Hamilton Feed and Livestock is a six generation cow/calf operation on the vast plains of eastern El Paso County. The ranch's owner and operator Dave Hamilton is an old-school cattleman who has worked beside his late father, Marvin Hamilton, to build a reputable beef operation.

Ten years ago Limousin, Charolais, and Angus cattle were the only herds you'd find grazing the operation's grasslands; but when Hamilton's son-in-law Josh Frihauf, a retired bull rider from Burlington, Colo., began working on the family ranch a much different breed began to surface.  

Frihuaf and his wife Arlene started their bucking bull program by trading labor for a futurity calf from Mike Hadley of Canon City, Colo., where they lived. At the time, Frihauf was facing retirement from the extreme western sport, and it was a way to fill the void.

"I have been riding bulls since I was 12-years-old, so I've always had a lot of respect for bucking bulls, and raising them was a way to stay involved with the sport after my retirement," explains Josh Frihauf.

In 2011, the couple decided it was time to move home to the Hamilton family ranch and help with the cattle operation. So, they packed up their first son Keygon, who was 2-years-old at the time, and settled into their new life on the eastern plains.

"It was important to us that we not only stay involved with the family ranch, and learn the ropes from my dad, but also to give our kids the opportunity to grow up on the ranch and be involved as well," says Arlene Frihauf.

Not long after the Frihauf clan moved to the ranch, Hamilton invested in his first bucking heifer under extraordinary circumstances.

Being an avid team roper, Hamilton purchased what he thought to be a roping heifer at Winters Livestock in La Junta, Colorado. However, when they ran the waspy heifer through the branding chute, Frihauf recognized the brand on her hip; it belonged to another bucking bull producer in the area, Chuck Hayes.

"When we loaded her at the sale barn and worked her at home, I noticed she was a lot hotter than any roping stock I've ever owned. I knew we were going to have our hands full roping her. Luckily Josh knew enough about bucking stock to recognize her brand, or else we probably would've had a rodeo in the roping pen," Hamilton said with a grin.

To the family's astonishment, Hamilton decided to hang onto the high-strung heifer and research her genetics. Another surprise emerged when the heifer began to spring and develop a bag. About two weeks later, Hamilton had his first bucking bull calf on the ground.

According to Hamilton, through the American Bucking Bull, Inc. (ABBI) registry and the assistance of the dam's former owner, he discovered the new bull calf was from a solid bloodline. So, Hamilton took advantage of his "lucky accident" and began to dabble in his own bucking bull venture.

The white bull with red spots, appropriately named Dave's Red Dot, went on to be a notable futurity calf and eventually joined the Hamilton/Frihauf team of rider bulls.

Meanwhile, Frihauf continued to expand his herd by carefully selecting breeding heifers from other producers. With Frihauf's expertise in bucking stock genetics and Hamilton's cattle savvy nature, the duo started to build their own bloodlines, which have produced some of the best bucking bull athletes in the state.

"We bought five heifers that had good bloodlines from Jesse Hill to start with and bred them to our first bull Rockin' Roll Train. From there we started to produce our own heifers and bred them to bulls with good genetics and proven abilities," explains Frihauf.

Today, Frihauf and Hamilton's combined herd of bucking cattle tallies over 100 head, and they've racked up numerous championship buckles and earnings through bucking bull competitions; yet, Frihauf Cattle Co.'s most monumental achievement happened this month in Las Vegas where they proved to have one of the best bucking bulls in the nation.

Frihauf hauled three bulls to the lucrative ABBI World Finals, which is held in conjunction with the prestigious PBR World Finals in Vegas. On their roster was a 4-year-old Frihuaf produced bull and White Sport's Coat x Houdini descendant, B87 Wicked Hou.

 Entered as an ABBI Wild Card Classic bull, Wicked Hou had his first out during the PBR Velocity Finals where he won the approval of PBR Livestock Director Cody Lambert.

Tasked with drafting bovine athletes that match the talent of PBR's world-renowned bull riders, Lambert is notorious for his keen eye and strict standards.

"I had sent videos of him (Wicked Hou) to Lambert all year, but his out in Vegas would determine if he got to buck at the PBR World Finals or not," says Frihauf. "Bulls that advance to that level are probably the best 150 bulls in the world, so I knew he'd have to fire."

The black bull did, in fact, fire and made quick work of PBR Mexico's Ricardo Ramirez during the PBR Velocity Finals. Shortly after, Frihauf got the call he'd been hoping for: Lambert recruited his bull to buck at PBR's Unleash the Beast World Finals on Championship Sunday.

"One of my buddies was watching the video of Wicked on my phone when Lambert called. He handed me my phone and said 'you might want to take this.' It was pretty cool," says Frihauf.  

Lambert wasn't the only one impressed by the Colorado-raised bull. By the next day, Frihauf had calls from other stock contractors and investors who wanted to purchase the athlete; ultimately, it was David Hale from Alaska and his partner Randy Wood who made an offer Frihauf couldn't turn down.

Wicked Hou quickly defeated PBR superstar Valdiron de Oliveira during the final round of the PBR Unleash the Beast World Finals in front of a nearly sold out T-Mobile arena and a nationally televised audience.

The Frihauf boys, Keygon, 9, and Kayson, 6, had stars in their eyes as they watched their bull buck in the sport's largest arena.

When asked about the experience, Keygon replied: "It was awesome"!

Hale and Wood took full ownership of Wicked Hou at the completion of the World Finals.

Though Hamilton and Frihauf enjoy hauling the bulls to PBRs, rodeos and bull riding events every year, their ultimate goal is to become breeders and market their athletes to stock contractors who can haul and compete with them.

"It's hard to haul these bulls down the road when you have a ranch to run," says Frihuaf. "It makes more sense for us to continue to produce good buckers and sell them to stock contractors who can haul them full time and use them to their full potential."

Hamilton and Frihuaf continue to run a full-scale cow/calf operation along with their bucking cattle. According to Hamilton, there are some similarities to running bucking cattle and some significant differences.

"You gotta work the bucking cattle slower - if you can," he said with a chuckle. "It also helps to have enough land to separate the beef cattle from the bucking cattle. The feeding program is pretty much the same across the board," explains Hamilton.

Though Hamilton has no intentions of trading his beef bulls for bucking bulls, he knows it isn't just a hobby.

"My son-in-law and my grandsons are passionate about these bucking bulls, so I suppose it's a good way to keep them involved and interested in the ranch," he explains.

On the flip-side, Frihuaf acknowledges the importance of beef cattle to the operation. Though the bucking bull industry can be extremely lucrative, it also comes with a lot of uncertainty and risk. So, producing beef cattle alongside his father-in-law remains a priority in his long-term business strategy.  

Frihuaf Cattle Co. continues to produce top-quality bucking bull and bull riding events in the Arkansas Valley. They plan to return to La Junta in May of 2019. Stay up-to-date with their string of bucking bulls and future events by following Frihauf Bucking Bulls & Cattle Co. on Facebook.