Bull riders count on bullfighters to keep them safe
MONTROSE — Bull riders are tough.
The thought of strapping yourself to a 2,000-pound animal with a brain the size of an egg is something only a chosen few attempt.
These bull riders who travel from town to town, nursing bruises from the night before, have back-up like no other — bullfighters.
Bullfighters, more commonly known as rodeo clowns, are the bull riders’ first and only line of defense. They jump in at a moment’s notice to sacrifice themselves for the safety of the riders.
Each time a rider is bucked, the clowns holler and run at the bulls to distract them long enough for the rider to reach safety.
Del Norte resident and bullfighter Ron Mellott is 40 years old and has been a bullfighter the past 18 years. Saturday during the PRCA Rodeo at the Montrose County Fair, he proudly showed off bruises he got protecting a rider only a week ago by jumping onto a bull’s head.
“It should be the bullfighter getting hurt, that’s his job,” Mellott said.
Mellott said the colorful clothes and make-up are meant to provide the crowd with enhanced entertainment.
“It’s about keeping (fans) in seats,” Mellott said.
Once they’re in the ring, bullfighters have to be quick on their feet to avoid serious injury.
“I don’t think anyone can be proficient about what the bull is going to do,” Mellott said.
Bo Wertz and Cole Miller are young, each only 21, and have grown up in rodeo. Without hesitation, they’ve thrown themselves in front of bulls, often not knowing who they are protecting.
“You watch everything, everything that can go wrong, and react,” Wertz said.
Wertz, a former bull rider, understands what the men are facing each time they get on a bull.
“These are my buddies,” Wertz said.
After each ride, the bullfighters receive applause from the fans and thanks from the cowboys, but don’t call them rodeo clowns — they’re bullfighters.
“It’s kind of like being a firefighter,” Miller said. “You’re there when you have to be, taking the hits for the bull rider.”