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Flashback Friday: Burel Mulkey

by Tracy Renck | Feb 15, 2019

Seventy-five years after he helped change the course of rodeo history, and 29 years after his death in 1982, Burel Mulkey was enshrined in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.

The three-time world champion was so good in 1938 – when he won a second consecutive saddle bronc riding title – that he also won the all-around championship because his earnings surpassed all of the multi-event contestants.

Mulkey was one of 61 cowboys that put their careers on the line in 1936 to sign the petition in Boston Garden that led to more equitable treatment from rodeo promoters. It was also the first step in the formation of the Cowboys’ Turtle Association, the forerunner to the PRCA.

The 5-foot-6, 165-pound cowboy was known by his peers as the “Shetland Stud” because he gave his all on every ride and because his strength belied his size during an era when saddle bronc riders had to stay on for 12 seconds (or 10 indoors). He was one of the sport’s most colorful characters with his love of pranks and trademark black satin shirt.

Mulkey was born in 1904 and grew up on the family dairy farm in Salmon, Idaho. He broke horses at neighboring ranches as a teenager and was foreman of the Wood Livestock Company before he began a late-blooming rodeo career at age 24.

“I got tired of working for $30 a month on ranches, so I sold my pitchfork for a buck rein,” Mulkey told the Idaho Press-Tribune in a 1981 article.

Early in his career, Mulkey also competed in bareback riding and bull riding but gave those up to concentrate on his specialty. He won at virtually every major venue during an 18-year career, including Madison Square Garden; Fort Worth, Texas; Reno, Nev.; Salinas, Calif.; Los Angeles; and Deadwood, S.D.


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