Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 | 2 a.m.
While a lot of the attention at the 2012 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo will be on the cowboys, there are stars among the livestock, as well.
Each year, the top bull riders vote for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association's bull of the year. This year, it's Cat Ballou, a gray and white 5-year-old from Weatherford, Texas.
In the past year, only one of the 16 attempts at PRCA events to ride him for a full eight seconds was successful. The previous year, only one of 18 attempts qualified.
Bull riders likely will have two more tries at the NFR to conquer Cat Ballou, one of 100 bulls brought to Las Vegas for the event.
Here are some of the things to know about the star bovine, as explained by Scott Pickens, manager of 4L & Diamond S Rodeo Company. The company bred, raised and trained Cat Ballou, as well as the bull of the year last year and the second-place bulls last year and the previous year:
Probably the most dangerous part of the bull is his hooves. An average bull is 1,500 pounds. Cat Ballou is about 1,900 pounds — just short of a ton and more than enough to crush a cowboy.
Cat Ballou eats 10 to 12 pounds of grain every day, plus all the hay he wants. But like any athlete, he does have to watch his diet. He needs to be heavy for the bucking, but not so heavy that he can't thrash around the arena.
The normal age range for bucking bulls is 4 to 9 years old. Cat Ballou is 5. He started basic training — getting to know a chute and being around other equipment and bulls — when he was 1 year old. By the time he was 2, he was trying to buck a dummy, and he was training with real riders at age 3.
"He's totally bred to do what he does," Pickens said.
Cat Ballou's dad, Cat Daddy, once took second place for bull of the year and made multiple NFR appearances. Both of Cat Ballou's granddads also bucked at the NFR.
"For the most part, he's pretty laid back," Pickens said, pointing to the bull as he moseyed around a pen.
Put someone on his back, though, and he's a completely different animal. Even when a ranch hand got in the pen with him, Cat Ballou quickly perked up and got defensive. The worker didn't stay in the pen for long.
About 18 inches long, Cat Ballou's horns point down, over his ears. Rodeo rules require the horns to be trimmed so the point becomes a flat surface at least as big as a half-dollar coin.
Cat Ballou has multiple brands. On his right back flank is a diamond, and on his left front is "4L." He also has an ID number on his left side and on an ear tag.