Brazilian Cowboys Riding to Glory? It's No Bull!
The revolution began in 1994. Adriano Moraes, a 24-year-old bull rider from Quintana, Brazil, appeared in his very first U.S. competition and quickly took the quintessentially American sport by storm.
In his very first year of international competition, Moraes won the title of world champion from the Professional Bull Riders, Inc.
By the time Moraes retired in 2008, the boy who had started riding at 17, as a way out of crushing poverty, had become the only three-time PBR world-championship winner ever. By the end of his 14-year career, Moraes' PBR earnings totaled a whopping $3.5 million.
Today, five of the top bull riders in the Professional Bull Riders' stable are boys from Brazil. This group of high-achieving cowboys come by it naturally, says Jim Haworth, chief executive officer of the PBR.
"It is a way of life in Brazil," Haworth says of bull-wrangling competitions. "If you look past soccer, professional bull riding is the second most popular sport there. Most of them have been attracted to and wanted to be part of a Western lifestyle, as kids."
When you think about it, the Brazilian dominance of the classic cowboy art – a rider, with one hand strapped to a rope attached to the bull's backside, must try to stay mounted on a bucking bull for at least eight seconds – should come as no surprise.
According to the U.S. State Department, Brazil has the world's largest commercial cattle herd, with 170 million head (50 percent larger than that of the U.S.).
Robson Palermo is currently ranked 3rd in the World, behind two other Brazilians-Valdiron de Oliveira (ranked 1st) and Silvano Alves (ranked 2nd). Palmero has won four events this year, the most of any rider so far this season.
Palermo, from Rio Branco, Brazil, has been in the States since only 2006, but is nearly fluent in English. He picked up his language skills, he tells Fox News Latino, "just by talking to friends, fellow riders."
His theory as to why his fellow countrymen are doing so well in American bull riding comes down to dedication – and economics.
"We try hard. We take care of our bodies," says Palermo of Brazilian riders. "To stay on the top, we have to work out all the time. If you try hard, you will win, and there is opportunity here to make a lot of money."
The American fans of the PBR have accepted these Brazilian riders as their own – their dedication to the sport and their charm have won over the hearts of those used to cheering for guys named "Bubba" and "Cody."
In fact, when the PBR decided to immortalize a retired rider in statue form outside of their headquarters, Moraes was the winner in a fan vote.
"The other riders and the fans just love these guys," Haworth says. "They are men of faith, they train incredibly hard, and they go beyond the call of duty when it comes to interacting with the public.
"Many of them know that this is their one shot out of a tough life," he added, "and they're not gonna let that pass them by, and people respect that."
Laura Vogel is a Los Angelesâ€“based writer and editor whose work has appeared on such sites as AOL, MTV Next Movie.com, and Real Simple.com; she has also contributed to The Washington Post, The New York Post, In Style and Martha Stewart Weddings.
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