FORT WORTH, Texas ― He's on the verge of being considered the rankest bull in PBR history, but when Bushwacker first arrived in Texas, handler Kent Cox said the young bull was an idiot.
Actually he's was among several idiots, who were all sons of the infamously freakish Reindeer Dippin.
"They were just crazy little idiots," Cox said, "all of them, every one of them."
Bushwacker and four of his brothers arrived in Stephenville, Texas, in the spring of 2008. He was only 2 years old and was anything but the Built Ford Tough Championship Round-caliber bull he is today.
"They were just crazy little idiots - all of them, every one of them."
Unlike the others, Bushwacker bucked every time, but he had trouble keeping his feet under him and wound up falling down half the time. Other times he would be three or four jumps out away from the chutes before he ever turned back.
As a 1-year-old, he initially wouldn't eat or drink once he was away from home.
Cox said Bushwacker hauled enough to get used to being on the road and as he got older he became more comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings. However, no one could have expected him to have mentally and physically developed then the same as he is nowadays.
However, the veteran bull handler, who has worked with several of Julio Moreno's bulls over the years, added, "We had no idea he would be what he is.
"You could tell he really wanted to buck and that he was actually a little smarter than the rest of them, but he was probably a little meaner than the rest of them."
His brothers would flip over every time and were, as Cox remembers, "Just horrible."
Bushwacker gave him something to work with.
He was clearly a natural talent. Cox just had to be patient and keep giving him a chance to buck and stay on his feet, so he worked with him every day.
One area Bushwacker adapted to almost immediately was being in the bucking chute.
While some bulls can take years to be desensitized to being in the chute, Bushwacker was that way almost from day one. While he didn't like people in or even near his pen, it didn't take him long to become calm (and even friendly) in the chute.
One reason is that Cox would sit on his back and brush his neck.
When he was younger, Cox would take a curry comb and brush him like others would brush a horse. Bushwacker liked it and, perhaps, associates that with being in the bucking chute. Cox said, at first, he uses a broom to comb his young bulls, so he doesn't have to get down in the chute with them, but with Bushwacker he's always felt comfortable enough to sit right down on him.
To this day Cox still runs Bushwacker in a chute and will just sit on him from time to time, so he can scratch his back.
"In the pen, no, he don't want you messing with him," Cox said. "Once he gets in the bucking chute he's almost like a statue in there."
He's anything but a statue in the arena.
This past weekend, at a Built Ford Tough Series event in Kansas City, Mo., Bushwacker was marked 48 points. It's the second time in the past three seasons he's been marked at least 48 points. He earned 48.5 points en route to winning the World Champion Bull title in 2011 at the World Finals.
By comparison, there have only been two other bull scores of 48 points or better in the past nine years.
He began showing those impressive signs a year after arriving from California, where he was born in Marysville.
"You really and truly went to noticing there was something special about him when he was a 3-year-old and we went to putting riders on him," Cox recalled. "He really stood out and you knew that, there's something here."
Two years later, at 5, he won a world title.
At 6, he finished second behind Asteroid and now, at 7, the two are battling it out once again for this year's world title.
Bushwacker has bucked off a PBR record 38 consecutive riders.
Gone are the days when Cox would hang tarps around Bushwacker's pen, "so when people would walk by he wouldn't flip out and try and hook them."
He travels as well as any bull Cox has hauled. In fact, Cox is pretty sure Bushwacker lays down in the trailer during the drives to BFTS events. He eats and drinks every chance he gets.
And he never fails the rider daring or confident enough to draft him.
This weekend, at the Iron Cowboy IV, in Arlington, Texas, Bushwacker will go head-to-head with reigning World Champion Bull Asteroid. Bushwacker has been the higher-marked bull eight of the 11 times the two have faced each other.
Luke Snyder has been on both and while he's wavered as to which is ranker, after being slammed in St. Louis, he referred to Bushwacker as No. 1.
Cox isn't sure Bushwacker (or any other bull) could be any better than he's been the past two weeks.
"I wish every bull could be like that," he said, "but they can't."
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC
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