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Throwback Thursday: Joe Alexander

by Matt Naber | Feb 07, 2019

Joe Alexander ranks among the most dominant bareback riders in rodeo history. He’s tied with Bruce Ford for the most world championships with five and won a pair of PRCA regular-season titles when the world championship was awarded to the National Finals Rodeo average winner.

At 5-foot-8, 155 pounds, Alexander wasn’t big, but he loomed large over the sport. 

Dubbed “Alexander the Great” by New York Times columnist Red Smith, Alexander won five consecutive world titles (1971-75) and followed that with the two regular-season championships (1976-77).

Born in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Nov. 4, 1943, Alexander grew up on the sprawling family ranch outside Cora, Wyo., a tiny town about 70 miles southeast of his birthplace. 

Alexander was an athlete who took pride in his craft and took care of his body; he didn’t smoke and had little time or inclination for drinking or night life. What he had was a burning desire to succeed and a fear of failure. 

Despite his success, his peers said the soft-spoken cowboy was one of the most sincere and respected men of his time.

He won the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association bareback riding championship in 1966 while a freshman at Casper (Wyo.) Junior College and graduated from the University of Wyoming with a degree in agricultural business. He joined the PRCA in 1967, went full-time rodeoing in 1970 and finished fifth in the world that year. The next year he claimed the first of his five consecutive gold buckles, an unprecedented feat for a bareback rider.

In a 1982 story by the Associated Press, Alexander explained his riding philosophy: “You got to have timing, a rhythm with the animal, and you got to be fairly strong and agile, with good balance and a good attitude.”

In 1974, he set the bareback riding world record with a 93-point ride on Beutler Brothers & Cervi’s Marlboro at Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days, a mark that stood for 28 years until Wes Stevenson rode for 94 points on Kesler Rodeo’s Cover Girl. 

Alexander was part of the first class inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1979.

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