Downer Bull

Posted in: Featured, Ranch Life

We had been pulling bulls for several days as breeding season was over. It was rough, timbered, river break country with oak choked canyons and lots of brush so some of them were a little hard to locate. We were down to the last pasture and one bull was missing. They were mature Charolais bulls, but surprisingly, as big and white as they were, they could sure brush up and become hard to see. We rode the pasture carefully, and finally found him, holed up in a thicket and in bad shape. He was down and could only pull himself around by his front legs. He’d been beat up by other bulls I’m sure, plus was helpless, so was on the fight. He was surprisingly quick, in spite of having to drag his hindquarters along. He was also in a place that couldn’t be reached by a trailer. It was late when we found him, so decided to start bright and early the next morning, as it was probably going to be an ordeal. We strategized on the ride out, and it was decided to see if a pickup and trailer could come in from the neighbor’s place and get as close to the fence and the bull as possible. We could take the fence down and put it back up when we were done.
In the cool of the next morning, three of us rode to where the bull was while the fourth person came in through the neighbor’s with the trailer. It was a long trip around, but she was able to get to within a 100 yards or so of the fence, which was about 300 yards from where we’d last seen the bull. He was deep in the brush, hiding out and still in a bad mood. Fear will sure bring that out in them. We got him lured out of the brush and onto a little meadow while we waited for the trailer to arrive. He was sure on the fight. He was also pretty dehydrated which will bring out the worst in them too. We weren’t too excited about having to drag him into the trailer, as he was a really big, older bull, probably around five years old and well over a ton, even drawn up like he was. Also, as I said earlier, he was much quicker than he looked, being down behind, so dangerous to get close to.
We hobbled our horses and let them graze while we took the fence down and laid it back out of the way. That done, we got the trailer in what we thought was the lowest spot to ease the loading of the bull. We tied the end gate open as far as it would go to have it out of the way.
While we were doing this, the bull was watching us closely. Finally, there was nothing left to do but to just do it. Cinched up tight, gear adjusted to the best advantage, we stepped on and rode toward the bull, ropes down, dreading the ordeal this was sure to be.
We circled wide around the bull as he watched us, up on his knees and head high. The boss rode in close and the bull made a charge at him as he rode toward the trailer. He did this a couple times and the bull quit. Next on the agenda was probably going to be to rope the big booger. As we let the bull rest a moment, working up our courage, the bull looked at us, then at the trailer.
Suddenly, he lunged forward, pulling himself toward the trailer. As we watched, he would go 15 or 20 feet, then rest. Curious, we kept out of his way to see what he was going to do once he was through the fence. We figured he would try to make a getaway. He kept moving, resting a little longer each time, but he was still going in the right direction.

As we watched, the bull worked his way through some low spots, through the fence, across a shallow draw, and to the back of the trailer. After one more long rest, he lunged into the trailer, dragging his useless hind legs along. Once he was all the way in, we helped him get his hind legs inside and shut the gate. We just stood there and looked at each other in amazement.
Taken home, the bull unloaded himself in the corral and was given a tub of water and feed. Once there, he seemed to lose all aggression. He was safe and he knew it, I think. The vet was consulted and he prescribed a week or so of shots for inflammation in the hopes that his hindquarters could function again. It fell on me to feed and water the bull, plus give him his shots, but it wasn’t bad duty and I did it in the evening. All the fight was gone, and he welcomed the fly spray and grain I offered. I even curried him,
just to make life a little more positive. He was actually a gentle patient. Unfortunately, he never recovered and after a couple of weeks, was put down.

Posted in: Featured, Ranch Life

About Jan Swan Wood

Jan was raised on a ranch in far western South Dakota. She grew up horseback working all descriptions of cattle, plus sheep and horses. After leaving home she pursued a post-graduate study of cowboying and dayworking in Nebraska, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota....

View all posts by Jan Swan Wood