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Riding the Bulls: Ready for the Big Time?

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Riding the Bulls: Ready for the Big Time?

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Riding the Bulls: Ready for the Big Time?

Riding the Bulls: Ready for the Big Time?

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A cowboy gets settled on a bull in the bucking chute at The George Paul Memorial Bull Riding event in in Del Rio, Texas. John Burnett, NPR hide caption

toggle caption John Burnett, NPR

A cowboy gets settled on a bull in the bucking chute at The George Paul Memorial Bull Riding event in in Del Rio, Texas.

John Burnett, NPR

Rodeo clowns face off against a bull at the George Paul Memorial Bull Riding event. "Our job is to protect the cowboys," explains bullfighter Chad Beavers. John Burnett, NPR hide caption

toggle caption John Burnett, NPR

Rodeo clowns face off against a bull at the George Paul Memorial Bull Riding event. "Our job is to protect the cowboys," explains bullfighter Chad Beavers.

John Burnett, NPR

Casey Baize of Big Lake, Texas, has been riding bulls professionally since 2000. He started riding calves when he was 8 years old. John Burnett, NPR hide caption

toggle caption John Burnett, NPR

The sport of bull riding has surged in popularity in recent years. There's more money, meaner bulls, more ESPN and more hype — and it's still extraordinarily dangerous.

Cowboys now sport corporate logos on their chaps and they'll compete for $10 million dollars in prize money this year. You can watch bull riding on television in five countries.

Professional Bull Riders Incorporated — a Colorado-based company that stages events — has a membership of nearly 900 cowboys who compete in 300 events per year.

The George Paul Memorial Bull Riding is the oldest event in the country. It's held each May in Del Rio, Texas, near the Mexican border, and is now in its 30th year. The event is named after the local legend who had 79 consecutive bull rides without getting bucked off. George Paul died in a plane crash in 1970 at the age of 23.

One bullrider, Casey Baize of Big Lake, Texas, lists off the numerous injuries he's suffered his 7 years of professional bullriding: cracked skull, broken eye sockets, broken cheekbone, broken nose, collapsed lung, broken ribs, concussions, and surgery on his left shoulder. (He needs it on his right shoulder, too.)

"It's a lot more than just sticking your hand in a rope, trying to hang on... Eight seconds is a long time," Baize says.

The overall winner of the George Paul Memorial Bull Ride was 19-year-old T.J. Jenkins, of Texico, N.M., riding a bull named Sharp-Dressed Man.

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