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Speed and Strength. Sounds simple enough, right? With a world record sitting at 2.4 seconds, steer wrestling is anything but simple.
The objective of steer wrestling (also known as “bulldogging”), is to use technique and strength to wrestle a steer to the ground as quickly as possible. Here’s where it gets tricky: the steer generally weighs more than twice as much as the cowboy, and when the two come together, they’re often traveling at 30 miles per hour.
As with tie-down and team roping, the bulldogger starts on horseback in a three-sided fenced area, known as “the box”. A breakaway rope, serving as a barrier, is attached to the steer and stretched across the open end of the box. The steer receives a head start that is determined by the size of the arena. Once the steer reaches the advantage point, the barrier is released and the steer wrestler takes off in pursuit. If the barrier is broken before the steer reaches its head start, a 10-second penalty is added to the rider’s final time.
In addition to strength, speed and precision, two other imperative skills to success are timing and balance. In order to catch the sprinting steer, the bulldogger relies on a “hazer”, which is another mounted cowboy who gallops along the right side of the steer to keep it aligned for the steer wrestler. When the bulldogger reaches his steer, he slides off the right side of his galloping horse, hooking his right arm around the steer’s right horn, while his left hand grasps the left horn. Using strength and leverage, he slows the animal by digging his heels into the dirt and maneuvers the steer to the ground. Time stops when the steer is on its side with all four feet pointing in the same direction.
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