Bull riding is one of the ultimate contests of human vs. animal, but recent trends suggest that the animals are getting so good, it isn't much of a contest at all. According to the San Jose Mercury News, genetics and good breeding practices have made the bulls on the Professional Bull Riders circuit so hard to handle, that they're threatening to make the "ride" part of bull riding obsolete.
In the 1980s, the best riders dominated the bulls, routinely staying on the violently bucking animals for the eight seconds required to complete an official ride. Today's bigger and badder bulls (who are reserved for the biggest tournaments and best athletes) have swung the pendulum the other way, making it harder than ever for cowboys to stay on. In 1995, 46 percent of all rides on the pro circuit lasted for eight seconds, according to ProBullStats. This year, that number dropped to 27 percent. Top riders still hold their own, but the tide is slowly pushing against them.
As bullriding became more popular as a spectator sport in the last few decades, it started to become more lucrative for both the riders and owners of the bucking bulls. More money means more and better competition. Better riders means a need for even better bulls to weed out the weaker competitors and keep rodeo fans interested. For years, that meant a better, more exciting product, but in the last couple of years, it seems the rate of improvement for the bulls has far outstripped the improvement of the athletes, leading to a new crop of bulls that are nearly unrideable. The bulls even become celebrities in their own right, with fans scooping up cards and toys that honor their favorite animals.