Bodacious, the Meanest, Most Dangerous Rodeo Bull That Ever Was

Riding rodeo bulls is dangerous by definition, but one bull, in particular, gave even the world’s best riders such a hard time that he became known as the meanest rodeo bull in history. This is the story of the legendary Bodacious.

According to statistics, bull riding is the world’s most dangerous organized sport, recording more catastrophic injuries and fatalities than any other contact sport. Getting thrown around like a ragdoll or stomped on by a 900kg bull is anything but safe, and some bulls are particularly good at injuring the cowboys attempting to ride them. There are many legendary bulls in this sport, but none as famous and as feared as Bodacious, a mighty beast that was retired by its owner while in his prime for fear that he might end up killing a rider.

Looking at photos and videos of Bodacious, you’d think that he was born to buck, but his original owner, Phil Sumner, would tell you otherwise. The Half Charolais and half Brahman started his life in 1988 as a scrawny calf, and at age three he didn’t really show much promise as a rodeo bull. Sumner doubted that he would ever amount to anything, so he didn’t even bother naming him, giving him the tag number J31 instead.

“I was thinking, ‘Dude, you’re going to have to step up your game plan or you’re going to be going to McDonald’s,'” Sumner told New York Post‘s Burkhard Bilger a few years back.

But then, one day, something snapped in J31. The kid riding him at a small arena in Okeene, Oklahoma, had gotten his hand caught in the bull’s rope and that didn’t sit well with J31. He started bucking forward and kicking back, leaping into the air, and by the time the rider fell, the bull had almost jumped over the fence. And that was only the beginning.


J31 went from a rather unimpressive rodeo bull to being a bit too much for the small-town rodeo circuit, so Phil Sumner ended up selling him to another rancher, Sammy Andrews who finally gave him a name worthy of his style, Bodacious.

While Bodacious was already impressive in his early years under Andrews, once he matured, he became nearly unrideable. As a matter of fact, out of the 135 riders who tried to stay on his back for the required 8 seconds during his career, Bodacious bucked off 127 of them, most in the first second or two. And some of those who succeeded the first time got a taste of the bull’s revenge on their second attempt.

Tuff Hedeman, a four-time world champion and one of the best bull riders to ever do it, got the best of Bodacious in 1993, at a rodeo in Long Beach, California, delivering what many described as a near-perfect performance. But two years later, at the world championships in Las Vegas, he drew Bodacious again, and this time the bull got even…


The moment he left the chute, Bodacious bucked forward with all his might, and Hederman did what riders are supposed to do in that situation, he leaned forward and flung his arm back as a counterbalance. But just as the rider was leaning forward, Bodacious threw his big head back, smashing it square into Hedeman’s face. The rider stayed on only to get head-butted by the bull a second time.

Bodacious broke every bone in Hedeman’s face below the eyes, and it took thirteen and a half hours of reconstructive surgery and five titanium plates to partially repair the damage. His sense of smell and taste never returned…

Only seven weeks after injuring Hedeman, Bodacious went up against rider Scott Breding at the National Finals Rodeo. Knowing the bull’s reputation and what it had done to Hedeman, Scott decided to wear a hockey mask for protection. Bodacious was unimpressed, using the exact same tactic as seven weeks prior to fracture the rider’s left eye socket.


The day after Bodacious injured Scott Breding, Sammy Andrews withdrew the bull from all competitions, claiming that he “didn’t want to be the guy who let him kill someone”. Bodacious was only seven at the time, in the prime of his life as a rodeo bull, but too much of a risk for any rider.

The aforementioned injuries were only the two that put an end to Bodacious’ career, but there were several others in previous years. In fact, many journalists and even some riders will tell you that of his recorded 127 wins in the arena, more than a few came as a result of riders letting him win out of fear.

“It’s probably true that the bull scared cowboys into allowing themselves to be slingshotted. Every bull rider’s worst fear is getting jerked down onto a bull’s head, and cowboys who stayed on Bodacious beyond the first two jumps usually got hurt,” Jo Deurbrock once wrote.


“Of all the bulls I’ve ever seen, he’s the most dangerous,” Hedeman once told a Sports Illustrated reporter about Bodacious. “Even top-ranked guys who weren’t afraid of anything were definitely afraid of Bodacious. You’d see world champions ride him for a jump or two and then get off.”

Bodacious’ style, the way he would leap into the air the moment the chute opened, then jackhammering to the ground and spinning in unpredictable ways, not to mention his signature head-butting move, turned him into a legend that still lives on in the sport.

Bodacious died of kidney failure in the year 2000, in his retirement pen at a Texas ranch, but decades later he is still widely regarded as the greatest bull to ever buck, and definitely the most dangerous rodeo bull in history.