Hobby proves to be all bull

HARD WORKIN’: Ross and Jan Hamilton prepare Killarney Showgrounds ahead of this weekend’s competition.
HARD WORKIN’: Ross and Jan Hamilton prepare Killarney Showgrounds ahead of this weekend’s competition. Anna Gilchrist

ASK Jan Hamilton about her family's business supplying bucking bulls for the Australian rodeo circuit and she good humouredly describes it as an "expensive hobby".

Breeding rough stock for the rodeo arena, she explained, was very much a sideline to the family's livestock carting enterprise based on their Legume cattle property.

"The bucking bulls are really Ross's hobby," she laughed, before admitting these days her husband's interest has become something of a full-on family pastime.

Today the couple's sons Graeme and Geoffrey both take a keen interest in breeding bucking bulls and the family has savoured its share of success with stock on the rodeo circuit.

"They boys don't compete on the rodeo circuit though. Years ago Ross was more into campdrafting, and represented Australia in the first team to compete in Canada in wild horse racing," Mrs Hamilton said.

"Like Ross, their interest in rodeo is really about breeding the best bucking stock."

Her husband's sideline as a stock contractor started almost by chance, years back, when he was asked to supply a line of bullocks to a Killarney rodeo, because the Queensland/New South Wales border was closed.

He has been breeding stock specifically for the rodeo circuit ever since.

His focus is on bloodlines and producing bulls with proven athleticism and stamina.

These days he turns off young animals, selects the ones with the most potential and works alongside Warwick stock contracting veteran Frank Biddle to bring them into the arena.

The pair have had their share of glory with bucking stock from their string, repeatedly earning accolades on the Queensland and New South Wales circuits.

Yet Mrs Hamilton was quick to emphasise their bucking stock operation paled in comparison with rodeo's major players like the McPhees and Gill Bros.

"We are small when you compare us with other contractors, who take semi-trailers of stock to rodeos across the country," she explained.

"It really is something we do as a hobby - an expensive hobby."

In an arrangement that works for both parties, the bulls are bred on the Hamiltons' property, Verdant Hills, and started as futurity, junior and classic bulls, then contracted to rodeos as open and second division bulls by Mr Biddle.

Out of the chutes they are generally described by announcers as either a Biddle bull or one of "Scrubber Hamilton's".

"Yes, we like to think that's an affectionate term," Mrs Hamilton laughed, referring to

the nickname her husband has carried for 40 years.

At Verdant Hills, their 248 acre property above Killarney, carries a line of bucking bulls which have been officially retired after proving their ability in the arena.

The next generation of Hamilton bucking bulls tend to be sired by retired performers with deceptively gentle names such as Teddy Bear, Ivory Sunset, True Colours, Chopper Reid and New Boy and out of cows by Black Friday, Hot Chocolate and Five Alive .

"Rodeo bulls actually live a fantastic life," Mrs Hamilton said. "They are well fed, they are well looked after and, when they retire, they live out their years in a paddock near the house."

Interestingly, in the early years what breeders like the Hamiltons assessed first with young bulls was chute temperament, ahead of even bucking ability.

"If they don't settle in the chutes, they don't make it as rodeo bulls," she explained.

"Temperament is very important and, when they are 12 months old, we usually put them in our chutes at home and see how they handle it.

"If they don't settle in the chutes and stand there calmly, they don't go on.

"What we don't want is a bull which goes crazy in the chutes and injures themselves or the handlers."

While the Hamiltons don't track the rodeo circuit like other, larger rodeo contractors, they admit the highlight of their year tends to be supplying bucking stock to Warwick Rodeo.

"It might be our local rodeo but the size and quality of the event means they have to be particular," Mrs Hamilton said.

"It's not just any bulls, or any contractors that are invited."

This weekend it's not the Warwick Rodeo the Hamiltons are preparing for but the National Bucking Bulls Australia Futurity and Classic on Saturday at Killarney Showgrounds.

The event features the best of the best young bucking stock in the country and kicks off at 1pm.

Bucking stock

Chute temperament more important than bucking ability.

Retired bulls sire next generation.

Topics:  bucking bulls bull riding rodeo

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