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The Life of a Navajo Bull Rider

It’s always an honor to be able to learn about the life accomplishments of a rodeo athlete. Today, we have a special treat, I get to help tell the story of Julius Y. Begay, a Navajo bull rider. Some of his accomplishments include:

  • 12x National Senior Pro Rodeo Association World Champion Bullrider
  • 3x Indian National Finals Rodeo World Champion Bullrider (qualified for the INFR over 25 times)
  • 2x Canadian Senior Pro Rodeo Association World Champion Bullrider
  • 1995 PRCA Rookie of the Year
  • 2019 – American Bull Riding Federation (ABRF) / National Senior Pro Bullriding World Champion
  • 2X Grand Canyon Intercollegiate Finals Champion

CLN: Can you tell our audience a little about yourself?

I started riding when I was about six years old. My older brothers would put me on sheep and calves, then eventually. when I was about 11, I leveled up to ride full-sized bulls. Meanwhile, I rode horses in the open range and got on a few bulls too. Because I grew up around livestock, that helped get me into bull riding and also helped me to not have a fear of the bulls. It was an interest that I shared with my brothers and cousin brothers as well.  I live in both New Mexico and Arizona and have been working for the federal government for over 30 years. I have been riding ever since.  

CLN: What did your career in bull riding look like early on?

I didn’t really attend junior rodeos because it would take all day just to get to the bull riding event. Instead, I went straight to the open rodeos before they had age limits. Both my older and younger brothers rode bulls and bareback horses a few times. My younger brother became a team roper, but my older brother didn’t end up in rodeo with us. I climbed on my first full-sized bull when I was only 11 years old. I remember, my cousins and I would round up some range bulls to ride. We built chutes and used those range bulls in addition to riding some wild horses. That’s where it really started for me, in a chute made of wood on the back of a wild horse or a range bull. I have been riding bulls ever since with the Indian rodeos such as the NNRCA (Navajo Nation Cowboys Assoc), AIRCA (All Indian Rodeo Cowboys Assoc), SWIRA (Southwest Indian Rodeo Assoc), and the PRCA when I was able to. Rodeo has helped me get thru college financially. 

CLN: In addition to bull riding, what are some activities you really enjoy participating in?

I really enjoy team roping, running, welding, horseback riding, and traveling to rodeos.  I also enjoy visiting with family, and sometimes I just enjoy staying home and relaxing.  

CLN: Who do you most look up to in the rodeo/bull riding industry?

It would be my grandfather. I never met him but my brothers passed down his teachings to me and told me a lot of stories about him. When I was younger, I looked up to those cowboys that have paved the way such as Danny Flynn, Ted Nuce, Tuff Hedeman, Lane Frost, and others.   

CLN: What is something that you believe sets you apart from others?

I just believe in myself and focus on my ability to ride. I also really focus on my training and health and believe in what I’m capable of. I also have a good support system from my brothers and sisters and from Lonette. I’d just like to thank them all again along with the sponsors and fans who have supported me throughout the years.  

Video of Julius Y. Begay Winning the 1993 INFR

CLN: What’s your “Why”?

For me, it’s truly just the love for the sport, the wins, and overall, just rodeo life in general.  It’s because of rodeo that I have the things I have such as buckles, saddles and the will and determination to continue forward.  

CLN: What does living the “Cowboy Lifestyle” mean to you?

To me, living the Cowboy Lifestyle means always being humble, cherishing the love of animals, livestock, and the land we come from. It means loving the sport of rodeo, the long hours of traveling, meeting new people, and visiting new places.  

Lonette and Julius would also like to thank the guys at Cowboy Lifestyle Network for their continued support of rodeo. Not only for their coverage of the sport, but also in their contributions to the NSPRA.

A huge thank you to Julius Y. Begay and Lonette for helping craft this story on the life of Navajo Bull Rider. We hope to catch up with Julius again sometime down the rodeo road and we can’t wait to keep following this inspirational man’s story.

CLN Community & Event Sponsor

Peter the "Cowboy" is a gunslinger style writer from Bismark, North Dakota. Controversy is his middle name. He loves the cowboy lifestyle and being an American.

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