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Alot of people don't understand the difference between the two at a rodeo. In the early days of rodeo, the bullfighter did it all. He clowned, entertained and protected the cowboys. It was a rather tough job for one man. With the age of specialization came the separation of the two. Now in professional rodeo you will have at least two bullfighters who do nothing but protect the fallen cowboys after their dismount from the beast of the bovine. Working the barrel and providing the comedy is the rodeo clown and barrelman. Of course, his job is not all comedy. He often provides a distraction and portable fence for the bullfighters when being pursued by the bulls. The bullfighters and the barrelman work hand in hand during the freestyle bullfighting. If you were to ask a bullfighter if he would get in the barrel, his most likely reply would be, "are you crazy!" There is only one way out and that is the end the bull is most often looking down. The barrelman is also at the mercy of the bullfighter, depending on him to keep him safe in the "bomb shelter", as it is called. Many times, by accident and by inexperience of a bullfighter, a barrelman can be injured by being open-ended in a barrel. He dodges horns, hooves, legs, and takes a beating when the barrel is hit. When inside the barrel and taking a hit, it is like being hit by a car at 40 miles per hour.

Most barrels are made of aluminum. However, you will find some made of fiberglass or steel. Most have a little padding inside to absorb some of the shock. This padding also helps the barrelman to slide down inside the barrel. Padding can consist of anything from foam rubber to nylon. There can't be too much padding, because you need the freedom to move about in the barrel and to fit inside easily. Once inside, the barrelman presses out against the barrel and then pushes back on his head to reduce the force of the concussion.

Most barrels are painted or taped on the outside and many times display logos of various rodeo sponsors. They are also padded on the outside to protect the animals, as rodeo bulls are very much valued. The last thing a barrelman would want, would be an injured animal. However, it is very, very rare that a bull gets injured. The figures are like less than 1/10th of 1 percent.


Packing a 150 pound barrel in deep sand and dirt takes stamina. And of course being inside leaves you vulnerable to injury. Because the barrel protects both bullfighters and cowboys, it is sometimes caught in the middle of the storm, so to speak. There are times when a bull, concentrating on bucking off his rider, inadvertently sticks a leg into the open end of the barrel. And when a bull drops his head on the barrel, he can work his horns inside. It is like being blindfolded and being put in a runaway car. You never know when to brace yourself or get a better grip. You depend on the busy bullfighter to communicate with you. However, many times he is communicating with himself, deciding on which move to make next. You can be left stranded. The bullfighters look out for the barrelmen as much as possible by handling the barrel so that it is not exposed to an intrusion. Wigs, hats and baggys offer little protection to the barrelman.

When being hit by a bull and not being set in the barrel, you can suffer whiplash injuries. The trick is not to get knocked out of the open end. Sometimes the bull flips it end over end, and it is all you can do to ride the storm out. And if you are moving around in the barrel during the storm, you can get hurt. Compare it to the worst carnival ride you have ever gotten on and then lose your handhold. You take alot of punishment and many times can get motion sickness and become disoriented after the impact. It gets hairy inside the barrel. There is nothing you can do but ride it out!