PBR Rodeo Tour

The Professional Bull Riding Tour: A Guide on the Bull Riding Rules

There are over 3,611,176 fans attending one of the thousands of Rodeos worldwide each year. This sport has been around for centuries and still holds mass appeal. If you want to attend a bull riding event click here for your tickets.

If you have never been to a Rodeo, read on to learn about Bull Riding Rules before you attend.

A Guide to Bull Riding Rules

Rodeos and bull riding date back to the 16th century in Mexico.  The sport originated as a contest between cowboys on Haciendas to show horsemanship. Bulls became the ride of choice because of their power and the Mexican cultural link to bullfighting.

The initial bull riding events rode the bull to death. Today, the bulls are ridden until they stop bucking or the rider falls off.

As the sport evolved, so did the professionalism and scoring of the event. In 1992, 20 Professional Bull Riders joined forces to create the Professional Bull Riding Association, which hosts the annual World Championship in November.

The details of bull riding rules and scoring are listed below so that you can enter your next bull riding event with the knowledge of the pros.

Object of Bull Riding

The object of bull riding is to stay on the bull. What makes the sport exciting is that after the rider mounts, the bull is released from its pen and allowed to buck, kick, and spin in an attempt to dislodge the rider.

The rider’s objective is to stay on the bull for a  minimum of 8 seconds. Increasing the athleticism of the event, the rider can only hold on with their riding hand.

Bull Riding Equipment

On the surface, there is very little equipment needed for bull riding. The contrary is true. Below is a list of the equipment worn in bull riding.

The first piece of equipment is the bull rope. The rope is most often made of braided rope and is adjustable to fit the bull. The rider uses this rope to hold onto the bull with his riding hand.

If the rider is skilled enough, he can also control the bull with his rope. 

For safety and to prevent burning of the hands, riders wear gloves. The gloves are made of leather and aid in gripping the bull rope. 

The rider also wears cowboy boots and spurs. The spurs aid the rider in staying on the bull. A talented bull rider also uses the spurs to “encourage” the bull to buck and dance, gaining the rider additional style point scores. 

The Chaps worn by the rider prevent chaffing as the rider attempts to stay on the bull. 

Younger riders wear helmets, for obvious reasons. As a safety measure more and more helmets are being used in bull riding events. Injuries are common in bull riding and a complete list of injured athletes can be found on the Professional Bull Riding Association website.


Did you know that both the bull and its rider receive points? The scoring in bull riding is pretty simple. First, no points are awarded until the rider has stayed on the bull for 8 seconds.

After the 8-second mark is reached, 2 judges score both the bull and the rider. The rider can receive 50 points, and so does the bull. The two judges’ scores are averaged, which results in the final score. 

Judges look for several things as they score. First, how do the rider and bull move together? More flow in their combined movements means a higher score.

Second, the harder it is to stay on particular bull results in a higher score. As previously mentioned, the spurs help the rider encourage a good show from the bull.

Finally, the riders are judged on the amount of control during their ride.

How to Win the Competition

A bull riding competition takes place over a series of nights. Each rider only rides one bull per night. On the final night, the top 20 riders compete in a final round called the “short-go.” The rider with the most points wins.

The winner of the World Championship takes home $1 Million and bragging rights.

What Scores to Expect

Most professional bull riders score above 75, with some scoring above 80 or even 90. The only perfect score, 100 points, was awarded to Wade Leslie in Central Point, OR.

The Bulls

Bulls are also scored and have their own individual ranking. Currently, Smooth Operator is ranked number 1. Bulls are scored based on strength, agility, and overall health.

The Clowns

Bull  riding and clowns are synonymous. A clown at a bull riding event distracts the bull after the rider has been thrown off. This allows the rider time to exit the stadium without receiving further injury from the bull.

There are typically some injuries sustained by the rider as he is ejected from the 2,000lb animal.

Bull riding has a long history, and in the modern area, these athletes are serious about their sport and take home the purses to prove it.

If you are looking for a place to see cowboys in action, purchase PBR Tickets to the next local bull riding event. You will be glad you did.

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