Professional bull rider Dakota Brandenburg on her love for the beasts beneath. By Erin Riley.


Taking stock: Dakota Brandenburg, 20, bull rider

I’ve always been around bullers – my dad was a buller. He always had practice bulls, even when he was riding. When we bought into the business, I just loved it. I knew from the start it was what I wanted to do.

My family have been really important to my career. It’s a family business for us, so we all have something to do with it. My two younger brothers are always helping out. The eldest, Dominic, he rides, so he’s always competing.

We have two places. Saloon [in Clermont, Queensland], which we live at, is a couple-hundred-acre block. We have a few of our better open bulls here, which we feed regularly. Then we have another place, where we run a lot of other open bulls and junior milking bulls and all our cows. We head out there most days.

We do around 30 events each year. We do Professional Bull Riders events and other rodeo events. A lot of weekends we are on the road, except during the off-season. We travel all over Australia. The furthest we go is to Darwin each year and we travel down to Sydney for the finals. We do a lot of miles.

At times it’s physically challenging. There’s a lot of running around when you’re doing bulls. It can be pretty physical, but you get used to it, too.

I love being able to raise bulls and watch them grow, knowing that you’ve bred them. Knowing what genetics work and what doesn’t. Watching them go through the process and seeing them buck.

There’s three main things you really look for in a bull: kicks, spins and speed. You want a bull to turn back and to be pretty quick and athletic. When the bulls are two-year-olds, we dummy-buck them with a small machine. Sometimes a bull will show a lot at that age, and generally when they do you know they’re going to turn out to buck. But others don’t quite know what they’re doing on their first couple of trips, and then they pick it up as they go. It’s just a matter of bucking them and seeing how they progress.

For competitions, we take a pen of bulls. On the night of the competition, each bull is drawn by a rider. Our job is to just run them up into the chute for the rider to get on, and we flank them, which is just a cotton rope around their flank. It doesn’t hurt them, it just helps them to buck. Then the bull bucks for eight seconds, then goes out the back and the job is done. The shows go for a couple of hours, but each bull only has one trip generally for eight seconds, then he’s done.

I still do everyday things that women do. When I’m not with the bulls, I get to have my time. I like to hang out with my friends and still do normal things. I don’t think I’m missing out at all and it’s what I want to do, so it wouldn’t worry me anyway.

Most things I know, I learnt from my parents. I’m still each day picking up things from my mum and dad – not just to do with the bulls, but everything. Dad’s really handy with animals and with the bulls, so I guess he’s taught me not only about handling bulls, but also the business side of things, too.

We are always selling and trading and buying new bulls. It’s hard not to get attached. If we ever lose a bull, it can be really hard. We had a really quiet bull, he wasn’t the best bull in the pen but he did his job every week. We got so attached to him, we just couldn’t sell him. He’s part of the family, so we couldn’t get rid of him.

A lot of city folk think rodeo is cruel or that the bulls don’t enjoy it. I wish they could see how much we do care for the bulls and how much we love the sport and they love the sport. They are all bred to buck. I can tell you right now, if a bull doesn’t want to buck, it won’t. I love the bulls: they’re like my pets. If anything were to hurt them or make them not enjoy it, we wouldn’t do it, but I know they do. I wish people could see that side, the love we have for them.


1 . This week’s highlights…

AFL: Essendon v North Melbourne

Saturday, 1.45pm (AEST), Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

• NRL: Melbourne Storm v North Queensland Cowboys

Saturday, 5.30pm (AEST), Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

• Super Rugby: Hurricanes v Queensland Reds

Saturday, 5.35pm (AEST), Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand

• Netball: Melbourne Vixens v NSW Swifts

Sunday, midday (AEST), Hisense Arena, Melbourne

• Motorsport: Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix

Sunday, 10pm (AEST), Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Spain

Soccer: AFC Champions League – Melbourne Victory v Jeonbuk FC

Tuesday, 7.45pm (AEST), AAMI Park, Melbourne

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 14, 2016 as "Taking stock".

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Erin Riley is a writer and sports historian from Sydney.

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