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Bull Riding Equipment

Bull Rope

The main piece of equipment used in riding a bull is the bull rope It is usually a poly rope braided with a handhold in the center. The handhold is reinforced with leather lacing to make it stiff, and to stop it from twisting, or rolling over. If the rope rolls over, it is dangerous because the rider may become hung up in his rope. On one end of the rope is a loop. The tail of the rope is dropped under the bull, and pulled back through the loop like a slip knot. The rider then warms up the rosin on his rope to make it sticky, and wraps the tail around the back of his hand and back across the palm.

There are several different kinds of bull rope, but one major difference is the plait. This has to do with how many strands the bull rope was braided with, and how tightly the rope is braided. The most common plaits are 5, 7, and 9. A five plait is a very soft, mushy braid, where a nine plait is very hard and tight. The seven plait falls somewhere in between. Some ropes are available with the handhold and the tail braided differently. The handhold could be braided as a 7 plait, and the tail a five plait.


A bell attached to the bull rope is required by virtually every rodeo association in the US. Not only do the bells add sound and action to a bull ride, but their weight pulls the rope off after the rider dismounts. This speeds up the rodeo and makes life easier for the workers behind the chutes stripping bulls. The most common bells are made of a tinny copper material that will crush if a bull steps on them, but can easily be pounded back out. Other heavier bells are made of steel, but are not popular with stock contractors or clowns. These bells may lame a bull if stepped on, or injure a person because of their weight. Sometimes these bells are called clown killers.


A leather glove usually made of buckskin or steerhide is used in bull riding. Some riders prefer a thinner glove which will give them more feel, while others prefer a tougher glove that will last longer and offer more protection. The glove is usually strapped on with a Velcro strap around the wrist, or tied on with a latigo thong.

The bull rider uses either black or amber rosin and rubs it into the palm of his glove, and rosins up his rope by drawing his gloved hand across the tail and the handhold of the rope. This makes the rope sticky, giving him a better grip when he rides. Amber rosin is currently the most popular, but black rosin is often used. One disadvantage to black rosin is that it tends to be gummy and can make a mess out of a rope. Glycerin, commonly purchased as saddle soap, is also used by some riders before rosining their ropes. When glycerin is used the rope becomes extra sticky, but it must be used in moderation because too much will result in a hang up.

Rope Pads

A rope pad is a piece of foam or sheepskin that is placed under the handhold to protect the rider's knuckles from the bull's backbone. Many rope pads are covered with suede or leather to make them more durable. Usually they tie on with latigo thongs or Velcro straps.


Bull spurs are primarily designed to grab the bulls hide, anchoring the riders feet and aiding him in his ride. Their second purpose is to spur the bull, resulting in a higher score for the rider and probably more action out of the animal. Bull riding spurs have fixed rowels, that is, they do not spin. Usually the rowels are locked by a cotter pin or bolt run through the shank of the spur between the teeth of the rowel.

Bull riding rowels are never sharp and riders are careful to keep the rowels dulled to prevent cutting the animals. Not only is cutting a bull likely to make a stock contractor unhappy, it is also of negative consequence to the rider. If a rowel is so sharp that it cuts, it provides little value to the bull rider when trying to plant his feet.

Face Mask

One of the most things a rider is worried about is his face. After all, their looks may be all they've got going for them! Besides no sponsor wants an ugly face on his big posters. With all kidding a side the bull rider really does need to protect his face. Like any other part of the body this too can hurt. No matter how hard your head may be a hit by a 1200 pound bull will do the trick. Just look at how long Tuff Hedeman was in the OR after his run in with Bodacious.

That is why several bull riders have started using face masks. This mask is to protect the face from impact with the bull, chute, or ground. There are several types. Some riders use hockey mask while others use the Ride All.


The vest serves as a protector for the bull rider. It will fit snug, but still give the rider the freedom of movement. Should the bull hook or step on the contestant the vest will take most of the impact. This is one of the most important pieces of equipment that the bull rider can invest in.



No matter if you call them chaps ( pronounced as shaps) or if you call them leggin's they look very attractive. They were meant to protect the clothes. They also serve the purpose of helping the rider from sliding on the back of the bull.

Many bull riders have made theirs very extravagant to have the look of a man with money. Believe me some of this can cost MONEY, with a Capital M.