May 11 2009, 11:47 AM
In 1994, bull riders, whose sport is perhaps the most dangerous rodeo event, launched Professional Bull Riders with the idea that riding was so spectacular that it could be a stand-alone spectator sport. It turns out they were right. After 15 years of ticket sales, television, endorsements, and so forth, riders like J.W. Hart can retire on a 500-acre ranch in Oklahoma. Hart earned $1.3 million in earnings over his career, not to mention endorsement deals, according toÂ The Pueblo Chieftain. Of current or retired tour regulars, 19 have earnings totaling $1 million or more, and 50 top $500,000. The tour's current leader, Kody Lostroh, 23, of Longmont, has already rounded up $250,000 in earnings this year, with five months still to go in the season that ends in with World Finals week in Las Vegas.