Little Yellow Jacket

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Little Yellow Jacket
Species Bovine
Breed Brangus
Born August 20, 1996
Mandan, ND, U.S.
Died August 20, 2011(2011-08-20) (aged 15)
Graham, NC, U.S.
Occupation Rodeo bull
Years active 1999-2005
Owner Joe & Nevada Berger, Tom Teague, Bernie Taupin
Weight 1,750 lbs.

Little Yellow Jacket #P761 (August 20, 1996 - September 19, 2011) was a North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame bucking bull. He was also a three-time Professional Bull Riders (PBR) "World Champion Bull," winning the title in consecutive years from 2002-2004. At the time, his three titles made him unmatched by any bull in the history of the PBR. He was the son of #77 Yellow Jacket and the grandson of #LH600 Wrangler Rivets. Yellow Jacket's three-time World Champion Bull record has since been matched by the universally regarded best bull to hit the circuit, #13/6 Bushwacker, who received his third title in 2014, his year of retirement.[1] Little Yellow Jacket was sometimes referred to as the "Michael Jordan of professional bull riding" and had his own line of merchandise. It was said he was the greatest bull in the PBR when he was selected to the receive the first Brand of Honor. But, as of 2016, Little Yellow Jacket would probably have to settle for second greatest now.[2] In Little Yellow Jacket's day he had the largest following of any PBR bull.[2] And, of course, was the only three-time World Champion Bull until Bushwacker.[2] At the time of his retirement in 2014, PBR co-founder and Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said Bushwacker was right up there with other legendary animal athletes Secretariat and Seabiscuit.[3]

PBR career[edit]

Little Yellow Jacket was bred on the Berger family ranch in Mandan, North Dakota, by Joe Berger and his son Nevada.[4] "'You can't train him to be a bucking bull,' said Berger on LJ's natural talent. 'It's about breeding and blood lines. He got it bred into him. The only thing you can train him is to not buck in the chute.'"[5][6]

After Tom Teague of Tom Teague Bucking Bulls got involved with the PBR, he became interested in Little Yellow Jacket.[7] Livestock Director Cody Lambert and top riders made it obvious how good the bull was before he had even won any titles.[7] As such, in 2002, Tom tried hard to persuade owner Joe Berger to sell him a half interest in Little Yellow Jacket while in Denver, Colorado, but Joe wasn't having that until Little Yellow Jacket had won a World Champion Bull title.[7] Later that year the bull won his first title and Tom approached Joe again.[7] Joe named his price and Tom didn't even haggle, just paid it outright.[7] Also, songwriter Bernie Taupin managed to purchase an interest in the bull somewhere along the line.[8] Bernie Taupin is a songwriter for Elton John from England who has been fascinated with our Western culture since childhood.[8] So it wasn't a stretch that he would end up with an interest in Little Yellow Jacket. Bernie had come to America with Elton John in the 1970's.[8]

Little Yellow Jacket made his debut in the PBR in the year 1999[9] and went to his first PBR World Finals that year.[10] Little Yellow Jacket competed in the major leagues of the PBR - the Built Ford Tough Series (BFTS) (known as the Bud Light Cup Series until 2003).[11][12] From the beginning to the end of his career, Little Yellow Jacket, either helped a guy earn a career making 90 point ride or land his face in the dirt.[6][13] And the bull knew when he won or the rider won.[13][6] He seemed to know he was special. After he bucked a guy off, he would seek his owner Joe Berger out for his approval.[13] He might also show himself off to the crowd.[13][6] "They'd put him in the chute and he'd go out, throw the guy off and would prance around, and it was like he was saying, 'I knew I could bust your rear,'" Tom Teague said. "But if a rider happened to ride him, he'd better look out, because Little Yellow Jacket just might try to hook him."[13][6] But in the end, Little Yellow Jacket never hurt anyone.[14]

Early on in his career, Little Yellow Jacket earned respect from Ty Murray, a bull riding, rodeo legend, and a PBR co-founder.[13][6] Ty Murray is referred to as the "King of the Cowboys" and has been referred to as the greatest cowboy of all time.[15] At the PBR World Finals in 1999, Ty scored a 90.4 on Little Yellow Jacket.[13][6] And it was Little Yellow Jacket's first time in the BFTS.[13][6] "He was then was a young bull that I had no idea about," Murray said. "And when I got off of him, I told Cody Lambert, 'Wow! That bull is the real deal!" These 90+ point rides are scored only by elite riders and bulls such that the PBR actually keeps special stats for them called the "90 point club."[16] All of Little Yellow Jacket's 14 qualified rides were scored at 90 points or higher except one.[10]

Another of Little Yellow Jacket's common meet ups were with Michael Gaffney. "According to Gaffney, Little Yellow Jacket was the total package."[7] He had it all. Bucking, kicking, changing directions, and intensity. His pattern for bringing down riders was hard to overcome when enhanced by how much power he had.[7] Also he mostly had a reputation for being a gentle bull.[7] As a rule, he did not try to go after the fallen riders and it even seemed like he tried to move around them and avoid stepping on them.[9][14] Gaffney is only one of two riders who scored two qualified rides on Little Yellow Jacket.[10] The other is Cory McFadden.[10]

He has been successfully ridden by only 12 of the best bull riders for 14 rides in 90 recorded tour outs on the BFTS.[11] [10] He has been ridden 15 times in 93 rides at all levels.[17] He went on to become the World Champion bull three times (2002-2004).[18] Cody Lambert, who was himself a bull rider when younger, said of Little Yellow Jacket at the time, "He's the greatest bull that the PBR has ever seen," he said. "He won three world titles, and no other bull has ever done that." He also finished runner-up to 2-time World Champion bull #81 Dillinger in 2001.[19]

At the end of his career, Little Yellow Jacket had a buck off rate of 83.53%, with an average buck off time of 2.66 seconds.[17] [20] Before his death, the bull was scheduled to be the inaugural inductee in the PBR's Brand of Honor, and would have been honored in person at a ceremony at the 2011 PBR World Finals.[21] However, Little Yellow Jacket died earlier in that year before the ceremony, and the ceremony took place without him just prior to the 2011 World Finals opening.[21]

Historic rides[edit]

Going to meet him in Nampa, Idaho, both rider and bull had earned fierce reputations and world titles.[22] Michael Gaffney had ridden Little Yellow Jacket a few times and bucked off each time without a qualified ride. This time Gaffney pulled some self-described fancy footwork to counter Little Yellow Jacket's moves and awesome power.[22] On April 24, 2004 at the Idaho Center former World Champion bull rider Michael Gaffney scored 96.5 points on Little Yellow Jacket, tying the PBR record.[9] "He was the ultimate bull," Gaffney said. "He had the attitude and the heart and everything else."[13][6]

At the World Arena in Colorado Springs in 2003, 2000 PBR World Champion Chris Shivers had a chance to ride him for $1,000,000. "A police escort accompanied the bull to the famous Colorado Springs Broadmoor Hotel, where he was penned in the parking lot on a bed of green, symbolizing money, and the lighting fixture above his head was a chandelier."[14][8] Both rider and bull had to attend a weigh-in before the event.[8] Shivers weighed in at 145 pounds, and Little Yellow Jacket weighed 1,600 pounds.[8] Chris was bucked off in less than two seconds.[4][21] Instead, the bull's owners received $50,000.[4][21] It was a really difficult moment for Chris at the time, but later he came to view it as a great promotional moment for the sport.[13][6] "That's probably one of the biggest moments in PBR history, and I'm just glad that I was involved in it," Shivers said. [13][6] This event at the Colorado Springs Invitational Rodeo was the fifth time that Little Yellow Jacket had bucked Chris Shivers off.[23] "He's one of the greatest bulls in the world," Shivers said after the ride. "My hat's off to him."[23] This event says so much about how great Little Yellow Jacket was because the PBR wrote an article about Chris Shivers in 2013.[24] This article spoke about Chris being the one to set the 90-point standard.[24] Chris recorded 94 qualified rides in excess of 90 points or better.[24] And yet not one qualified ride on this bull.[24][16][10] As of 2016, Chris Shivers still holds the record for most 90+ point rides.[16] Little Yellow Jacket is the one that got away.[16][10]


Little Yellow Jacket was a dark red Brangus bull.[20] He weighed about 1,800 pounds (820 kg) and had one horn pointing upward and one downward.[14] Little Yellow Jacket and his foremost ancestors are registered with American Bucking Bull, Inc. (ABBI).[9] His sire was #77 Yellow Jacket and his dam was a Berger cow.[25][9][26] His grandsire was #LH600 Wrangler Rivets and his grandam a Berger cow.[9][26] Little Yellow Jacket lost his mother in a horrendous winter storm in 1997.[11]

His sire, Yellow Jacket, was the 1999 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Bucking Bull of the Year.[27] [5] Both Little Yellow Jacket and his sire are listed in the top fifteen bulls in the Top 500 Bulls by Adjusted Average Marking.[28] Wrangler Rivets was a champion bucking bull who won 13 competitions as a bucking bull.[5] Wrangler Rivets was also a two-time North American Rodeo Commission (NARC) Bull of the Year.[11] His cousin Moody Blues was 1998 PBR World Champion Bull (the title used to be Bucking Bull of the Year).[5] [29] [30]

Retirement and death[edit]

Little Yellow Jacket's owners, a partnership of Joe and Nevada Berger, Bernie Taupin, and Tom Teague, retired him at the end of 2005.[31] Little Yellow Jacket was kept in a pen when the truck/trailer would pull up to take the other bulls away for the bull riding events.[14] He would throw a fit because he wanted to go with them.[14] Other times, he spent in the pasture so he had exercise, company, and breeding with the cows. Berger also sold his sperm for $700 per straw.[14] Little Yellow Jacket would wake up mornings in his pen and command the other bulls to come join him for a drink of water.[14] He was definitely the dominant bull at the ranch.[14] Occasionally, adult visitors were guided to the ranch to view Little Yellow Jacket.[14]

After the Bergers had kept Little Yellow Jacket at their ranch in North Dakota and had bred him for awhile, Tom Teague, who owns Teague Bucking Bulls and who held a half interest, asked to buy the full interest in the bull.[4][32] The Bergers honored his request, so that Little Yellow Jacket could live at Teague Bucking Bulls in North Carolina instead of North Dakota and enjoy milder winters.[32][7] Actually, it appears that Joe's son Chad was managing the bulls by this time.[33] Tom held great regard for Little Yellow Jacket and took special care of him.[32] Tom Teague gave Little Yellow Jacket superb feeds, climate control, companionship, and when he left this earth there were several pregnant cows.[32] Little Yellow Jacket spent his last 5 years at Teague's ranch.[7] Lastly, the home page of Teague's website is a memorial to the bull.[32] Little Yellow Jacket died in Graham, North Carolina on September 19, 2011, at the age of 15.[9][21][34] "Little Yellow Jacket was a tremendous athlete, and the mere mention of his name brings great memories to fans of our sport," said PBR CEO Jim Haworth. "He will certainly be remembered as one of the all-time greats."[34]

Honors and Recognition[edit]

  • Three-time PBR "World Champion Bull," winning the title in consecutive years from 2002-2004.[18] The champion was picked by a vote of the top 45 bullriders at this point in time.[11]
  • First bull to win "World Champion Bull" three times. Only bull to do so consecutively.[13][29]
  • 2006 Inducted into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame.[4][35] First living animal to be inducted.[35][14]
  • 2011 Received the inaugural PBR Brand of Honor.[13][6]
  • He is immortalized in a bronze statue with retired bull rider and notable three-time World Champion Adriano Moraes in front of the PBR headquarters in Pueblo, Colorado.[13]
  • Little Yellow Jacket's most significant riders, Chris Shivers, Michael Gaffney, and Ty Murray, who all had high praise for the bull and either earned 90+ rides on him or bucked off, were all later awarded the prestigious award in bullriding, the Professional Bull Riders: Heroes and Legends Ring of Honor.[36] Little Yellow Jacket won with the best bullriders in history.[36]


  1. ^ "Bushwacker to receive Brand of Honor". Professional Bull Riders. Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c "Who's the Greatest - Professional Bull Riders". Professional Bull Riders. Retrieved 18 November 2016. 
  3. ^ "Bushwacker ready to be honored in Las Vegas". Professional Bull Riders. Retrieved 18 November 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame - Hall of Honorees". Retrieved 8 October 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Little Yellow Jacket was bred to succeed". Dickinson Press. Retrieved 5 November 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Brand of Honor: Little Yellow Jacket". Professional Bull Riders. Retrieved 17 November 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Professional Bull Riders - Little Yellow Jacket sets the standard". Professional Bull Riders. Retrieved 17 November 2016. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f DAHLBERG, TIM. "No bull: Songwriter thinks Little Yellow Jacket is best ever | Lubbock Online | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal". Retrieved 17 November 2016. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g "RIP: Legendary PBR bucking bull Little Yellow Jacket passes away at age 15 - Yahoo! Sports". Archived from the original on October 12, 2011. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g "Professional Bull Riders - Little Yellow Jacket - Career Outs". Professional Bull Riders. Retrieved 2 November 2016. 
  11. ^ a b c d e "Professional Bull Riders - Little Yellow Jacket's retirement announced". Professional Bull Riders. Retrieved 4 November 2016. 
  12. ^ "Professional Bull Riders - Dictionary". Professional Bull Riders. Retrieved 17 November 2016. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Professional Bull Riders - Heroes & Legends: Little Yellow Jacket". Professional Bull Riders. Retrieved 4 November 2016. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Little Yellow Jacket earns his stripes". 28 July 2006. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  15. ^ Murray, Ty. "'King of the Cowboys' Ty Murray Announces His Retirement at 32". Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  16. ^ a b c d "Professional Bull Riders - 90 Point Club". Professional Bull Riders. Retrieved 17 November 2016. 
  17. ^ a b "61 Little Yellow Jacket (5039) - Probullstats Bull Profile". Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  18. ^ a b "Past PBR World Champion Bulls 1995 to Present". Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  19. ^ "Little Yellow Jacket - Find A Grave - Millions of Cemetery Records and Online Memorials". Retrieved 17 November 2016. 
  20. ^ a b "Professional Bull Riders - Little Yellow Jacket - Career Stats". Professional Bull Riders. Retrieved 2 November 2016. 
  21. ^ a b c d e "Champion scheduled for Hoedown dies | hoedown, scheduled, champion - Burlington Times News". Archived from the original on April 1, 2012. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  22. ^ a b "Professional Bull Riders - PBR 20/20: Gaffney gets the best of Little Yellow Jacket". Professional Bull Riders. Retrieved 21 November 2016. 
  23. ^ a b " - Shivers bucked by Little Yellow Jacket in $1M ride". Retrieved 21 November 2016. 
  24. ^ a b c d "Professional Bull Riders - Shivers sets 90-point standard". Professional Bull Riders. Retrieved 21 November 2016. 
  25. ^ "77 Yellowjacket (19223) bull profile & stats". Retrieved 3 December 2016. 
  26. ^ a b "Meet the Bulls". Archived from the original on December 10, 2010. Retrieved November 2, 2016. 
  27. ^ "PRCA Bull of the Year recipients". Retrieved 2 November 2016. 
  28. ^ "Top 500 - All bulls". Retrieved 2 November 2016. 
  29. ^ a b "PBR World Champion Bulls". Retrieved 4 November 2016. 
  30. ^ Design, Born to Buck Web. "Breeder's Connection". Retrieved 7 November 2016. 
  31. ^ "Little Yellow Jacket - Culture Lifestyle -". 2007. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  32. ^ a b c d e "Teague Bucking Bulls - In Memory of Little Yellow Jacket". Retrieved 2 November 2016. }
  33. ^ Columnist, JOYCE WHITIS,. "Little Yellow Jacket and Blueberry Wine to be retired". Stephenville Empire. Retrieved 17 November 2016. 
  34. ^ a b "Professional Bull Riders - PBR mourns loss of legendary Little Yellow Jacket". Professional Bull Riders. Retrieved 17 November 2016. 
  35. ^ a b "Professional Bull Riders - Little Yellow Jacket Inducted into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame". Professional Bull Riders. Retrieved 4 November 2016. 
  36. ^ a b "Professional Bull Riders - Heroes and Legends - Ring of Honor". Professional Bull Riders. Retrieved 23 November 2016. 

External links[edit]

  1. American Bucking Bull, Inc.
  2. PBR 2011 Brand of Honor (Official LYJ 2011 PBR Brand of Honor video)
  3. Video Ty Murray vs Little Yellow Jacket - 99 PBR Finals (90.5 pts)
  4. HISTORIC RIDE: Chris Shivers takes on Little Yellow Jacket for $1 million
  5. Michael Gaffney vs Little Yellow Jacket - 04 PBR Nampa (96.5 pts)
  6. Little Yellow Jacket - King of the Bucking Bulls book by Darlene Berger 2006