Texas Ingenuity History


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Bill Pickett, the Texas Bulldogger

If that angry Longhorn steer hadn't gotten loose, the entire sport of the western rodeo would be a lot less interesting. On a hot summer day in 1903, that steer did get loose and refused to enter the corral. Young Bill Pickett, who was trying to get the steer to behave, got downright ticked off. He rode up beside the steer on his horse, jumped onto his head, grabbed its horns and wrestled him to the ground, all the time biting the steer's lower lip.

Pickett was born in 1870 in Travis County as the second of thirteen kids. His parents, Thomas Jefferson and Mary Virginia Pickett were both former slaves. From the front porch of his house, he could hear the thunderous roar of thousands of hooves as cowboys on tall strong horses drove herds of cattle across the dusty prairie. He watched these rugged coboys riding high in their saddles. He paid attention to every detail when the cowboys worked as a team to control the herd and to lead it this way and that. Sometimes he waved at them and sometimes they tipped their hats back at him.

After Bill completed fifth grade, he took a job at a local ranch and quickly earned a reputation as an expert cowpoke. While working on a ranch one day, he noticed something that would not only change his life, but would impact a national sport. The story goes that young Pickett noticed that cattle-herding dogs, which happened to be of the bulldog breed, would bite the lip of a cow to get its attention. He wondered what would happen if he did the same thing. He'd find out soon enough.

Bill Picket Bulldogger

Inventor of Bulldogging, Cowboy Bill Pickett.


The Pickett family moved to Taylor, Texas, when Bill was 18. He started a horse-breaking business there with his brother, joined the National Guard, and became a deacon of the local Baptist church. In 1890, he married Maggie Turner.

When that aforementioned wayward steer got loose in 1903, Bill thought about how those bulldogs bit the lip of the steer to control it. Just to see if he could do it, he rode up beside the errant steer, jumped on it, grabbed it by the horns, and bit the animal's bottom lip. The beast yielded to Bill's strength and was wrestled to the ground. Everyone who saw what happened was amazed as well as amused. Word got around and people wanted to see it done again.


Texas Tidbit: Bill Pickett was featured in a 1923 silent film titled "The Bull-dogger." Advertising for the movie described Pickett as the "Colored Hero of the Mexican Bull Ring in Death Defying Feats of Courage and Skill."

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