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Eeny meeny mighty minis!

Bijou Buckers Mini Bulls looks to impact lives and grow the sport in Colorado

Story and photos by Lincoln Rogers
for The Fence Post

Best friends and best men at each other’s weddings, former Colorado bull riders Cory Hazen (Elbert, Colo.) and Duncan Cornell (Simla, Colo.) figured they would test the depth of their friendship by starting a business together. Since they were also traveling partners during their rodeo days, it seemed natural for them to gravitate toward bulls. But they started small.

Well… they started mini.

“It was kind of fortuitous,” said Hazen about how Bijou Buckers Mini Bulls out of Elbert, Colo., was started in 2017. “I met a guy who wanted to sell some half regular/half mini bulls. We got three bulls and a cow out of the deal.”



In the Mini Bulls competition, the Walk Trot category is for 5 years old and under and helps those youngsters gain experience of being on a bull. Mini Bull suppliers Cory Hazen, right of bull, and Duncan Cornell, left of bull, of Bijou Buckers Mini Bulls make sure the ride for young Aspen Yowell is smooth during the crowd pleasing Mini Bull riding exhibition.

From that bond and a humble beginning of three bulls and a cow, the pair has grown the herd to 23 bulls and now puts on Mini Bull exhibitions and contests within various bull riding events in the region or even produces their own contests.

“It helped that we knew the sport,” said Cornell. “We weren’t brand new to the sport or brand new to the animals.”



Tackling just a few events in 2017, Bijou Buckers Mini Bulls supplied about a dozen events in 2019 before 2020’s COVID mandates shut most things down. Scrambling to produce just four contests in the lock-down plagued year, Hazen and Cornell weathered it and grew to 15-plus events after mandates relaxed in 2021.

“It is growing about right,” said Cornell as he and Hazen discussed their business venture and herd while standing in the tall, dry grass of a leased pasture near Calhan, Colo. “We have definitely grown with the number of bulls we have.”

MINI BULL RIDERS

So what are the requirements of a competitive Mini Bull? According to Hazen, bulls that are 48 inches in height or shorter at the shoulder are able to be used for Mini Bull competition. There are different divisions in Mini Bull competitions: Walk/Trot is for ages 5 and under — Pee Wee is ages 6-8 — Junior Mini is ages 9-11 — Senior Mini is ages 12-14 — Junior Bulls is ages 15-16 and Senior Bulls is ages 17-18. The divisions do not have requirements for bull height, as that is left for producers like Hazen and Cornell to give their bulls a competent eye test and use their experience to determine how each bull’s height, weight, strength and athleticism will fit into an appropriate age category.

Cory Hazen, far left, and Duncan Cornell, far right, head out on horseback with several of their children to gather their herd of Mini Bulls in order to get them ready for a September 2021 Mini Bull event in Colorado Springs, Colo., the next day.

“I think it is a good training tool,” said Cornell about how Mini Bull contests can help funnel interested young people towards the sport of bull riding. “The bulls are more appropriately sized. When we were kids we were just getting on yearlings, just young bulls, by the time you were 13-14 you were getting on big bulls that didn’t buck quite as hard, (but they can be) just way too strong.”

“(Mini Bulls) are more proportional, pound for pound, compared to regular bulls,” agreed Hazen.

Founders and owners of Bijou Buckers Mini Bulls (Elbert, Colo.) Cory Hazen and Duncan Cornell, right side of image, ride along and supervise while several of their young children, left, behind bulls, help bring in the Mini Bull herd from leased grassland near Calhan, Colo.

Recalling how Colorado had more of a western/agricultural identity in the past than it does now, the duo hopes their efforts will inspire more young people to choose rodeo and bull riding.

“This region, when we were growing up, had a lot more bull riders, a lot more people doing rodeo,” said Cornell. “That is our hope, is that regionally maybe we will bring some more life back to the sport.”

FAITH AND FAMILY

On top of their love of bull riding, both are family men with four children each. Their Christian faith and traditional values are displayed not only with how they interact with their own families, but also in how they desire to mentor the young people who sign up to participate in their Mini Bull events.

“Especially for those kids that don’t have the best home life,” began Cornell on the topic of mentoring. “We can possibly be a light for them. Not only that, but also being able to interact with them. Seeing that, I think you can tell it is something that I think has been ordained. (A Mini Bull event) is definitely more family friendly and we have almost become kind of like a family with a lot of those kids who have begun to follow us. There is a lot of responsibility for us.”

In September 2021, Duncan Cornell, left, and Cory Hazen, right, stand with their wives and a total of eight young children (four each) after gathering their Mini Bulls on horseback from a leased pasture near Calhan, Colo. Cornell and Hazen are best friends, were best men at each other's weddings, were former traveling partners during their bull riding days, and now run Bijou Buckers Mini Bulls together.

“The best part is seeing the kids excel,” chipped in Hazen. “Seeing the excitement on their faces and just watching them grow. Watching them from when they first started to where they are now. It is amazing.”

Showing his love of mentoring the kids that take part in Bijou Buckers Mini Bulls exhibitions and competitions, Duncan Cornell celebrates in the arena with one of the Mini Bull contestants after a successful ride. Both Cornell and Hazen take seriously their responsibility to be good role models and mentors to all the young people that enter their Mini Bull competitions.

While the business has a low-key presence on Facebook, Bijou Buckers Mini Bulls has mostly developed through positive word of mouth.

“I think it comes back to the fact that we are both very passionate about the sport and we want to help the kids,” explained Cornell about the growth and enthusiasm for Bijou Buckers Mini Bulls. “Demand has definitely increased. A lot of what we do, we have kind of figured out our niche (within bull riding events). I think everyone we have worked with has enjoyed us and what we are doing. It has been good so far.”

In the case of Bijou Buckers Mini Bulls, starting small has been very good.


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