Durango stole the show at last year’s National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. He earned the Best Bull award by throwing every contender he faced-and throwing them far. In more than 100 tries, only once has a rider taken Durango to the horn. (He was having an "off day" at the 1999 finals, say his owners, when Cody Custer, a former world champion, drew him.) At the Mesquite Rodeo, he is a designated "bounty bull," meaning the first cowboy to beat him gets $10,000. Originally, each unsuccessful ride added $500 to a pot. But after Durango’s bounty reached $47,500, the sponsor scaled back the program to its current flat rate.
Officially, Durango has no comment on this contract issue. Back behind Resistol Arena-where, unlike the other bulls, he gets his own pen, a doublewide no less-he seems disgruntled. When I try to pet him, Durango looks at me menacingly, then offers a particularly viscous snort and scratches the ground. Imagine lining up against Erik Williams-if Erik Williams weighed 1,900 pounds and had 8-inch horns. Nice bull.
Actually, the cowboys who have faced him say Durango’s not particularly mean. He seldom gouges opponents and usually throws them so far that there’s little danger of getting stomped. But one trash-talking 21-year-old cowboy needed 104 stitches in the face after his match with Durango, and several other challengers have been carried out of the ring on stretchers, with everything from severely cricked necks and separated shoulders to concussions and ruptured spleens. "Your main concern with Durango," says bull rider Russ Russell, "is how hard you’re going to hit the ground."
Dan Michalski is a frequent contributor to D Magazine.