LESSONS IN BLACK HISTORY – Bill Pickett

Bill Pickett—The son of former slaves and one of thirteen children, Bill Picket is considered not only one of the greatest cowboys of all time, but also the greatest rodeo star of all time. Born in Texas in 1870, Pickett began working as a ranch hand at an early age. Pickett is credited with coming up with the rodeo move known as “bulldogging.” This is when a cowboy takes control of a steer by talking hold of its lip with his teeth. He learned the trick from watching how bulldogs, or catch dogs, were used by cowboys to catch stray steers. Also known as steer wrestling, Pickett became world renowned for his bulldogging prowess. In modern rodeos bulldogging consists of the cowboy riding up alongside the bull, jumping off and wrestling it to the ground by twisting its horns. But in Pickett’s time, he actually bit into the lip of the bull. He was a performer in the Miller Brothers’ 101 Ranch Wild West Show—one of the more popular of the touring Wild West shows—from 1905 to 1931. Pickett showed off his cowboy skills all over the world, and appeared in several films during the silent era of movies. He retired from performing in 1932, and was soon after killed when he was kicked in the head by a bronco. Pickett’s legacy as a rodeo star continues to this day with the Bill Picket Invitational Rodeo, the only touring black rodeo in the United States.

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