Armed with a flat braided rope, riding gloves, spurs and a protective vest, cowboys at the J Bar W Ranch in Union Bridge, Md., engage in one of rodeo’s most dangerous events: bull riding. Riders attempt to stay on a bucking bull for eight seconds without touching it with their free hands, as the animal jumps, twists and turns.
The family-operated ranch hosts the “Battle of the Beast” bull-riding series, a sanctioned International Bull Riders event. The summer series runs the first and third Saturday nights from June through the series finals on September 7. Competing cowboys are awarded points throughout the events, and the rider with the greatest total is crowned the series champion.
Along with bull riding, the crowd gets to watch cowgirls barrel racing, bull hockey and mutton busting. In the last, a crowd favorite, the rider grabs hold of a sheep’s wool and attempts to ride it for six seconds. Contestants must be at least four years old and weigh under 50 pounds.