Born in 1871, Bill Pickett -- a young man of African-American and Native American descent -- grew up in Texas where he polished his roping and riding skills as a cowboy on a local ranch. He quickly caught the eye of the creators of the 101 Ranch Wild West Show, the Miller brothers.
Pickett quickly rose to rodeo stardom by performing an unorthodox stunt where he mimicked the way bulldogs controlled a steer -- by biting their upper lip. Effective yet odd, the maneuver became known as 'bulldogging' and later 'steer wrestling.' This event quickly became included in most rodeo competitions, but few were willing to quite literally bite into the competition, so other techniques were developed to provide a similar effect.
In 1972, Bill Pickett was inducted into the National Rodeo Hall of Fame and is considered to be the most successful black cowboy in history.
To this day, Pickett's legacy hasn't been left to gather dust. Now in its 33rd year, the Bill Pickett Rodeo brings together the best black cowboys and cowgirls out there as well as rekindling the history and contributions African-Americans have made to the rodeo.
See the rodeo in action below:
Lu Vason not only created the musical group 'The Pointer Sister,' but through his passion for black rodeo, also founded The Bill Pickett Rodeo and the MLK African American Heritage Rodeo of Champions. Vason not only saw the rodeo as an enjoyable form of entertainment but as a way to teach and spread appreciation for the history of the African-American cowboy and cowgirl. He received numerous awards for his life's work including the esteemed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award, which he received the same year of his passing in 2015. To this day, the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo is known as the only touring African-American Rodeo in the world.