Bull fighting across the American West

Southern Ute tribal member and rodeo bull fighter, Julian ‘Jube’ Baker stands for a portrait on Saturday evening, July 28, during the annual Fiesta Days Rodeo — Durango, Colo.
Cowboy protection comes at a price, Julian ‘Jube’ Baker has been fighting bulls professionally in the rodeo circuit for 20 plus years.
Baker clashes with bulls on the rodeo circuit, professional bull fighting often means going head to head with bulls in the arena.
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Photo Courtesy Julian Baker

Julian ‘Jube’ Baker looks toward retirement

If you have ever attended a regional rodeo, you might have seen Julian ‘Jube’ Baker in action, working the arena. Baker is a professional bull fighter, one of the brave souls who put themselves in between the cowboy and his bull once those eight seconds are up, or much sooner — depending on the cowboy and his luck. “We protect the cowboys from the bulls, separate from crowd entertainment,” Baker explained. “I think I am right at 20, going on 21 years fighting bulls, he said. “The bulls are gonna’ come no matter what, we distract them from getting the cowboys.”

Baker, a member of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, got his start in rodeo at Ignacio High School, competing in rodeo events across Colorado. “My grandpa, my uncle would make me get on cows during branding. I would ride just about anything, cows, steers, then on to bulls — I did a lot of team roping back then too,” he said. After graduation in 1992, Baker went on to ride in the New Mexico Rodeo Association, as well as competing across the west in unsanctioned bull rides, where riders compete for cash rather than points.

“They started the protection tour to show the professionalism of bull fighting,” Baker explained. It is an athletic profession, which requires fitness and training. The bull fighters had to attend a training course in Marion Lake, Ariz., the program was sponsored by Daisy BB guns in the early 2000’s, dubbed the Daisy Professional Bull Riders tour. Baker joined the tour and spent four years in the professional rodeo circuit. “We won the stop in Ft. Worth, Texas and again in Farmington, N.M., in Ft. Worth we had 460 bulls, 12 teams of bull fighters.”

Being in shape and staying healthy are key to Baker’s longevity as a bull fighter. “I’ve had wrist, shoulder and knee operations — I’ve had my teeth knocked out,” Baker said. “I’m 45 years old now, might be time to hang up the cleats, I don’t heal up as well as I used to.”

The bull fighter spent last weekend at the Durango Fairgrounds working bulls during their annual Fiesta Days rodeo and he didn’t show any signs of slowing down. “I think I’m going on six years at Fiesta Days Rodeo,” he said. “If I can stay in shape and not get hurt…I might fight bulls for one more year,” Baker mused.

Baker is looking to the future. He hopes to get involved with team roping again and take his kids to the rodeos, “I want to spend more time with my kids, let them start their own deal. Help in getting them down the road.” He has two daughters who compete in barrel racing, and a son who participates in mutton bustin’, a sport reserved for the youngest of rodeo riders.

 

 

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