PUEBLO, Colo. ― Red Wolf made sure to quickly instill his authority and dominance against Bubba Dunn in 1995 in Rancho Murieta, Calif. In just 2.54 seconds, he left the 2013 Ring of Honor inductee flat on the ground and in need of a five-stitch tattoo across his chin.
"He threw me down on his head," recalled Dunn, "clicked my heels and popped me under the chin."
It was Red Wolf's second-year in the PBR, and just a day earlier, the "big-boned" bull, as nine-time World Champion Ty Murray likes to call him, had bucked off fellow Ring of Honor inductee (1996) Cody Lambert in 4.09 seconds.
"He was a big bull," Lambert remembers, "but he felt even bigger when he was bucking."
Red Wolf was only 7 years old at the time. Yet, what makes the 2013 Brand of Honor recipient so special was that he brought that same competitive fire and fierceness in 1995 all the way through his retirement following the 2000 World Finals as a 12-year-old.
It was longevity like none other in bull riding.
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During his final two outs at the 2000 World Finals, Red Wolf posted a bull score of 45 points when Pete Hessman rode him for 90 points, and then scored another 44 points when Jaron Nunnemaker picked up an 89.5-point ride.
The final buckoff of the bull's legendary career came two months earlier when he took care of business against Cody Custer in four seconds at the Oklahoma City event.
Some say it is unfathomable for a bull that old and large to buck as strong as he did at the tail end of a career. Others are left speechless when they try to explain it.
"Everything I have learned about bulls through my 43 years being around this sport, he wasn't supposed to do what he was able to do," Murray said. "He wasn't supposed to be able to do it for as long as he did.
"I always thought he was a freak of nature."
Lambert was one of the judges during the 2000 Finals where Red Wolf once again reminded everyone he still had what it takes to be a storied bucking bull.
"That longevity makes him one of the best all time," Lambert said. "When he retired, I thought he was the best there ever was. I never thought in any particular year he was the very best going, but for an entire career, I thought he was the best there ever was."
PBR bull statistician Slade Long, who has observed over 30,000 bulls in the past decade, said roughly 12,000 of them went on to post five or more career outs. It is even rarer for a bull to reach 100 career outs. Long knows of only 65 bulls to ever surpass the prestigious century mark for career outs, Red Wolf being one of them.
"Not many bulls stay around that long or stay that good that long," said Long. "He is like Chicken on a Chain in that respect. He was at a high level for so long.
"When they rode (Red Wolf) at his last Finals, they made a 90-point ride on him. Bulls that are 12 years old just don't make 90-point rides. They are just not that good anymore. It just doesn't happen."
Ty Murray rides Red Wolf at the 1999 World Finals. Photo by Andy Watson / BullStockMedia.com.
Murray, who successfully rode Red Wolf for 95.5 points at the 1999 World Finals in what is known as the greatest night of bull riding, compared him to NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice ― if the wide receiver had weighed over 250 pounds.
"I have seen bulls that have had long careers, and I have seen bulls that have had amazing careers," Murray said. "You don't really see one like that."
Red Wolf retired with a 57.78 career buckoff percentage in 45-known BFTS outs. The 19 riders that were able to make the whistle on him were rewarded with an average score of 91.82 points. Red Wolf appeared in six World Finals and finished second in 1997 in the race for the PBR World Champion Bull title, as well as Bull of the Finals.
Beyond his performance in the PBR, Red Wolf was named the PRCA Bucking Bull of the Year and Sierra Circuit Bucking Bull of the Year in 1996. He competed multiple times at the NFR and was a contender for the NFR Bucking Bull of the Year in '94 and '96, while owned by Donnie Kish. Red Wolf was later sold to Terry Williams and eventually to Herrington Cattle & Company.
As well as being known for his longevity, Red Wolf was known as a fierce competitor. He demonstrated a unique swagger in the arena and had the personality of a champion. Whenever he would successfully buck off a rider, Murray remembers the bovine taking a "high-headed" prance around the perimeter of the dirt with his chest pumped out confidently.
But if someone rode him ― or was close to riding him ― well, they better watch out.
"Whenever guys rode him, which I did a bunch of times, he would want to hook your ass when it was over, " Murray said. "Or if he couldn't get to you, he would try and hook a gateman, a judge, or anybody he could get his hands on.
"Even if he couldn't run you over, he wanted to run somebody over."
Lambert said, "He got mad as the ride went on. He had a competitive fire and it pissed him off if somebody rode him or almost rode him."
Lambert sensed that anger when he attempted to ride Red Wolf in 1995. He had to purposely fall to the ground after being bucked off to avoid being kicked.
"I felt both my feet whip back behind me ― he was at the peak of his jump ― when I came off, and I was right behind him the whole way, dangling," Lambert remembers. "I was thinking the whole way towards the ground that I was 10 inches behind him, and when he hits the ground, he is going to kick me."
After receiving five stitches courtesy of Red Wolf at the Rancho Murieta event, and still remembering the tragic death of Brent Thurman at the 1994 NFR Finals when Red Wolf stepped on the 25-year-old, Dunn was obviously nervous when he climbed aboard Red Wolf in 1999 in Charlotte, N.C.
However, what ensued was one of the greatest rides in PBR history, when the Alexandria, La., native conquered Red Wolf for 96 points four years after his first encounter with the tough-as-nails bull.
"He damn sure fired that night," recalled Dunn. "He come around right there and met me around the corner, got me reared back and hung over on the right side. I don't know. I just kept pumping as hard as I could and got back to him; and he went to the other direction and just finished it pretty strong."
Red Wolf was 11 years old and it was another example of the bull's long-term performance.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime deal," Dunn said. "It was amazing a bull could buck that long during his career of bucking. It is unheard of.
"He had great days and he had good days. He never had bad days."
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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