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Bill Pickett was a famous rodeo star who delighted fans and was said to have invented the rodeo technique of bulldogging. Pickett enjoyed success and even acted in film before retiring. Pickett died on this day in 1932.

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Pickett was the second of 13 children born to Thomas Jefferson Pickett, a former slave, and Mary “Janie” Gilbert in Jenks-Branch, Texas. Pickett’s blood heritage was both Black and Cherokee Native American. Pickett left school in the 5th grade to work as a ranch hand and learned the trade of roping and riding horses like a true cowboy. Pickett’s prowess on the ranch drew the attention of the Miller Brothers, the owners of 101 Ranch Wild West Show.

The Miller Brothers and other growing rodeo shows of the time revolutionized the image of the cowboy and introduced the dangerous sport of wild bull riding and other elements to audiences. These wildly popular rodeo events would draw big crowds, and Pickett became known for his controversial “bulldogging” or “steer wrestling” technique. Pickett would ride his horse, Spradley, alongside a longhorn steer then grabs its head while biting the steer’s upper lip. The bite would bring down the wild steer, and steer wrestling became part of the rodeo competition.

Not surprisingly, racism was a barrier to Pickett obtaining jobs in rodeo despite being a beloved national figure. Pickett appeared in the movie “The Bull-Dogger,” and “The Crimson Skull” was based on his rodeo skills. After World War I, Wild West rodeo shows began to fade in to obscurity. Pickett never regained much of his past glory.

Conflicting reports say Pickett was 62 when he was kicked in the head by a wild bronco while working at the 101 Ranch. Other reports say he was 70. Pickett was posthumously inducted into the Rodeo Hall Of Fame in 1972.

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Rodeo Performer, Entertainer Bill Pickett Died On This Day In 1932  was originally published on