Little Yellow Jacket
The Cowboy Chronicle; Publication of the NDCHF
The Dickinson Press; The Drill
Dickinson, North Dakota
March 26, 2014
“He walked around like he was hot stuff, and he was”, said Tom Teague, one of the owners of the PBR bull Little Yellow Jacket. Little Yellow Jacket had ample reasons to feel like he was hot stuff; his was the most illustrious career of any bull in professional rodeo history, and he has not been surpassed or matched since. He could claim as one of his owners Bernie Taupin, lyricist of the hit songs of Elton John, and as if this wasn’t enough, he denied bull riding champion Chris Shivers one million dollars at the “Million Dollar Challenge” in Colorado Springs in 2003.
On Saturday April 19, 2003 NBC sports televised the event live when Little Yellow Jacket, then the 2002 PBR Bull of the Year and Chris Shivers the 2000 PBR World Champion Bull rider faced off. Little Yellow Jacket was treated like the star he was when he arrived in town with a police escort to the hotel, a pen with green bedding to symbolize money, and a chandelier overhead. People filed in and out just to get a look at him. Shivers had ridden Little Yellow Jacket four times before, and all four times had been bucked off. That Saturday he had a little extra incentive; if he could have stayed on him he would have won one million dollars. Maybe the first bars of the Elton John classic ”Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” was going through Little Yellow Jacket’s head as he only took 2.6 seconds to dash the million dollar dream of Shivers.
It started in 1996 when Little Yellow jacket was born on August 20th in Mandan North Dakota at the Rafter Arrow Ranch. He was raised there by original owners Joe and Darlene Berger. Little Yellow Jacket was sired by Yellow Jacket who himself was the 1999 PRCA Bull of the Year. Before he made a move you knew he was in a class all his own; he had a very distinctive curl to his left horn. “LJ” as he was called by another owner Tom Berger made his last professional appearance in his home state of North Dakota in 2005, and went on to retire that year at the NFR in Las Vegas.
Little Yellow Jacket made his debut in Billings, Montana in 1999 and won his first world finals that year. From debut until retirement he was a bull to reckon with. In 2001 he was the runner up to the world champion bull and won the World Champion award three years in a row from 2002-2004. To this day no other bull in PBR history has equaled this accomplishment. If you got to ride Little Yellow Jacket you knew you would soon be in the dirt as his buck off rate was 83.5% with an average buck off time of 2.6 seconds. If you managed to stay on for the 8 second ride Little Yellow Jacket would help you score in the prestigious 90’s. The highest score ever earned in the PBR of 96.5 was earned by World Champion Michael Gaffney in 2004 aboard Little Yellow Jacket. In all he was successfully ridden just 14 times out of 90 rides.
In 2005 it was announced the Little Yellow Jacket would retire. He was only nine years old but was able to go out on the top of his sport. In characteristic form he broke a record that year when Cody Whitney received the highest score of the year, 94.8 on Little Yellow Jacket; a truly fitting ending to an historic career.
Little Yellow Jacket spent the first part of his retirement back at the Rafter Arrow Ranch near Mandan enjoying the pastures and the company of the Berger family. He even made a dream come true for a young boy from Indianapolis who through the Make a Wish Foundation got his wish of meeting and touching Little Yellow Jacket. The last five years of his life he lived in North Carolina with Tom Teague. Little Yellow Jacket died on September 19, 2011 Later that year Little Yellow Jacket was honored as the inaugural recipient of the “Brand of Honor” presented each year to a bull of exceptional performance.
Little Yellow Jacket lives on in his progeny. Some of his sons in the PBR are: Red Jacket, Black Jacket, Joe’s Jacket and Dirty Harry. Not only can you catch a glimpse of Little Yellow Jacket’s greatness in his sons, you can feel his presence by the life size bronze statue of him in front of the PBR headquarters in Pueblo, Colorado. When the PBR was building their new headquarters it was the fans who voted to immortalize Little Yellow Jacket in bronze. Little Yellow Jacket’s owners were particularly grateful for this honor. In 2006 Little Yellow Jacket was inducted into North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame; the first living animal to be inducted and certainly the most famous.
- Professional Bull Riders Association website
- Bismarck Tribune July 14, 2005 and July 26, 2006
- Little Yellow jacket: King of the Bucking Bulls by Darlene Berger