By: Justin Felisko
March 02, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – The PBR’s bovine giant is officially calling it a career.
Kenny McElroy and K-Bar-C Bucking Bulls announced on Tuesday evening that they have decided to retire Mississippi Hippy following a hip injury the bull sustained during the Choctaw Casino Iron Cowboy, powered by Kawasaki, on Saturday evening.
According to McElroy, veterinarian Mark Burroughs discovered that the 2,300-pound bull sustained a dislocated hip during Keyshawn Whitehorse’s ride attempt in the first round.
Immediately, McElroy, and many others in attendance, knew something was wrong with the largest bull in the PBR.
“We came to the conclusion he had a dislocated hip and it is dislocated enough to where he will never buck again,” McElroy said. “We can make him comfortable to where he is not going to be in pain the rest of his life. We are going to breed him and he will live out his life here on the farm.”
It is a devastating blow to K-Bar-C Bucking Bulls after Mississippi Hippy fought his way back to competition in the past three months by overcoming not only a horn infection, but as well as two bouts with cancerous tumors in his eyelids.
“It was a pretty tough day. I won’t lie,” McElroy said Wednesday. “The care we put into our animals is sometimes more than what I give my kids. I haven’t slept in four days since he got hurt. I was up last night and went out six times throughout the night to check on him.”
Mississippi Hippy finishes his BFTS career with 34 buckoffs in four-plus seasons and was only ridden three times, not including two instances when a re-ride was offered. According to ProBullstats.com, Mississippi Hippy retires with an average bull score of 43.78 points. He also competed at the last four Built Ford Tough World Finals.
McElroy always said that if Mississippi Hippy’s quality of life was ever in jeopardy because of an injury that he would retire the bull on the spot.
Sadly, that time arrived sooner than expected.
McElroy is still looking forward to a full recovery for Hippy on the K-Bar-C ranch in Mount Orab, Ohio.
“My main concern is to wake up in the morning and drink my cup of coffee on the deck and see my bull being a bull,” McElroy said before taking a moment to compose himself.
“That means more to me than people know.”
A SPECIAL BOND BETWEEN TWO SURVIVORS
McElroy always had a special affection for Mississippi Hippy since he first acquired the bull as a 5-year-old in February 2013.
However, that bond only became stronger once McElroy was diagnosed with colon cancer six months later.
McElroy relied on the strength of his friends, family and his bucking bulls to overcome numerous chemotherapy treatments over the course of his recovery.
It is why McElroy, who has been cancer free for two years, was hit hard when Mississippi Hippy was diagnosed with cancerous tumors in his eyelids following the 2015 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
Hippy had already fought his way back from a horn infection and now had to go through a treatment to cure the cancer. To make matters worse, the tumors reappeared in December just when it looked like Hippy was in the clear.
“These bulls have helped pull me through this illness, and I don’t think I can ever thank them enough,” McElroy said. “It is weird to say. In my time of need, that is what I had to pull me through. I think that is why I give back so much to mine. I know I have been through that pain, but I am happy I am still here for my kids and still doing what I love.”
On both occasions, Mississippi Hippy bounced back, which made this past weekend’s dislocated hip that much tougher a pill to swallow. For Hippy to have his career ended by injury, after beating cancer twice, just didn’t seem fair.
“That is what hit home to me because I went through the cancer,” McElroy said. “I went through all of the pain. All of the crap. It was like watching one of my kids go through all of it. To see him come back and perform and then come back the second time and have a career-ending injury just broke my heart.
“I think it has broken a lot of people’s hearts across the country.”
A GOOD DANCING PARTNER
23-year-old Nevada Newman’s vision was blurred and bright every time his head got jarred back and his arm was locked in full extension.
The bright lights of Scottrade Center in St. Louis were blinding him as Mississippi Hippy continued to rear back and rocket Newman’s brain against his helmet with every thundering jump Hippy made.
Newman’s left arm was on fire as every second dragged on before the pain in his riding arm was masked by the roar of the Built Ford Tough Series crowd and the 8-second buzzer earlier this month at the Bass Pro Chute Out.
The rookie had stunningly just become only the third rider to ever conquer Mississippi Hippy at the BFTS level.
Just like that, everyone was talking about this unknown kid from Melstone, Montana.
“Holy cow, he dang sure was yanking on me I remember,” Newman recalled on Tuesday night. “At times I would just be on the end of my arm and I was looking right at the lights in St. Louis and I would come back down and hit and I would gather myself back up and next thing I know he would be going right back at it again and yanking on me and I would be looking back at the lights again.
“It was just an awesome matchup and he was a good dancing partner.”
McElroy nearly squeezed any remaining air out of Newman’s lungs when he gave the young kid a massive bear hug after the 87.75-point ride.
“That might have been one of the biggest moments I had since being in the PBR just because I knew I went through so much with getting him back,” McElroy said. “And for him to perform as good as he did that day with a newcomer, who is a great kid with a bright future in the PBR, just kind of hit home at that moment.
“I know Hippy wasn’t a 45, but he was a 46 in my mind. I think it is an honor he will get to retire right.”
It wasn’t just the fact that Hippy had just helped a young bull rider make a name for himself. Rather, it was about Hippy showing he was able to win his battle against cancer.
“He loved his job,” McElroy added. “That is what gave him the will to come back through the cancer. It is no different than me. I was diagnosed with cancer three years ago and I went through everything he went through. You just have that desire and that will.”
Newman was saddened to hear Mississippi Hippy had injured himself at the Iron Cowboy, but he is honored to forever be tied to one of the PBR’s historic bull’s legacy.
The first-year BFTS pro had over 10 fans come up to him in Arlington, Texas, and explain they had learned about him through his memorable ride on Mississippi Hippy.
“Everyone knows that is probably one of my best stories,” Newman said. “He brought my name out just as much as anything. I have to pay him a lot of respect too. It is an honor and it is super cool. I remember in high school watching that bull on TV being the biggest, baddest sucker in the PBR, and I got to get on him there and stick him.
“I am probably going to buy a picture of me on him, blow it up and hang it in my house. It is going to be something I am going to talk about forever.”
A GIANT IN THE ARENA
Mississippi Hippy was the PBR’s version of Andre the Giant.
For close to 20 years, Andre the Giant towered over his opponents in professional wrestling. He would make wrestling rings all over the world look tiny in comparison to his 7-foot-4 inch frame and make opposing challengers appear peasant-like.
Mississippi Hippy is not only 2,300 pounds, but he stands 6-foot-4 inches to his hump. His massive frame makes it nearly impossible for opposing riders to find any breathing room for their legs inside the bucking chute.
“We rarely see a bull that big in bull riding or anywhere, even in the days before the PBR when there used to be a lot of 1,800 to 2,000-pound bulls,” said PBR’s Director of Livestock Cody Lambert. “You rarely see one that’s close to 2,400 pounds, I can only think of about three or four in the years I’ve been around bull riding. He’s one of the biggest ones I’ve ever seen in the bucking chutes.”
Kasey Hayes was the first rider to notch a BFTS qualified ride on the giant in April 2014, a month after Joao Ricardo Vieira rode Mississippi Hippy for 88.75 points at RFD-TV’s THE AMERICAN.
Mississippi Hippy had bucked off 23 consecutive riders on the BFTS to begin his career before Hayes rode him for 88.5 points in Des Moines, Iowa.
Hayes remembers how much of a struggle it was to find any room for his feet inside the bucking chutes. Every time Mississippi Hippy turned his head to the left or the right, Hayes could feel his opposite foot getting smashed against the steel.
“I couldn’t really get my feet down that well, so I was like as soon as that gate opens I am going to drop my feet and get a hold because I definitely don’t want to be behind on that big son of a gun.”
Fall behind he did not, and Hayes held on for one of the top rides of his career. Two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney walked up to Hayes and said, “‘I don’t know what the heck you were thinking, but good job.’”
Hayes understands why judges didn’t mark him 90 points because of how deceiving Hippy looks while bucking.
He is so large that his athletic ability sometimes was unappreciated by the naked eye.
“I mean he felt like he bucked a heck of lot harder than 88.5,” Hayes said. “He is so big and he is so hard to ride and the judges kind of underestimate him because he doesn’t really look like he is moving that fast, but I look at my still shot pictures or something and as big as he is, that bull is still kicking straight over his head. He is so big that when you watch him you are like, ‘Well, he is not really bucking that hard,’ and you slow it down and you are like, ‘He is bucking that hard.’ He is kind of deceiving really.”
Mississippi Hippy made his PBR debut in 2011 in Indianapolis with a 5.95-second buckoff of L.J. Jenkins before beginning to compete full time on the BFTS in 2012.
“He is just so unpredictable in the way and style he bucks,” McElroy said earlier this year. “He has gotten smarter as he has gotten older. I think he does a lot feeling on what guys do. He used to turn back to the left and make a couple of rounds and then all of a sudden he will turn back and go the other way. I think he is just a phenomenal athlete. He not only bucks hard, but he is thinking as he bucks.”
Eduardo Aparecido became the second BFTS rider to conquer the beast of the PBR with an 89-point ride during the 15/15 Bucking Battle in Allentown, Pennsylvania, last season.
Mississippi Hippy was marked 45 points or higher nine times in his career, but Lambert believes there could have been many more.
“He had lots of outs where he didn’t get the score that he really deserved because he bucked (guys) off pretty quick and he’s so big and he looks like a gentle giant,” Lambert said. “There were lots of times though early in his career where he was the best bull of the night and he got scored as such.”
AN OUTPOURING OF SUPPORT
When McElroy first got Mississippi Hippy, Hippy was a big, mean and frightening bull on the ranch. Over time Hippy made a transition into a loveable, “big baby.”
Mississippi Hippy’s evolution into a loving creature transformed into a massive following on social media.
In fact, Mississippi Hippy announced his retirement on his personal Facebook page, where he has over 8,000 followers.
His popularity and fame has started to slowly catch up to his massiveness in recent seasons.
“Well, I think his size has a lot to do with it,” McElroy said. “Let’s face it. For a bull as big as he is, to be that athletic is pretty uncommon. I think his popularity comes from his personality. People see that just because he is over 2,300 pounds, an animal can be as rank as he is in the pen and can turn around and be like a pet.”
The announcement brought with it an endless outpouring of support.
Marlene Henry, who had to lay Mick E Mouse to rest last year, sent McElroy a thoughtful message, 2016 Iron Cowboy Shane Proctor and his wife, Jessi, also sent their condolences to the McElroys as well as hundreds of others who reached out in various ways.
There have been numerous Facebook messages, emails, texts and phone calls.
“It is a true statement that cowboys, stock contractors, and people in the PBR, is a family,” McElroy said. “His following is just incredible. It is truly amazing to see the outpouring from all of the people. I’ve had preachers reach out to me on Facebook and say they have been praying for me in their church services. It has totally been crazy. It has been overwhelming because you really don’t realize how many people in this country are animal lovers.”
FUTURE HIPPYS IN THE MAKING
Mississippi Hippy’s future is still bright.
He may not be able to buck anymore, but Hippy will be a big part of the future for K-Bar-C Bucking Bulls once he is completely healthy again.
“We are going to get him back to where he needs to be to breed,” McElroy concluded. “Of course, I am going to have to buy some bigger cows so we can breed him. Hopefully three, four years down the road now we will see a bunch of the Hippys coming in there and then my life will be full circle.”
When that happens, PBR riders better be careful.
“All I can say is cowboys better look out,” McElroy confidently said. “There are going to be a lot of Hippy babies running around. The future is going to be pretty grim for them riders.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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