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Bill Pickett

Pickett Stamp/USPS Pickett Stamp/USPS

Bill Pickett was a legendary cowboy and rodeo performer. He is credited with the introduction of a new event to the rodeo: bulldogging. His career spanned more than 40 years and Pickett was the first black cowboy inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame.

Pickett was born in 1870. It is said he invented the art of steer wrestling or "bulldogging" at the age of ten. It seems that in Rockdale Texas in 1903 Pickett became fed up with a Longhorn steer who refused to enter the corral. Having had enough of the ornery critter, Pickett rode his horse alongside the steer, jumped on its back and wrestled the steer by its horns. Then he bit the animal's lower lip and jerked him down flat. Not to long after that Pickett had people lined up and paying to see him wrestle steers.

There is some controversy about whether or not Pickett was the first to wrestle steers. Some claim Canadian Black Cowboy John Ware invented the event earlier but no one knows for sure and Bill Pickett has enough backing to claim the record.

Pickett spent most of his life working at the 101 Ranch in Oklahoma. The ranch toured its own rodeo and wild west show. Pickett performed his bulldogging as many as 400 times a year throughout the United States. He also performed in Europe,South America,Mexico,Canada

In 1905 Pickett appeared at Madison Square Garden where he worked with Will Rogers. The steer Bill was supposed to bulldog jumped the fence and headed into the stands. Will Rogers finally turned the steer around and headed him back down the stairs (some claim he had made it to the third balcony) and Pickett wrestled him down.

Richard E. Norman made a film about Pickett entitled "The Bull Dogger." Pickett played himself. Some people at the time did not believe there were black cowboys. The picture helped end that notion.

In 1916 Pickett semi-retired to a small ranch in Chandler, OK but he continued to perform as he felt up to it. On April 2, 1932 Pickett died fittingly enough while rounding up horses.

He was elected to the National Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1971, the twentieth such honoree and the first black cowboy so honored.

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