Here at Country, we believe in adhering to a set of values that guide us to do the right thing. One such value, is to celebrate heritage. After all, none of us would be here today without the hard work of those who came before us.
As we head into Black History month, we’re excited to celebrate one of the many legendary Black Cowboys that shaped western culture as we know it today, the one and only “Bulldogger”, Bill Pickett.
Bill is best known as the father of the rodeo event bulldogging — also known as steer wrestling, which involved grabbing cattle by the horns and wrestling them to the ground. That’s no small feat considering the average steer weighs 1200-1300 pounds!
A Texas native, Bill Pickett was born in 1870 and grew up working cattle on his family’s farm. He was of African American and Cherokee Indian descent, and the the second of 13 children born to Thomas Jefferson Pickett, a former slave, and Mary “Janie” Gilbert.
What started as a way to round up stray cattle, Pickett’s “bulldogging” technique would become a source of side income and ultimately a staple in modern rodeos.
Pickett and his brothers formed the Pickett Brothers Bronco Busters and Rough Riders that toured rodeos throughout the West. In 1905, Pickett was discovered by the Miller Brothers’ 101 Ranch Wild West Show, where he began touring the world alongside Western icons including Buffalo Bill, Tom Mix, Will Rogers, and Lucille Mulhall.
Later, In 1971, Bill was the first Black athlete inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame.
Today, the spirit of Bill Pickett and the Black cowboy lives on through theBill Pickett Invitational Rodeo (BPIR).Founded in 1984 by Lu Vason, the BPIR is the only touring rodeo that pays homage to Black cowboy culture and the contributions of the Black cowboy to the American West.