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From ‘up and comer’ to ‘superstar’: Alberta bull is riding the rodeo circuit wave

Click to play video: 'A closer look at the bulls who compete in PBR'
A closer look at the bulls who compete in PBR
WATCH ABOVE: Over 100 bulls are taking part in Edmonton's PBR Global Cup this week. Kendra Slugoski takes a closer look at the animals taking part in the competition – Nov 9, 2017

His bellow echoed over the prairie landscape. At 1,600 (plus) pounds, it was clear Whiskey Hand was king of his pen. He’s only four years old.

The bull is Nansen Vold’s “up and comer” and he is slotted to compete in Edmonton at the 2017 Professional Bull Riders Global Cup.

READ MORE: A dirty game: Bull riders say soil is at heart of good PBR event 

Most bulls mature and reach their peak weight at five. Each one has their own unique personality.

Whiskey Hand wasn’t a natural at first but Vold said over time and with training, the bovine proved bucking was in his blood.

“For how big he is I’m surprised how hard he does his thing — buck,” Vold said.

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“He’s my plan next year to be my superstar. I’m pretty high on him.”

Vold has 11 bulls competing at the PBR.

“If they’re good enough, they can be worth anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000.”

Training the animals starts when they’re about one year of age. By age three, it’s clear if a bull is meant to buck.

“If they have it, they have it. If they don’t, they don’t,” Vold said. “A good bull will buck for a rider from the age of three to probably eight.”

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Vold’s Ponoka-area rodeo business has started to become a household name south of the border. His bull Cooper’s Comet is tearing up the charts in the U.S.

READ MORE: Northlands sees CFR and PBR as ‘different products’ but hopes to coordinate better in future

He was raised on the Vold farm and his success is flanked by a story that would make any cowboy cry.

Cooper’s Comet was named after Vold’s step-brother, Cooper Tonneson. Tragically, Tonneson passed away at the age of 19. Last year in Las Vegas at the World Finals, two years to that day, Cooper’s Comet took top prize.

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“When you raise one that comes from your own herd, it’s pretty special,” Vold said.

Jason Davidson, the livestock director with PBR Canada, hand-picked every one of the 110 bulls taking centre stage at Rogers Place.

For the past three years, he’s been logging their stats. With up to 35 PBR events every year, Davidson said the cream of the crop has been whittled down from thousands.

READ MORE: Helmets, concussion testing part of Professional Bull Riding events 

He picked the very best bulls from the U.S. and Canada.

Five of the bulls at the PBR Global Cup just competed in Las Vegas last week at the World Finals.

“That’s the best 150 bulls in the world,” Davidson said.

Life on the bull-riding circuit isn’t easy. There’s lots of travel, not to mention the 40-degree temperature swing from Vegas to Edmonton.

Heated pens have been set up inside the Ponoka Ag Centre, where 46 American bulls will spend their nights before they are trucked to Rogers Place in Edmonton.

American bulls will stay in the heated pens at the Ponoka Ag Centre.November 8, 2017. Kendra Slugoski

READ MORE: Prize rodeo horse struck and killed after gate intentionally opened, Alberta RCMP says 

The rest of the bulls will shack up down the road at Vold, Jones & Vold Auction Company.

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Vold will be heading back and forth from his ranch to Rogers Place, hoping Whisky Hand’s showcase will buck him into the big time.

Not a bad life for a bull, thinks Vold, who said his former four-legged stars are now enjoying retirement.

“If they’re good, they get to hang their last days at the ranch and go on some cows and do their thing.”

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