It is perhaps fitting that Dalton Kasel’s origin story as a cowboy should draw inspiration, at least peripherally, from both cowboys and Cowboys.
“You know, I saw it on TV,” said the 24-year-old Kasel, arguably the country’s current top bull rider. “My dad and I would watch (Dallas Cowboys) football games, and right after the games, bull riding would come on. It was something, like, ‘Dang, I want to do that.’ ”
He grew up in Muleshoe, not far from the New Mexico/Texas state line, and Kasel rode as a boy, he said, in several towns on New Mexico’s eastern plains. Today, he is the highest-ranked American in the Unleash the Beast world championship standings for the 2022-23 season, and is ranked No. 2 on the world list behind Brazil’s Jose Vitor Leme, who did not compete at this weekend’s PBR Ty Murray Invitational at the Pit due to a recent injury.
That left Kasel (pronounced like castle) as the top-ranked rider in Saturday night’s 15/15 Bucking Battle, the fourth of seven such occurrences on the PBR Tour between December and May. It features the top 15 active riders in the PBR world standings, who are paired with 15 experienced bulls. He had a chance to overtake Leme late Saturday night.
“It would be amazing to win world,” Kasel said from the south concourse at the Pit, which has been transformed into something of a makeshift locker room for competitors, a couple of hours before he took the floor to ride. “(Winning would) let me give my family a lot of things that I’ve always wanted to give them.”
Kasel also tied for first in the Murray Round 1 standings (he scored 88.75 points in his ride Friday night), adding points to his total and inching him within 84½ points of Leme for first place in the world standings. He will ride in the championship round at 1:45 p.m. Sunday, another opportunity for points.
He has been riding bulls since he was 13.
“I begged and begged my parents forever to do it,” he said. “Finally, when I was 13, they let me. I got on my first one, and after that I was completely hooked, and haven’t turned back since then.”
His path to being professional is not unlike any athlete. He competed in rodeos at the high school level, and then at Howard College.
He was 19, he said, competing at an event in South Dakota, when the reality hit him: he was ready.
“I ended up placing second or third at the event, and I was, like, dang, I can hang with these big guys,” Kasel said. “It really changed my mindset. I was, like, ‘I can do this,’ and after that it was go go go and try to be the best.”
His dad played basketball in college, so he didn’t really grow up with a rodeo background.
But he is fully immersed now. He, his wife and their young daughter live in Cisco, Texas. He’s gone three or four days a week, every week, for the six-month season.
A lot of the rest of his time is spent in the company of bulls, who “are some of the most amazing athletes in the world,” Kasel said. He owns many bulls and cows, he said.
“They each have their own personality,” he said. “They know who you are, and you know who they are. Some are friendly and like being talked to. Some are just the rowdy type and don’t care too much for interaction with people.”
They’re like an expensive dog, he said with a smile.
Still, life on the road can be taxing, he added.
“It’s hard being on the road each and every weekend. It’s hard on our body, it’s hard on our mind, it’s hard on our family,” he said.
But ultimately, riding is like being home.
“I love riding bulls,” the amiable Kasel said. “Whether I win first, or second, or 100th in the world, it’s something I love. I’m blessed to do what I do each and every day. It’s something I absolutely adore.”
NOTE: There is a mixture of TV and live action on Sunday. CBS is replaying the 15/15 action from Saturday night at 10 a.m. Sunday. The live riding at the Pit on Sunday begins at 1:45 p.m., and the championship round will be replayed by CBS Sports Network at 6 p.m.