Little Yellow Jacket
|Hall of Fame bull|
|Weight||1,750 pounds (790 kg)|
|Born||August 20, 1996
Mandan, ND, U.S.
|Paternal grandsire||Wrangler Rivets|
|Paternal granddam||Berger Cow, Herd HJ|
|Maternal grandsire||Berger Breeding|
|Maternal granddam||Berger Cow|
|Owner||Joe & Nevada Berger, Tom Teague, Bernie Taupin|
|Died||September 19, 2011
Graham, NC, U.S.
|North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame 2006|
|PBR World Champion Bull 2002-2004|
Little Yellow Jacket #P761 (August 20, 1996 - September 19, 2011) was a bucking bull. He was 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 also inducted into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame for his accomplishments. He was the son of #77 Yellow Jacket and the grandson of #LH600 Wrangler Rivets. Little Yellow Jacket's three-time World Champion Bull record has since been matched by #13/6 Bushwacker, who received his third title in 2014, his year of retirement. 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 inaugural Brand of Honor. Later, the bull Bushwacker was deemed to surpass Little Yellow Jacket as the best PBR bucking bull of all time. In Little Yellow Jacket's day he had the largest following of any PBR bull. Later, the bull Bushwacker was deemed to surpass all bucking bulls as the best of all time; 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.
Little Yellow Jacket was bred on the Berger family ranch, named Rafter Arrow Ranch, in Mandan, North Dakota, by Joe Berger and his son Nevada. "'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.'"
After Tom Teague of Tom Teague Bucking Bulls got involved with the PBR, he became interested in Little Yellow Jacket. Cody Lambert and top riders made it obvious how good the bull was before he had even won any titles due to his tremendous heart and instantaneous success in his first year. As such, in 2002, Teague tried hard to persuade owner Joe Berger to sell him a half interest in Little Yellow Jacket while in Denver, Colorado, but Berger would not budge until Little Yellow Jacket had won a World Champion Bull title. Later that year the bull won his first title and Teague approached Berger again. Berger named his price and Teague didn't even haggle, just paid it outright. Later, Englishman Bernie Taupin, a songwriter for Elton John, who has been fascinated with Western culture since childhood, managed to purchase an interest in the bull somewhere along the line.
Little Yellow Jacket made his debut in the PBR in the year 1999 and went to his first PBR World Finals that year. 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) starting in his first year. From the beginning to the end of his career, Little Yellow Jacket was said to either help a rider earn a career-making 90 point ride or land his face in the dirt. The bull seemed to know when he won.  After he bucked someone off, he would seek his owner Joe Berger out for his approval. He might also show himself off to the crowd. "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." But in the end, Little Yellow Jacket never hurt anyone. He mostly had a reputation for being a gentle bull. 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.
Early on in his career, Little Yellow Jacket earned respect from Ty Murray, a bull riding champion and a PBR co-founder, who had been described as the "King of the Cowboys" and has been referred to as the greatest cowboy of all time. At the PBR World Finals in 1999, Ty scored a 90.5 on Little Yellow Jacket. And it was Little Yellow Jacket's first time in the BFTS. "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!" To clarify, 90+ point rides are scored only by elite riders on top bulls, so the PBR keeps special statistics for them called the "90 point club." All of Little Yellow Jacket's 14 qualified rides were scored at 90 points or higher except one.
Another of Little Yellow Jacket's common meetups was with Michael Gaffney, who described Little Yellow Jacket as "the total package." "He bucked, kicked, changed directions and had as much intensity as any bull he had seen. Gaffney said all the components made for a 'full load' when you nodded your head. There was nothing easy about his pattern in which Gaffney vividly remembers there being a hop, skip and even a hesitation (when needed) that would rock riders back on their pockets before bringing them down over his front end. And, of course, his power only compounded the difficulty." Gaffney is only one of two riders who scored two qualified rides on Little Yellow Jacket. The other is Cory McFadden.
He was successfully ridden by only 12 bull riders for 14 rides in 90 recorded tour outs on the BFTS. He has been ridden 15 times in 93 rides at all levels. He went on to become the World Champion bull three times (2002-2004). 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 became the first bull to win three world titles and also finished runner-up to 2-time World Champion bull #81 Dillinger in 2001.
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. 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. However, Little Yellow Jacket died earlier in that year before the ceremony, which took place without him just prior to the 2011 World Finals opening.
Michael Gaffney and Chris Shivers are two of three riders that still holds the record for the highest marked ride in PBR history.
High Marked Ride
In a record that still stands as of 2017[update], only three men recorded a score as high as 96.5, doing so on four different bulls between 1999 and 2004: Bubba Dunn rode Promise Land in 1999. Chris Shivers rode Jim Jam in 2000, and Dillinger in 2001. Michael Gaffney rode Little Yellow Jacket at Nampa in 2004.
Going to meet him in Nampa, Idaho, both rider and bull had earned fierce reputations and world titles. Michael Gaffney had attempted Little Yellow Jacket twice before and been bucked off each time without a qualified ride. One of those times was just one week prior in Colorado Springs.
Gaffney is one of many bull riders who describe Little Yellow Jacket as one of the great bucking bulls in history. He believes his success was predestined. "He had the heart of a champion," Gaffney said. "I think, he was born that way." Little Yellow Jacket actually had the heart and all of the makings of a bull that a judge uses to mark a bull's score. "He had intensity and power and, according to Gaffney, 'he was a full load.'" Add to all of this his power that came from weighing between 1,700 to 1,800 pounds throughout his career. "Nothing was in short supply for him," said Gaffney, who described Little Yellow Jacket's first move out of the chute as being a "slump jump" that included a hop, skip and a hesitation. "I had been on him several times previous to that final day, in Nampa, where I eventually got him rode," Gaffney said. "I had him the week before in Colorado Springs and he had that, like I said before, that signature move ― that step out, hop and skip and kind of rock you back on your (butt) and then just bring you down over the front end." He then explained, "I really made an effort of over extenuating my posture when I left that day, in Nampa, and that was key because once he did get in the spin he still did wind up, have the kick and the speed and the power ― that old saying is 'you get tapped off' and I was there. "I pulled a foot and helped myself out. I was feeling great and gave that aggressiveness that I want to have when I was in the position I was." Thus, history was made on April 24, 2004, at the Idaho Center, in Nampa, Idaho."He was the ultimate bull," Gaffney said. "He had the attitude and the heart and everything else."
Gaffney is just being honest with his self-evaluation when he underscores himself. He isn't taking into account the fact he was able to "pull a foot" and spur a bull "the size and caliber" of Little Yellow Jacket. "I felt it," said Gaffney, when asked if he could sense the atmosphere in the arena. It seems right that he faced Little Yellow Jacket again later that year in his final outing of his career in the eighth round of the PBR World Finals and scored 93.75 points.
Million Dollar Ride
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 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." Both rider and bull had to attend a weigh-in before the event. Shivers weighed in at 145 pounds, and Little Yellow Jacket weighed 1,600 pounds.
Chris Shivers stared down at Little Yellow Jacket who he was meeting face-to-face for a weigh-in. This meeting was due to a press conference held during the weigh-in behind the hotel. The bull returned Shivers' gaze and sized him up well in seconds. Shivers' 5' 4", blue eyes, and scar on his chin, courtesy of a bull called Hard Copy. Hard Copy also had taken most of his bottom teeth. Suddenly, Little Yellow Jacket, having taken in Shivers' anxiousness, turned to the scale, and emptied his breakfast out on it. The scale came to life and promptly advised that it weighed two pounds. There was some laughter, yes. But what the bull had done was natural. He'd picked up on Shivers' fear and transferred it to himself. And he was not the only one. A row of dressed up cowboys had joined in.
Chris was bucked off in less than two seconds, and the bull's owners received $50,000. 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. "That's probably one of the biggest moments in PBR history, and I'm just glad that I was involved in it," Shivers said. This event at the Colorado Springs Invitational Rodeo was the fifth time that Little Yellow Jacket had bucked Chris Shivers off.
"He's one of the greatest bulls in the world," Shivers said after the ride. "My hat's off to him." This event reflected the ability of Little Yellow Jacket, as PBR the wrote an article about the high skill level of Chris Shivers in 2013. This article spoke about Chris being the rider who set the 90-point standard. Chris recorded 94 qualified rides in excess of 90 points or better. And yet he did not score one qualified ride on Little Yellow Jacket. as of 2017[update], Chris Shivers still holds the record for most 90+ point rides.
Little Yellow Jacket was a dark red Brangus bull. He weighed about 1,800 pounds (820 kg) and had one horn pointing upward and one downward. Little Yellow Jacket and his foremost ancestors are registered with American Bucking Bull, Inc. (ABBI). His sire was #77 Yellow Jacket and his dam was a Berger cow. His grandsire was #LH600 Wrangler Rivets and his grandam another Berger cow. Little Yellow Jacket lost his mother in a torrid winter storm in 1997.
His sire, Yellow Jacket, was the 1999 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Bucking Bull of the Year. Yellow Jacket was owned by Big Bend/Flying 5 Rodeo at the time of his death. Both Little Yellow Jacket and his sire are listed in the top fifteen bulls in the Top 500 Bull Historical Ranking. Wrangler Rivets was a champion bucking bull who won 13 competitions as a bucking bull. Wrangler Rivets was also a two-time North American Rodeo Commission (NARC) Bull of the Year. His cousin Moody Blues was 1998 PBR World Champion Bull (the title used to be Bull of the Year).
Retirement and death
Little Yellow Jacket's owners, a partnership of Joe and Nevada Berger, Bernie Taupin, and Tom Teague, retired him at the end of 2005. 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. He would throw a fit because he wanted to go with them. Other times he spent in the pasture so he had exercise, company, and breeding with the cows. Berger also sold his sperm for artificial insemination at $700 per straw. Little Yellow Jacket would wake up mornings in his pen and command the other bulls to come join him for a drink of water. He was definitely the dominant bull at the ranch. Occasionally, adult visitors were guided to the ranch to view Little Yellow Jacket.
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. 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. Joe Berger's son Chad was managing the bulls by this time. Little Yellow Jacket spent his last five years at Teague's ranch. Teague held great regard for Little Yellow Jacket and took special care of him, providing the bull superb feeds, climate control, companionship, and at the time of his death, there remained several pregnant cows. Little Yellow Jacket died in Graham, North Carolina on September 19, 2011, at the age of 15. "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." The home page of Teague's website is a memorial to the bull.
Honors and Recognition
Brand of Honor Quotes
- Cody Lambert - The Brand of Honor recognizes greatness for a bull, and the greatest one we've seen so far is Little Yellow Jacket. He's the only three-time World Champion Bull.
- Jeff Robinson (stock contractor) - Little Yellow Jacket is the greatest bull to ever buck in the PBR.
- Tom Teague - He knew he was good.
- Jeff Robinson - He would be the Michael Jordan of bucking bulls. Everything that Michael Jordan had on the basketball court, he had in the arena.
- Ty Murray - Once in awhile a guy comes along that has everything, he's fast, he's strong, he's quick, he's smart, he works at it, he's got a great body for it, great size for it, and that's how I felt about Little Yellow Jacket. You felt like if you had a report card type deal and it listed all the things, as you went down the list, you'd give him an A for all of them. I only got on Little Yellow Jacket one time. I was the first guy that I know of to ride him in the PBR.
- Tom Teague - If they rode him, he was madder than hell. I mean, he wanted to come back and hook 'em or whatever.
- Ty Murray - I had him at the PBR Finals in 1999, and I remember when I got off of him that year as I was walking out of the arena, I walked past Cody, and I said that bull right there is the real deal. That was 10 times more than a handful.
- Tom Teague - If they didn't ride him, he'd stand there like there was nothing to it.
- Shorty Gorham (bullfighter) - It was like saying, "Hey, I'm the original badass. You guys all get your cameras out and take away." because he just knew and the pride was very obvious.
- Ty Murray - Being able to watch Little Yellow Jacket's career felt no different to me than watching any great athlete's career. You watch how he handled all the different situations. And how he was hauled all over the country.
- J.W. Hart (bull rider) - He was a bull that spent his whole entire career under the best 45 bull riders in the world.
- Jeff Robinson - He was put on the trailer for many many miles. I bet he went to every state in the country. Bucked for probably a 7 year career. He was just as good when they retired them as he was when they broke him out.
- Jerome Robinson (bull rider) - They bucked him every time the band played, and he never took a day off. He was the ultimate competitor.
- Cody Custer (bull rider) - He would whip back underneath himself and pull guys forward. Just a great bull and one that never lost his ompf the whole time that he was bucking.
- Donald Owens (bull rider) - As many miles as they hauled Little Yellow Jacket, for him to buck as hard as he did, as long as he did, man he had a lot of heart, and really really bucked.
- Randy Bernard (former PBR CEO) - We learned really fast that there was two great athletes in every 8 second ride. And that bull was as important in every ride as that cowboy, and I can say that Little Yellow Jacket was one of those bulls that brought as many fans to our sport as any cowboy did.
- Tom Teague - He was a special animal.
- Justin McBride - He was a bull that will always be remembered.
- Three-time PBR "World Champion Bull," winning the title in consecutive years from 2002-2004. A vote of the top 45 bullriders.
- First bull to win "World Champion Bull" three times. Only bull to do so consecutively.
- 2006 Inducted into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. First living animal to be inducted.
- 2011 Received the inaugural PBR Brand of Honor.
- 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.
- Little Yellow Jacket's most significant riders, Chris Shivers, Michael Gaffney, and Ty Murray, who all had high praise for the bull were all later awarded the prestigious award in bullriding, the Professional Bull Riders: Heroes and Legends Ring of Honor. Little Yellow Jacket won with the best bullriders in history.
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- American Bucking Bull, Inc. Bucking bull registry website
- Little Yellow Jacket - King of the Bucking Bulls book by Darlene Berger 2006 on Amazon
- PBR 2011 Brand of Honor (Official LYJ 2011 PBR Brand of Honor video)
- Ty Murray vs Little Yellow Jacket - 99 PBR Finals (90.5 pts) YouTube Video
- HISTORIC RIDE: Chris Shivers takes on Little Yellow Jacket for $1 million YouTube Video
- Michael Gaffney vs Little Yellow Jacket - 04 PBR Nampa (96.5 pts) YouTube Video
- An inside look at Little Yellow Jacket Blurry but interesting look at LJ with Joe Berger, Chris Shivers, and Cody Lambert