Bull Riding Terms and Language

We know not everyone speaks the same language as we do- here's a little guide to help you out!

The arena is the area in which the bull riding action takes place. The arena’s consists of steel bucking chutes, panels, gates and posts when assembled. The arena travels from event to event and takes 8 hours to assemble.

Arena Director:
The arena director keeps the event going by balancing the various elements of production from a headset that he and each of the staff are wearing to communicate with each other from the sound center, the back chutes, and the crews. Tuff Hedeman performs this critical decision making job at most Ride It Out Tour events.

The term "average," when used as a bull riding terms means aggregate. It used to describe a rider's total event score on however many bulls he attempted at a given event (not including re ides). For example, if a rider scores an 85 in the long round and then a 90 in the short round he would receive and 185 total or aggregate score. He won the average with 185 on two bulls.

"Away from his Hand":
Bull riders use the term “away from my hand" to describe a bull who is spinning in the direction opposite a rider's riding hand. For Example: A right-handed bull rider on a bull that spins to the left is riding a bull "away from his hand."

Back Pens:
The area behind the arena is used for holding and loading the bulls that await competition. These holding pens travel on the truck and are erected at each event.

A barrelman's duty is to entertain the crowd during the "down time" that is inherent to the sport of bull riding. A barrelman entertains spectators with routines or comical skits. Working in tandem with the announcers, the barrelman often hangs around a custom-made barrel placed in the arena's center. The barrel protects the barrelman from a charging bull in the event he can’t get to the fence for safety.

Breeding Programs:
Raising bucking bulls is an exciting industry. Through genetics the number of individuals who raise bulls to buck in competition has grown to thousands of breeders across the country and world.

Bucked Off:
A bull rider who is "bucked off" is thrown from the bull before the required eight seconds expire. The rider consequently does not earn a score.

Bucking Chute(s):
A bull ride originates inside a gated steel box called a chute. There are typically six. The bull rider and bull remain in a designated chute until the rider has secured his hand in the bull rope. When the rider is ready, he nods his head sometimes referred to as “taking the bull”, signaling the gate man to open the chute gate. The clock begins the second the bull crosses the plane of the chute.

Bull of the Event:
Upon conclusion of each Ride It Out Tour event one bucking bull is crowned Bull of the Event for his outstanding performance in that specific event. It is based on his bull score.  A buckle and bonus check often accompany the honor.

Bull Rider:
A bull rider is the human athlete in this man-versus-bull sport. A bull rider must be 18 years or older to obtain the membership.

Bull Rope:
The bull rope is what the bull rider grips throughout the ride. It is wrapped around the heart girth of the bull directly behind the animal's front legs. At the bottom of the rope hangs a metal bell designed to give the rope some weight so that it will fall off the bull as soon as the rider is bucked off or dismounts the animal.

Bull Score:
The score given to the bull for his efforts or his “half” of the rider’s score. Bull Scores vary from 1 – 25 and are based on degree of difficulty and athleticism demonstrated during the time the rider was actually on the bull.

Bull Team:
CBR Bull Team Challenge is a competition within the CBR events which allows the owners of the bulls to nominate their bulls as a team to compete against other bull team owners for financial rewards.

A bullfighter's job is to distract a bull when a bull rider either bucks off his bull or dismounts after his eight-second ride. The distraction provided by the bullfighter gives the rider a chance to get out of the arena or to a safe spot.

Championship Bull Riding (CBR)

Change Directions:
A bucking pattern performed by a bull in which he changes directions during the 8 second trip to try and throw the rider off. Changing directions by a bull will award the bull more points in the degree of difficulty scale.

When a rider "covers" his bull, he successfully stays on the bull for eight seconds and therefore earns an official score.

A bull ride is over when either the bull rider is bucked off or he makes the eight-seconds. To dismount, a bull rider most commonly reaches down with his free hand, loosens his riding hand from his bull rope and gets off the bull as far away from the bull as possible.

Sometimes a bull rider can be disqualified and therefore receive a no-score even if he stays aboard his designated bull for eight seconds. A bull rider is disqualified if he touches the bull or himself with his free hand during the ride or if his riding hand comes free from the bull rope at any point during the eight-second ride.

"Down in the Well":
The expression "down in the well" is used by bull riders to describe a situation in which a bull is spinning in one direction and the force of the spin pulls the rider down the side of the bull into motion's whirlpool in the direction he is spinning.

An event's list of bull riders and the bulls they will ride is referred to as  “the draw”. If a bull rider says he has a 'good draw' it means he is happy with the bull that he was arbitrarily selected to ride.

Eight Seconds:
Eight seconds is the amount of time a bull rider must stay aboard his bull to receive a score. During the eight-second ride, the bull rider cannot touch his free hand to the bull or himself or he will be disqualified. Eight Seconds is the title of a 1990s movie based on the life of the late Lane Frost, a world champion bull rider who was fatally injured at the 1989 Frontier Days Rodeo in Cheyenne, WY. Eight Seconds features President Tuff Hedeman as Frost’s traveling partner and best friend.

Bull Riders must meet certain criteria to enter to compete on the Tour.  To enter the rider must call Headquarters and submit his name and intention to compete.

A bull that fades during a ride moves backward while simultaneously spinning or bucking in one or more directions.

First Round or "First Go":
The first round or "go" is the first and sometimes the only preliminary round of competition. A high score in the first round is important to a bull rider because it counts toward his qualification of the “The Short Round” or Championship Round.

Flank Man:
A flank man is the person who fits the flank strap on the bull and tightens it, if necessary, as the bull exits the chute. Different bulls respond to flank straps in different ways, making it important for the flank man to know the bull's tendencies - this knowledge helps a flank man judge how tight or loose to make the flank strap on a given bull. Because this knowledge of each bull is so important, a flank man often is the owner or employee of that stock contractor.

Flank Strap:
A flank strap is a strap that goes around the flank of a bull. It in no way harms the bull. The flank strap is designed for quick release and is removed immediately after the bull exits the arena.

If a rider is fouled, it means something happened during the eight-second ride that gave the bull an unfair advantage over the bull rider. This can include the bull rubbing on or hitting the bucking chute at start of the ride or the flank strap falling off the bull before the ride is over. When a foul occurs, the judge has the option to award a reride.

Free Hand:
A bull rider's free hand is the hand he does not use to grip the bull rope during a ride. The free hand must stay in the air throughout the ride. If it touches the bull, or the bull rider before eight seconds elapse, the rider is disqualified and receives no score. The free hand also us used as a method of balance.

Gate Man/Latch Man:
An event's gate man is positioned in the arena in front of the designated chute from which a ride is about to start. The gate man, holding onto a nylon rope tied to the designated chute's gate, waits for a bull rider's cue to open the chute gate, thus allowing the ride to begin. The Latch Man is positioned at the latch and releases the latch at the direction of the bull rider.

Gear is a term used to describe the bull rider’s equipment. Chaps, bull rope, spurs, protective vest, helmet, and boots are referred to as “gear”.

A rider's glove is designed to let the rider grip the bull rope with ease while protecting his riding hand from rope burn. Most gloves are made of leather.

When a bull rider dismounts from or is bucked off a bull, the bull sometimes goes after the rider or the bullfighter and attempts to hook the human target with his horns. This is known as being

Hung up:
Sometimes a rider gets tossed from a bull but is unable to free his riding hand from his bull rope and therefore is "hung up" to the bull. When this dangerous scenario occurs, the bullfighters job is to move in to help the bull rider free his hand from his rope and get away from the bull.

"Into his Hand":
Bull riders use the term "into his hand" or "into my hand" to describe the scenario in which a bull is spinning in the same direction of a rider's riding hand. Example: A right-handed bull rider on a bull that spins to the right is riding a bull "into his hand."

Judges determine a rider's score based upon his and the bull's performances. Each judge has 50 points to distribute for each ride (25 points for the bull, and 25 points for the rider.) The judges are located at various points of venue in the arena. At least one judge is on the back of the chutes and serves as the “back judge” who has the manual stop watch that sometimes determines the official time a rider stays on a bull.

Lane Frost:
A former PRCA World Champion who was fatally injured during competition at the 1989 Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days is revered by the industry as one of the best bull riders of all time.

Left Hand Delivery:
When the chute gate opens on the left side (to the bull rider's left).

Muley is a term used to describe a hornless bull.


Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA):
The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) is the sanctioning body for rodeo throughout the United States. Many of the bull riders also hold memberships in PRCA and compete on both tours.

Qualified Ride:
When a rider makes an eight-second ride and is not disqualified, he has made a qualified ride and, therefore, earns a score.

A bull that is difficult to ride is considered "rank."

Judges are allowed to award a bull rider a reride - a second opportunity to compete on a different bull - if they feel his first bull did not perform at the level of other bulls in the competition and, therefore, did not give the rider a fair chance to earn a high score. The reride bulls are selected prior to the event and kept with the other bulls that are in the draw should the need for a reride arise.

Rookie of the Year:
The CBR Rookie of the Year award goes to the bull rider who, in his first year of CBR competition, ears more money than any other first-year competitor.

A sticky substance used by bull riders to make their hand stick to the rope thus reinforcing their grip.

Second Round or "Second Go":
The second round or "go" is the second preliminary round of competition at a CBR event. A high score in the second round is important to a bull rider because it counts toward his qualification for the Championship Round.

A rider is seeded if he is ranked among the top 45 bull riders.

Short Round or "Short Go":
The "short go" is a slang term for the championship round at a bull riding event. It is also the name of the official CBR Magazine.

If a rider touches a bull with his free hand during a ride, he is disqualified and, therefore, does not receive a score. The official clock stops at the moment of contact.

A bull that displays a bucking pattern in which he spins in a tight circle throughout the ride is often referred to by bull riders as a "spinner."

Worn on the heels of boots to help the rider get a grip on the bulls, bull riders wear spurs that are required to have dull, rowels (the wheel-like part of the spur that comes in contact with the animal).

Stock Contractor:
A Stock Contractor is a person who raises livestock, specifically bulls, to be used at events. Different stock contractors are used from various locations around the country.

Stock Contractor of the Year:
Upon conclusion of each CBR season, the CBR Stock Contractor of the Year award is presented to the stock contractor who, based on a vote of CBR bull riders, has consistently supplied the highest quality bucking bulls at CBR events. A trailer is awarded to this individual.

A term used to describe a cowboy or livestock’s grit, determination, and resilience.  For example, “That cowboy had a lot of try”.

Turn Back:
The term "turn back" is used to describe a bull that displays a bucking pattern in which he heads in one direction and then makes a sharp move in the opposite direction.

Turn Out:
A bull rider who enters a competition and then decides to forfeit his entry fees and not compete for reasons other than injury has "turned out" of the competition. If injury forces a bull rider to opt out of competition, the bull rider doctor releases from competition and is not required to forfeit his entry fee.

Vest, Protective Vest:
The vest is designed to prevent injury when a rider gets stepped on or hooked by a bull. The vest is made of a material called Kevlar, the same material used to make bulletproof vests.


Gear is a term used to describe the bull rider’s equipment. Chaps, bull rope, spurs, protective vest, helmet, and boots are referred to as “gear”.


Veteran bull rider Dave Samsel adds more rosin to his rope in Del Rio, TX.


. is the official Web site of Championship Bull Riding is the official Web site of The Short Round Magazine. The print partner to the CBR.