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Bullfighter Nate Jestes
Courtesy Photo
Bullfighter Nate Jestes

Free Style Bullfights draw beig crowds to Rodeo Rapid City


News Staff - February 2, 2020

RAPID CITY, SD - In 1979 at the 2nd Annual Black Hills Stock Show Rodeo, an event was born that had never been seen before in rodeo.  It was an invitational-free style bullfight organized by Jim Sutton. 

Each bullfighter had a set time period to dance, fight and spin his way around a Mexican fighting bull, trying to impress the judges and earn the most points to win the contest. 

The crowd loved it.  There was a danger factor and thrill that kept people glued to their seats.  And while no one wanted to see a bull fighter hurt, they didn’t mind if they got banged around a little bit.

The Wrangler Jeans Corporation loved it too, and, starting in 1980, sponsored the Wrangler Bullfight Tour.   After a year of competition at major rodeos across the United States, the top six freestyle bullfighters were chosen to compete for a cash purse at the National Finals Rodeo. Over four consecutive days at the NFR, each bullfighter battled the most aggressive bulls to see who could come up with the highest score to determine the World Champion. The rankest bulls were put together from all across the nation.  The tour lasted 20 years, ending after the 2000 NFR.

In celebration of the 43rd Annual PRCA Rodeo Rapid City underway now, Sutton Rodeo will be featuring a Freestyle Bull Fight Competition.  Catch the first round action Feb. 6 at 1 p.m. and second round Feb. 7, where the bull fighter competitors will each compete 40-70 seconds, trying to convince a judge their fight is best.

Tate Rhoads, a bullfighter and freestyle competitor from Big Horn, MT, calls himself an “adrenaline junkie.” He adds, “This is what I get to do for a living traveling around the world. And I get to work a lot of rodeos for the Suttons.”

Describing the competition, Rhoads shares, “We through fakes at the bull just like you would if you are a linebacker on the football field. The goal is to try and stay as close to the bull as you can without getting run over.” 

Top competitors advance into the rodeo performances Feb. 6-8, where they will compete head-to-head and one will be crowned the 2020 Rodeo Rapid City Freestyle Bull Fight Champion during the Feb. 8th 7:30 pm Rodeo Rapid City performance.



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