Are the Flank Straps Used in Bull Riding Attached to the Bulls’ Testicles?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about bull riding and whether they are true or false.

BULL RIDING URBAN LEGEND: Bull riders get bulls to buck by pulling on straps attached to the bull’s testicles.

I’m not here to convince you that riding bulls is not an uncomfortable experience for the bulls.

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It almost certainly is.

However, there is a definite misconception as to one particular piece of bull riding equipment, and that is the flank strap.

The flank strap is a rope that is tied around the bull’s flank (the lower torso of a bull, near its hind legs). The strap is there to encourage the bull to use its hind legs more in a bucking motion. One half of a bull rider’s score is determined by how much the bull bucked while the rider is on the bull, so therefore there is a major incentive to get the bull to buck as much as possible (the other half of the score involves how well the bull rider controls the bull, and that can also include the rider’s ability to MAKE the bull buck more).

Due to the fact that it makes the bulls buck, plus its close proximity to the genitals of the bull, many people believe that the flank strap is attached in some manner to the testicles of the bull (or designed in some way to irritate the bull’s testicles).

That is not true. Besides the fact that the flank strap is really not THAT close to the bull’s testicles, it just doesn’t make common sense to mess with a bull’s testicles. For one, these animals are valuable, and their semen is one of the most valuable aspects of them, so it is in the economic interest of their owners to keep their testicles safe. For another thing, if a bull’s testicles was seriously yanked on, it more likely would react with pain rather than aggression, and therefore not buck as high. For a final thing, just to recap the very first bit – they’re just clearly not placed near the testicles.

That does not mean that the flank strap cannot be seen as cruel to the animal. Many people DO feel that it is cruel to the animal.

Here, courtesy of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is a picture of a bull wearing a flank strap…

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That’s clearly not on its testicles, but it sure doesn’t look like fun, now does it?

Do note that since that picture comes from PETA, there is a good chance that that is not a “typical” example of how flank straps hang on bulls – they’re most likely not as tight as that. That said, I picked that particular picture because if even PETA concedes that the flank strap is not on a bull’s testicles, then I think that’s perhaps the best argument of them all.

The legend is…

STATUS: False

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is [email protected]

20 Responses to “Are the Flank Straps Used in Bull Riding Attached to the Bulls’ Testicles?”

  1. It’s mean to do this to bulls, it’s also modern day slavery of animals.

  2. Joanna;

    The average age of a PBR bull is 9 years. 10X that of grass fed organic whole foods beef. If you had the choice, 180 seconds per year with a rope around your gut, while spending the rest on pasture with cows and calves, what would you choose? It’s a bad comparison, but it’s the truth. Cattle are for human consumption, Rodeo bulls are not. Rodeo bulls are treated better than the people who ride them. Most humans would go through much much worse if they only had to work 180 seconds per year….and they do.

  3. Bulls fall and breaks legs – they get euthanased, or they fuck their vertebra because the rope makes them buck hard, and they bruise their muscles and organs falling. Humans choose to be idiots, bulls are made to perform.

  4. Chris Miller on May 8th, 2016 at 11:31 pm

    As a bill rider I will tell you these bulls are treated with more respect and dignity than most people. They love doin their job. I have personally seen them walk to the crowd and accept the applause. They know it’s time to do their job when the flank strap and riding rope go on just the same way a working dog knows is time to work when the harness goes on. At the end of the day go back and are fine. They even get fed special diets and are kept as healthy as possible. Owners and riders become attached just like a family pet. I’ve experienced great sadness when a bull dies. I’ve seen some completely break down.a lot

  5. OMG–bulls treated with respect? You mean, before they aren’t? If they love their “job” so much, why do they stop bucking the second the flank strap is removed. Pit bulls and other fighting dogs are treated well also, but what does that have to do with the abject, inherent cruelty in the sham known as “rodeo”? Wannabe cowboys, who are too cowardly to compete with other humans in such events as ultimate fighting, instead choose to terrorize, torment, and torture animals. If there’s any sadness, it’s over the loss of money, NOT over the trauma the animal was subjected to or crocodile tears. I’ve seen BS before, but CM’s post upped the ante on stench.

  6. No they are not I’m a bullrider myself the flank (the rope in the back) is placed right above the Bulls groin it makes the bull feel uncomfortable and irratates them so the buck to get the flank away from the Bulls testicles but the bull is not being harmed

  7. […] the big swaggering men wrestling the defenseless animals to the ground, the groin strapping (which does not pinch the bulls’ testicles, contrary to popular myth), the gender division of the contests, the overwrought gender performance […]

  8. barbara chapman on July 10th, 2016 at 1:32 am

    Of course the bull is being harmed he may not be actually damaged but imagine if you were tied up like that and then made to do unnatural tricks for the amusement of idiots.

  9. Any one of you come on over to a stock contractor’s place and try to make a bull buck that does not want to buck. Let’s see a 150 pound person try to make a 1500 to 2000 pound bull buck. I will watch and laugh my ass off seeing you try to make this bull buck. “made to do unnatural tricks,” what a hoot. Bull is a prey animal who would normally be attacked by an apex predator on their back so naturally they want to get anything off their back. And yet, there are still some bulls that don’t buck. They test them when they are young, and only groom the ones that buck for competition. And saying that you can make them buck with a rope or a tiny shock is saying the bulls are stupid. They know what’s up. Heck, I’d like to see one of you who have no experience with livestock come put them in a trailer when they don’t want to go. People have been killed by being squeezed between a cow and a wall. Retired PBR bull Mississippi Hippy (2400 pounds) used to start trying to flip the ATVs over that were leading him when he got tired of working out. And when PBR Bushwacker (greatest bull ever) didn’t want to work out, he didn’t work out. But you go ahead and think, you can make a creature that size do a vertical handstand like Asteroid does, you go right ahead.

  10. I love animals and when bull rider say these bulls get treating with more dignity than most humans I do believe that. They go to work and are uncomfortable for 180 second a year than to eat the best food and live like kings for the entire year. Most human in this world have to do unnatural things like go to work 8 hours a day and live in less than ideal situation eating less than ideal food day in and day out. Not to mention when these bull retire they get to live out their lives with multiple mates on a huge farm. Name a human you know that has a life like that

  11. Spurs cause unessessary pain, it’s the way they use them thats painful. Whom ever thinks they don’t hurt that animal, well then, Ill throw mine on & we can try them for 8 seconds flankstrap included. Along with a flank strap tightened around your waiste. Find a different turn on people.

  12. I do rodeo though I do ride Saddle Broncs as apposed to bulls. look you can go into a pen and feed these so called “abused” animals and feed them right out of your hand. Heck I picked up all four feet of the legendary Painted Valley, a bucking horse of the year. Now as someone who works around animals every day the only way you can handle animals like this, is simply if they trust you. Now if they are abused by humans then how do they trust them enough to eat out of our hands after we ride them in the arena?

  13. Patrick Huey on May 7th, 2017 at 10:29 am

    Flank strap goes around hips just like we would wear a belt and isn’t even snugged down as tight as we would tighten our belt. Nowhere near the testicles. In the wild cattle are attacked by predators from the rear and the flank simply activates the bull’s natural instinct to buck when something is gripping it from the rear. It’s painless and doesn’t “irritate” or piss the bull off it simply activates an unconscious natural instinct. The flank is made of a soft braided cotton as well. If you flank a bull tightly it will have totally the opposite desired result and will instead hinder the bull’s bucking.

  14. Patrick Huey on May 7th, 2017 at 10:38 am

    Barbara Chapman did you know that 95% or more bull calves wind up castarated after birth and within a year wind up in a feedlot waiting to be slaughtered? Rodeo bulls are raised with much care and are in no way abused they are way too valuable…top PBR bull was valued at well over $1 million last year. They eat better than we do as well as receive better health care and at the end of the rodeo career they get to spend the rest of their life in the pasture eating and breeding and live another 10-15 years this way before dying of old age. They “work” an average of 20-30min a year. I believe this is a much better life by far than the other 95% that wind up at the slaughterhouse within the first year or year and a half of their life

  15. Sick sick sick.all because of money.fame.& repitation. I woulldnt itbe cool to tie a mans ball.& stick a stick up a women vagina.and ride there backs.yeah it would why not .its fun.Right.

  16. You guy who cry abuse have way too much time on your hands. I could understand if it was true torture but this certainly is not it. I am sure these bulls would much rather buck for their dinner than end up on a plate somewhere. Your only excuse is I don’t eat meat! So you don’t eat meat that you your choice don’t push it on the rest of the free world. Most people do eat meat. I am honestly sick of people and organizations who are supposed animal lovers who cry cruelty at every little thing because they have nothing better to do like make an honest living. You will never stop all abuse in the world, this is not abuse, so why don’t you find a legitimate abuse to fight and stop trying to control people. This might be uncomfortable for the limited amount of time the bucking strap is on but it does not break skin causing blood to spill. Have you ever seen a vet give medical treatment to some of these animals much worse treatment is done in the name of health. Please don’t misunderstand and thinks I am saying vets are cruel.

  17. Lauren Mendonça on September 4th, 2017 at 10:00 am

    “Bulls fall and breaks legs – they get euthanased, or they fuck their vertebra because the rope makes them buck hard, and they bruise their muscles and organs falling. Humans choose to be idiots, bulls are made to perform”
    “Competitive sports for companion dogs take canine play to a whole new level. Daily training demands, along with competitive pressures, increase the risk of injury to dogs without the proper conditioning. Even well-managed dogs can suffer ongoing soft tissue aches and pains. Therefore, companion dogs elevated to perfor­mance-dog status develop different needs from the average canine patient. To meet these needs, veterinary staff must look for subtle signs, listen carefully to clients’ concerns, and educate themselves about the risks and requirements of canine sports.” you act like bulls are the only animals to be “euthanized” yet when it’s dogs they’re “put to sleep” or “crossing the rainbow bridge”. You’re right though-humans like yourself are idiots when they judge something they know nothing about.

  18. Lauren Mendonça on September 4th, 2017 at 10:19 am

    Ernie Jay on May 13, 2016 at 6:31 am
    OMG–bulls treated with respect? You mean, before they aren’t? If they love their “job” so much, why do they stop bucking the second the flank strap is removed. Pit bulls and other fighting dogs are treated well also, but what does that have to do with the abject, inherent cruelty in the sham known as “rodeo”? Wannabe cowboys, who are too cowardly to compete with other humans in such events as ultimate fighting, instead choose to terrorize, torment, and torture animals. If there’s any sadness, it’s over the loss of money, NOT over the trauma the animal was subjected to or crocodile tears. I’ve seen BS before, but CM’s post upped the ante on stench.
    They stop bucking when the strap is removed because it’s a reflex. Just like when the doctor stops tapping your knee, your leg stops kicking And actually pit bulls and other fighting dogs are NOT treated well. Do you live under a rock? Abject inherent cruelty? That’s the meat industry. Wannabe cowboys that you have the nerve to call cowards? My husband is more of a man than you’d ever hope to be. You’d piss yourself even sitting on a bull in the chute! Torment and torture animals? Cowboys-real men UNLIKE yourself treat these bulls like family. The breeders feed their bulls before they sit down to eat a meal themselves. These are the men (and women, who have more gusto and bigger balls than you) that we’re pulling bulls, cows, and horses out of the Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters. You should listen to how stupid you sound- they’re too coward to compete with other humans? Riiiiight-too coward to compete with 200lb men so they compete with an animal that weighs 1 ton-you make sense you have me dying of laughter over “losing money” My husband paid $75 Saturday to ride and walked away with $1000. Two years ago he paid $100 and walked away with $5000. But please, continue with your logic. It makes just as much sense as trump supporter’s logic.

  19. Lauren Mendonça on September 4th, 2017 at 10:22 am

    barbara chapman on July 10, 2016 at 1:32 am
    Of course the bull is being harmed he may not be actually damaged but imagine if you were tied up like that and then made to do unnatural tricks for the amusement of idiots.

    The bull is not being harmed. The rope sits on a nerve that makes them buck. The only idiots I’m seeing are people on this thread making comments like yours.

  20. Lauren Mendonça on September 4th, 2017 at 10:33 am

    Mary on January 29, 2017 at 4:02 am
    Spurs cause unessessary pain, it’s the way they use them thats painful. Whom ever thinks they don’t hurt that animal, well then, Ill throw mine on & we can try them for 8 seconds flankstrap included. Along with a flank strap tightened around your waiste. Find a different turn on people.
    Apparently you don’t realize how thick a bull’s hide really is. Bull riders wear spurs that are required to have dull, loosely locked rowels (the ‘wheel–like’ part of the spur that comes in contact with the animal). The spurs help a rider maintain his balance by giving him added grip with his feet. The spurs do not cut or scratch a bull’s hide, which is seven times thicker than a human’s skin. Not sure what you mean by “turn on”-and if anyone needs to be finding something new to do, it would be you. My first recommendation would be to find accurate sources of information

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