Inducted in 2016
Bullriding is one of the most dangerous sports in the world, and only the bullfighter makes the job less dangerous, by running in front of a 1,500 pound bull, diverting its attention, and becoming its new target. Bullfighters have to be agile, wary, strong, and able to read the bodies and minds of angry bulls. Nebraskan Miles Hare was one of the country’s premier rodeo bullfighters for over thirty years. He was invited to the National Rodeo Finals (NFR) six times, two more times as an alternate. Those invitations come from voting done by the bullriders, which is quite an accolade from the people you are paid to protect. Only the top 15 bullriders in the world qualify for the NFR. Hare was a two-time World Bullfight Champion, once in 1981 and the other in 1988, which he shared with Rob Smets. He has already been inducted in ProRodeo’s Hall of Fame (2014), as well as Nebraska Sandhill Hall of Fame (2009).
Miles Hare first came to Ellensburg in 1980 and worked here for a decade. Joel Smith, former Ellensburg Rodeo President and a personal friend of Hare’s, said that Hare “was a major part of the generation that became bullfighters, not clowns.” Although he dressed in colorful baggy clothes and put on face-paint, Hare was all-business in the arena, helping cowboys get better rides and protecting them from as much harm as possible. One of his trademark entertaining acts, however, was leaping full-length over a charging bull. And when that bull had two-foot long horns it was a delicate maneuver.
Like the bullriders, the bullfighters seem to understate their risks and injuries. At work, they are always in harm’s way, so the odds are that somewhere along the road they will get kicked, butted, stepped on, bashed, tossed in the air, slammed into a gate, or trampled. In an interview, Hare said that “I’ve not been injured that much. I’ve broken ribs a lot, and my tailbone. I broke my shoulder last year. That’s going to happen when you’re thrown twelve feet in the air. If you don’t land on your feet, you’re going to land on your head.” He wore a steel knee protector from being hooked by a bull, a girdle to protect his ribs, his ankles and hands were taped, and he wore spiked shoes, but still sustained many injuries which to him were just part of the job. He said that “I break a finger now and then on a horn. A worse injury for me is a muscle bruise. I’d rather break a rib than bruise my legs where I do my running.” He said it was the bloodless injuries that do the most damage.
Perhaps one of the most remarkable testaments to Miles Hare’s toughness and ability is the fact that he retired at the age of fifty-two, and his first bullfighting event was one organized by his father, Dean, when Miles was 13. He was a bareback bronc rider in high school, and went to Nationals where he won a go-around. At 22, he was the youngest bullfighter to be invited to the NFR. Joel Smith said that “Miles set the bar very high for the rest of the bullfighters of his generation. Because of his knowledge of cattle, he was able to continue his job in the arena at a very high level for thirty years. Many of today’s bullfighters not only look up to Miles, but acknowledge him as one of the greatest.”
Although the bullriders study the bulls of their draws, the bullfighters have to know them all. Not only does he have to know how fast and athletic the bull is, but what its bucking habits are, how many and high its jumps, which direction it is likely to turn, its spins and rotations, what its temper is like, what it seems to be thinking. On the night before the rodeo, Miles would check out the bulls and talk to the contractors if he could. The most difficult bulls were the ones not prone to patterns. Smith said that “Miles was tough, knowledgeable, fearless, and dependable to those who tied themselves to the bulls.”
Miles Hare found all that drama and danger exhilarating, and said “I thank the Lord for mean bulls, for I wouldn’t be making money without them.”