leagues pretty early on.
Breeding programs have gotten so advanced these days (thanks in part to the ABBI’s DNA registry and the $2 million plus they pay animal athletes each season), that Cody Lambert allows ABBI Classic bulls to buck at many BFTS events. That means at certain events (like the upcoming Tulsa and Springfield Built Ford Tough Series events), there are ABBI judges watching the same ride you are, but awarding scores solely to the bulls.
Just as one rider will be crowned event champion after the last round, the same is true for the bulls at an ABBI event. Bushwacker started his career as a 2-year-old ABBI Futurity bull, where he won zero events. He did qualify for the ABBI World Finals Futurity, but finished 26th overall.
Reindeer calves can be late bloomers, so to speak, when it comes to “spin” and getting their nerves settled in the chutes and feeling comfortable on the arena floor. Bushwacker was like some of his siblings in this respect. He got a great deal of air, but there wasn’t too much spin to him as a youngster. But anyone who remembered what an outstanding athlete Reindeer was, was keeping their eye on his son, Bushwacker. With a buck-off rate of nearly 95 percent Reindeer was one of the greats of his time.
Bushwacker began to come into his own as a 3-year-old Classic bull, becoming the ABBI Wild Card reserve champion. That got him qualified for the 2009 ABBI World Finals Classic where he finished third. That was the only period he’d ever be ridden back-to-back.
Markus Mariluch would ride be the first man to ride him, for 88 in Las Vegas. Thiago Paguioto would have him in the ABBI Classic (held during night four of the PBR World Finals) and his 8 seconds would be worth 89.75. But many folks still weren’t quite sure what to make of Bushwacker.
The big bull apparently didn’t care for the taste of defeat. Not a single cowboy would make the whistle on him again for nearly four years. By 2010, his second year of Classic competition, he was seemingly unstoppable. He had established a rhythm and flow that caught the judge’s eyes, yet kept the cowboys a half-step behind him.
Bushwacker began to rack up win after win at ABBI events. When it was finally time for the World Finals, he embraced the bright lights of Las Vegas by not only being crowned the ABBI World Champion Classic Bull, but by being in the running for PBR World Champion Bucking Bull at just 4 years old. His ABBI Classic title alone was worth $250,000.
The rest, as they say, is history. Bushwacker was PBR World Champion in both 2011 and 2013. He was only ridden one other time, by J.B. Mauney in Tulsa last year, during a trip that earned him a bull score of 46.75. The great bull has been scored as high as 48.25. That would make him 96.5 points, a score virtually unheard of on the bull side of the equation.
Bushwacker is currently on his farewell tour and his storied career will come to a close at the 2014 PBR World Finals. Even if you’ve only seen him buck once recently, you have witnessed greatness. Those of us lucky enough to have seen his career start six years ago have seen the transformation of an animal who may truly be the greatest bucking bull of all time.
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