You probably haven’t seen too many professional bull riders wandering through tall brush on the back of bull. That may lead you to wonder why they’re wearing bull riding chaps. Do those leather leg shields really have a purpose?
As it turns out, they have three different purposes. We can think of them as the three P’s of bull riding chaps. They are profit, prettiness and protection.
Profit: A rider can have a sponsor’s logo on those chaps. They’re prime advertising spots. You can think of those chaps as little left leg and right leg billboards just waiting for a paid advertisement. NASCAR drivers have full jumpsuits and their cars to carry sponsor ads, bull riders have their chaps. The desire to turn a few extra bucks is a big reason why you see so many guys wearing bull riding chaps.
The next time you watch a major bull riding event, pay attention the riders’ chaps. You’re sure to see a handful of them who look more as if they’re wearing a bumper sticker and decal collection than chaps due to the wide range of advertisements placed on the equipment.
Prettiness: Okay, those rough-and-tumble macho men of the bull riding world might object to being characterized as “pretty”, but one of the primary reasons bull riders wear chaps is to look good. Bull riding chaps are part of an overall costume. The riders know they’re entertaining a crowd and they’re willing and ready to build and wear a flashy costume to help get the job done.
You wouldn’t necessarily want to say it to these tough guys’ faces, but they are just as vain as anyone else who makes a living in the light of the camera or before the public eye. Riders make a point of dressing well and part of the ideal costume usually involves an attractive pair of chaps.
Protection: That’s right, there is a slightly more pragmatic justification for chaps in the riding world. They’re made of thick leather and cover the legs, which can provide an element of protection against an angry bull’s horns or a large animal’s hooves. Chaps fall far short of Kevlar on the level of protection scale, but they do have utility in terms of rider safety.
Most riders will tell you that’s the primary reason for the chaps. However, those same guys who seem so preoccupied with the well-being of their legs are usually the same ones who prefer to wear their designer hats during competition instead of a protective helmet. That should give you an idea of where safety ranks on their list of reasons for bull riding chaps.
Now you know why those colorful leather bull riding chaps are a ubiquitous part of the sport. They provide an outlet to make a few extra bucks, they add to the rider’s “look” and they offer a modicum of protection against some pretty nasty injuries.
If you’re considering a career in the world of bull riding, you should probably put at least one pair of chaps on your equipment list. In fact, some of the larger professional organizations actually consider chaps a requirement for all participants.