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Steer Wrestling

Photo by Richard Field Levine.

Photo by Richard Field Levine.
Speed is the name of the game in steer wrestling. With its modern world record sitting at 2.4 seconds, steer wrestling is the quickest event in rodeo. The cowboy's objective is to use strength and technique to wrestle a steer to the ground as quickly as possible. That sounds simple enough. But anything that sounds that easy has to have a catch to it, and that catch here is the steer generally weighs more than twice as much as the cowboy trying to throw it. The need for speed and precision make steer wrestling, or "bulldogging" as it is commonly known, one of rodeo's most challenging events. As with calf ropers and team ropers, the bulldogger starts on horseback in a box. A breakaway rope barrier is attached to the steer, then stretched across the open end of the box. The steer gets a head start that is determined by the size of the arena. When the steer reaches the advantage point, the barrier is released and the bulldogger takes off in pursuit. If the bulldogger breaks the barrier before the steer reaches its head start, a 10-second penalty is assessed. In addition to strength, timing and balance are skills cultivated by the successful steer wrestler. When the cowboy reaches the steer, he slides down the right side of his galloping horse, hooks his right arm around the steer's right horn, grasps the left horn with his left hand and, using strength and leverage, wrestles the animal to the ground. His work isn't complete until all four of the animal's feet face upward. In order to catch up to the running steer, the cowboy uses a "hazer," another mounted cowboy who gallops his horse along the right side of the steer, keeping it from veering away from the bulldogger. The hazer can make or break a steer wrestler's run, so his role is as important as the skills the bulldogger hones. For that reason, and the fact a hazer sometimes supplies the bulldogger a horse, the hazer usually receives a fourth of the payoff if the steer wrestler places.