PUEBLO, Colo. – 2015 World Champion Bull SweetPro’s Long John was one of the most popular bulls in the PBR because of his high kick, pure power and athletic prowess that had fans always sitting on the edge of their seats in anticipation of seeing greatness in action on a weekly basis.
However, Long John was much more than just a World Champion to H.D. Page.
He was family.
Page and D&H Cattle Company announced with heavy hearts on Wednesday that Long John has passed away because of a stomach infection in Ardmore, Oklahoma.
“With heavy hearts, we announce the passing of our champ, SweetPro's Long John,” H.D. Page said in a statement issued by D&H Cattle Company. “Despite the efforts of everyone at the ranch and multiple veterinarians, Long John lost his fight against a severe infection due to a stomach issue early in the morning.”
Long John, who would have turned 7 years old next week, went 32-7 during his five-year Built Ford Tough Series career with an average bull score of 44.98 points per out. The 2016 World Champion Bull runner-up and 2014 ABBI Classic Champion was 60-9 at all levels of competition.
“Long John was a once-in-a-lifetime animal, who overcame the kind of obstacles in his too-short life that an average athlete of any kind couldn't begin to succeed through,” Page said. “We feel fortunate to have gotten to be part of his journey that took him from a tall, skinny calf with bad feet that turned into a World Champion.
“His heart and desire to be great was amazing and contagious, and is what made him develop into the amazing athlete that went on to be the 2014 ABBI Classic Champion, 2015 PBR Bucking Bull of the Year and tie Pearl Harbor and SweetPro's Bruiser in the 2016 Bucking Bull of the Year race.”
PBR CEO Sean Gleason extended his condolences to the Pages and all of Long John’s fans.
“Long John was a phenomenal athlete with the heart of a champion,” Gleason said. “He was an extraordinary bull who would dazzle the crowd every time the chute gate opened. It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye, and the entire PBR organization offers its condolences to H.D. and Dillon Page, and D&H Cattle Company, as they mourn his loss.”
PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert also offered his condolences.
"He never had a year where he wasn’t one of the top bulls in the PBR, even when he was an ABBI Classic Bull," Lambert said. "He was one of the best bulls on the Built Ford Tough Series every time he went to one, and he finished that way. His last trip, he bucked off the No. 1 guy in the world standings at that time."
In 2015, Long John put forth his best season and rallied for the World Championship Bull title on the last day of the PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals.
As he had done so many times in his career, Long John defied the odds and bucked off Fabiano Vieira in 7.41 seconds for a 47.25-point bull to surpass his brother SweetPro’s Bruiser and Jared Allen’s Air Time for the championship.
It was Long John’s BFTS-best 10th bull score of 45 points or higher and he concluded that season with an 11-3 record.
The championship was D&H Cattle Company’s first world title since Mossy Oak Mudslinger won the top honor for a PBR bucking bull in 2006.
Long John was the son of a Mossy Oak Mudslinger daughter and two-time PBR World Finalist Show Time.
Two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney was one of the three riders to ride Long John that season as the North Carolina cowboy covered Long John, who was also the 2015 runner-up for PRCA Bull of the Year, for 92.25 points in Thackerville, Oklahoma, while taking over the No. 1 ranking in the world standings.
Mauney would go on to never let go of the No. 1 ranking and share the champions stage with Long John inside the Thomas & Mack Center on that fateful Sunday afternoon.
The champion athletes developed a fun-filled rivalry over the past five years, with each winning two of their four showdowns.
“He was a great bull,” Mauney said, “one you could be over 90 on if you had your ducks in a row, but if you didn’t he made you pay for it.”
Long John’s rise to stardom was a far cry from the bull that was named after a chocolate Long John donut.
Over time, Long John developed into one of the PBR’s best.
He may have weighed close to 1,900 pounds, but the bovine athlete had the athletic prowess of a bull that weighed more like 1,300 pounds with his special blend of power and high-kick.
“It'll be tough from here on out sending a bull list without 58x on top of the page,” Page said. “He created some great moments for bull riding. His intensity, his ability to drop like he could and follow it up with such an extreme amount of kick is a style that can't be emulated. You couldn't put one together any better and you couldn't ask for a bull to be any ranker or be any more honest about it.”
Lambert added, "You never had to worry about him. You knew he was going to have his day. If they rode him, they won. Most of them didn’t ride him. You had to ride him perfect or you didn’t have a chance. If you rode him perfect it almost made it look easier than it really was."
Long John nearly won a second World Championship last year, but lost out on the title to Bruiser because of a tiebreaker, despite an admirable performance because of an on-going injury to his feet.
He even appeared on track to contend for another championship this year with back-to-back 45-plus bull scores to begin 2017.
Long John first bucked off Mason Lowe in 1.84 seconds for a 45.75-point bull score in Oklahoma City before demolishing previous world leader Jess Lockwood in 1.49 seconds for a 45.25-point score.
“He was one of the greatest bulls of all time and I got to watch him before I even was old enough to ride in the PBR,” Lockwood said. “He was one that you wanted to ride because he was the best. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to get on him before he passed. It didn’t go well, but it’s a ride that I’ll always remember because bulls like him come around 1 in a million.”
Not only was Long John a champion in the arena, but – more important – he was a champion on the D&H Cattle Company ranch where his legacy will continue to live on.
“As an underdog or champion, Long John was always the same to us at the ranch, a special part of the family,” Page concluded. “He gave us everything he had every single time and we can't say anything but thank you.
“This is a tough loss for us, and there will be an empty place on the ranch that will never be filled. We were all blessed to know him and be a part of his journey.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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