These three bulls will not be giving cowboys any hair-raising rides at this week’s Eastern Oregon Livestock Show, but odds are they will give spectators many reasons to come to their feet at the Union event, which opens today.
Freestyle bullfighting, one of the fastest growing sports in rodeo, will debut at EOLS June 6. The PRCA event will feature three cowboys and three bulls from Prairie City in celebration of the 10th annual Ed Miller Xtreme Bull Riding competition at EOLS, held in Union. The bull riding will be run in conjunction with freestyle bull fighting at the EOLS arena.
Freestyle bullfighting is a 60-second competition in which a bullfighter avoids the bull he’s confronting by dodging, jumping and using a barrel just as a rodeo clown does. Bullfighters are awarded points when they exhibit control over the direction of the bull with fakes, performing creative tricks ranging from jumps to flips.
“It is the most intense minute in sports,” said Trever Hamsher of Prairie City, the owner of Hamsher Fighting Bulls and a former freestyle bullfighter.
Hamsher is providing the three purebred Spanish fighting bulls for the freestyle event.
“All animals have fight or flight instincts. These bulls are bred for fight, not flight,” Hamsher said. “A deer runs from you, (but) these bulls run at you.”
The bulls are named Night Moves, Leapfrog and Super Bee. Night Moves is so named because Hamsher drove 26 hours straight to get him after learning the bull was for sale. Leapfrog acquired his name after a friend named Frog once had to jump over the bull to avoid being injured by him, and Super Bee was named for his bumble bee-like stripes.
Hamsher said the three bulls get along well when they are together as a group and appear even-tempered. Once alone, though, their aggressive nature surfaces.
“It is like a light switch when they are by themselves,” he said. “They feel threatened.”
He said the personalities of his bulls vary a bit from day to day.
“It depends on which side of the hay they get up on,” Hamsher said.
Hamsher has provided stock for the Eastern Oregon Livestock Show in past years and said he is always impressed with how many volunteers and community supporters it has.
“I feel blessed to be part of EOLS,” he said.
He also takes bulls to rodeos including those in Las Vegas, Calgary and the states of Idaho and Wyoming.
Cassie Miller, third vice president of the EOLS Association, hopes that this is just the start for freestyle bullfighting in Union.
“We would like to see it become part of the EOLS tradition,” Miller said.
The freestyle bullfighting and Ed Miller Xtreme Bull Riding competition begin at 7 p.m. Thursday. Entrants in this year’s Extreme Bullfighting include defending champion Paul Coppini of Kuna, Idaho. Coppini, who also won the 2013 title, like Hamsher, said he likes coming to the EOLS because of its community spirit.
“It is a like a good family,” Coppini said.
The cowboy speaks of his sport almost as if it were taking place in a dance hall.
“(Bull riding) is like a dance and (the bull) is leading,’’ he said.
A successful bull ride lasts just eight seconds but don’t tell that to Coppini.
“It seems like forever,’’ he said.
The Eastern Oregon Livestock Show in Union began this morning with a 4-H show and a dog show and continues on Tuesday with the 4-H horse show at 9 a.m., the small animal show at 10 a.m. and the queen’s coronation at 7 p.m. in the EOLS Clubhouse.
Wednesday events include the livestock weigh-in from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. and the breeding goat showmanship and conformation event at 3 p.m.
Thursdays schedule begins with a Cowboy Breakfast at 6 a.m., 4-H and FFA conformation at 9 a.m., the 4-H and FFA judging contest at 3 p.m., a carnival that runs from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. and the Ed Miller Xtreme Bulls and PRCA Freestyle Bullfighting beginning at 7 p.m. A calf scramble will be conducted during intermission of bull riding and freestyle bullfighting.
Friday has the most activities, starting with a Cowboy Breakfast at 6 a.m., 4-H and FFA showmanship at 9 a.m., the queen’s luncheon at 11 a.m., the FFA awards presentation at 1 p.m. in the sale barn, the carnival from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., the EOLS main street parade at 2 p.m., a PRCA rodeo and pari-mutuel horse racing at 4 p.m., a 4-H awards presentation in the sale barn at 6 p.m. and a dance for adults at 8 p.m. in the EOLS Clubhouse.
Saturday events include a Cowboy Breakfast beginning at 6 a.m., the Livestock Auction starting at 8 a.m., the last day of the carnival which will be open from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., the PRCA rodeo and pari-mutuel horse racing which start at 2 p.m. and a dance for adults after the rodeo in the EOLS Clubhouse.
The EOLS concludes on Sunday with the PRCA rodeo and pari-mutuel horse racing at 1:30 p.m.