Bull riding comes to China

栖坿Ecns.cn2014-12-01 19:02:00 恬宀

Hai Rihen tried to hold on for eight seconds while he trained in Australia in June, 2014. Photo: Courtesy of Hai Rihen

  Hai Rihen tried to hold on for eight seconds while he trained in Australia in June, 2014. Photo: Courtesy of Hai Rihen


  Hai Rihen, a 26-year-old from Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, braced himself for his gate to open. Excitement bubbled through Hai, but he was also nervous as he sat atop a 450-kilogram, hot-tempered bull.

  As the gate lifted, the wild-eyed, untamed bull rushed out of the narrow bucking chute and into the arena, where it thrust and kicked in every direction, determined to throw off its rider. In one swift move, the animal reared onto its hind legs and Hai tumbled off its back.

  From the moment the gate opened, the entire scenario lasted just three seconds.

  "What I try my best to do is stay mounted on the bull for eight seconds," Hai said. "In about half a year's training, I only did that once. Most of the time, I was instantly thrown on the ground."

  Hai's bull riding is a rodeo sport that debuted in the US in the mid-19th century, favored among southern ranchers inspired by similar Mexican ranching contests. Variations of bull riding are also popular in countries such as Canada, Australia and Brazil, and now, this daredevil competition has made its way to China.

  Wang Zixing, a 25-year-old postgraduate student who is training himself to be a commentator for bull riding events, told Metropolitan that from a sports fan's perspective, it's highly likely bull riding in China will be popular because it suits the lifestyle of trend-seeking Chinese youth, who like "short, fast and exciting sports".

  "I learned how to host the sport in the US last year and was astonished by the enthusiasm of American people towards bull riding," Wang said, adding that he thought incorporating Chinese features to the rodeo would help it become more easily accepted by a Chinese audience.

  "Even though bull riding originated in the US, other countries adopted it and developed their own styles," he said. "For example, bull riding in Brazil is combined with samba, and in Spain, it is often done together with bull fighting."

  Not everyone likes the potential future rodeo trend in China.

  Fang Chaohui, who has been an amateur horse rider in Gansu Province for more than ten years, told Metropolitan that bull riding is "too crazy and too dangerous" for Chinese people.

  According to the rules of bull riding, riders must hold the reins with only one hand, while the other hand must be high up over the head. There is no saddle or stirrups on the bull's back. The score is calculated according to the rider's ability to control the bull, which means the angrier the bull and the more passionate the rider, the higher the score.

  Fang said that he also finds the rancher sport plainly distasteful.

  "I ride for the feeling of freedom and speed, and I especially cherish the communication with my horses, which I love more than my own life," Fang said.

  "Sports like bull riding are cruel because it involves provoking the bulls by causing them pain."

  Currently, only two professional riders are getting trained in China, but Xinniu International Sports Culture Co., a Beijing-based company set on introducing bull riding to China, is widely recruiting more riders like Hai, who feeds off the rush of the sport.

  "In my hometown, young men have ridden and tamed troublesome horses since they were children, and I think the reasoning for it is more or less the same as why ranchers do it in America, to feel in control and powerful," Hai said.

  "I found bull riding more interesting and exciting than taming horses. It's a sport that belongs to the manliest of men."