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November 17, 2018

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Bushwacker makes his last stand in Las Vegas

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J.B. Mauney tries to stay aboard Bushwacker for 8 seconds at a Professional Bull Riders event.

He’s considered the best athlete in the 21-year history of Professional Bull Riders, with more than a half-million dollars in earnings.

If you go

• What: The 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals

• When: 6 p.m. Oct. 22-25; 1 p.m. Oct. 26

• Where: Thomas & Mack Center

• Tickets: UNLVtickets.com from $29 to $254

Rarely flustered

From photo shoots and promotional appearances, Bushwacker is in high demand. While handlers rave about his mental edge and ability to relax during events, that’s not always the case with a camera in front of his face. “He gets his picture taken more than any other bull,” Lambert said. “He isn’t mean, but he gets irritated.”

What's for dinner

Bushwacker eats 15 pounds of grain and 20 pounds of hay each day.

It’s all in the genes

Bushwacker’s father is Reindeer Dippin, a top bull. His mother is Lady Luck, the daughter of another top bull, Diamond’s Ghost. “Reindeer was a good, high jumper and faster than most bulls,” Lambert said. “But he didn’t have the mental edge of Bushwacker. He was nervous on the road. He didn’t eat or drink well.”

His record is 62-2, including a series-record 42 straight wins.

“He’s big, smart and strong,” says J.B. Mauney, the 2013 PBR world champion. “To be as big as he is, he’s the most athletic big boy. They talk him up and put bounties on him. There’s a lot of people who show up just to see him.”

His name? Bushwacker. And he’s a bull, not one of the riders.

But talk to those on the circuit, and you’ll learn he’s the most iconic figure in PBR history. It’s Bushwacker that folks will be lining up to see this week in Las Vegas, where he’ll make his last stand during the PBR’s 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals. Bushwacker, who weighs 1,700 pounds, will retire to stud after competing at the Thomas & Mack Center.

“Once in a great while you have someone who has it all. Bushwacker is that way,” said PBR Vice President and Livestock Director Cody Lambert. “He is like a superior player in any sport. He has a real physical gift and the ability not many have. And he has the competitive drive not many have.

“He saves his energy for when he is bucking. He doesn’t get nervous or fret about things. He is ready when called and gets the job done every time.”

Well, not every time.

On Aug. 17, 2013, Mauney successfully rode Bushwacker to break his record-setting 42 buckoff streak in Tulsa, Okla., sending the sellout crowd into a frenzy of cheers. There are typically more than 100 bulls used at each event, but Mauney always picks Bushwacker even though he could select a less-challenging bull. A successful ride must last at least 8 seconds.

“I’ve always been the type that if you are going to be the best, you have to ride the best,” Mauney said. “He is so fast. He is so smart. You don’t know what he is going to do. He is a bull I have been on 12 or 13 times, and he’s never done the same thing twice.”

While the human athletes in PBR aren’t mainstream, Bushwhacker has gained national media exposure. The dark brown bull was featured in Sports Illustrated and was included in last year’s body issue of ESPN the Magazine, which identified him as having “the Baddest Body in Sports.” This month, he was featured in Newsweek. Rodeo fans always search him out for pictures, and one even wrote a poem about him.

“He is our biggest star and our most famous athlete, albeit a four-legged athlete,” Lambert said. “It is really cool to see how something like this has happened. You see it every year in thoroughbred racing. If a horse wins the Kentucky Derby and then the Preakness, people get excited. When it is over, they lose interest until next year’s Derby. We see that same interest. To me, he is a modern-day Seabiscuit that captured everyone’s interest.”

Since debuting in 2009, Bushwhacker has generated $500,000-plus in earnings for his owner, Julio Moreno, who collects each time the bull bucks off a rider.

When his rodeo days end, Bushwaker will retire to a 15-acre ranch in California’s central valley and will reportedly have more than 20 girlfriends. His sole purpose will be to reproduce. Lambert said Moreno turned down $750,000 a few years ago for a breeding fee. Previously, Moreno sold a plastic straw of Bushwacker’s semen for $3,000, according to USA Today.

Bushwacker, who debuted in 2009, is just 8 years old. Most bulls compete until they are 10. So why is Bushwacker retiring?

“They start to lose physical ability around 8 or 9,” Lambert said. “Some last longer, but very few. You wouldn’t want him to stay out there when he slows down and have someone not in his league able to ride him.”

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