Bill Pickett, born on December 5, 1870, in Williamson County, Texas, was an influential African American cowboy, rodeo performer, and Wild West showman. He is best known for inventing “bulldogging,” which involved Pickett leaping from a horse onto a steer and wrestling it to the ground by twisting its horns and biting its lip. This evolved into the modern rodeo sport of steer wrestling.

Pickett’s family was of African American and Cherokee descent. Growing up, he worked as a ranch hand and learned various cowboy skills. By the early 1900s, he joined the Miller Brothers’ 101 Ranch Wild West Show, performing across the United States and internationally. He also had starring roles in two silent-era western films, “The Bulldogger” and “The Crimson Skull.” Although he sometimes had to claim to be full-blooded Cherokee, and not African-American, to be allowed in certain arenas, his daring stunts earned him widespread fame, making him a standout figure in a predominantly white industry.

Despite the racial barriers of his time, Bill Pickett carved out a significant place in rodeo history. He is honored in the Rodeo Hall of Fame, the ProRodeo Hall of Fame, and is the first rodeo figure to have a memorial in the Texas State Cemetery. There are statues of him at the Fort Worth Stockyards and in downtown Taylor, the roads to the Williamson County Rodeo and fairgrounds are named in his honor, and he was included in the 1993 U.S. Postal Stamp series “Legends of the West.” 

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