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Bull jumper adds French flavor to NFR

by Matt Naber | Mar 08, 2019

When Emanuel Lataste stepped into the Thomas & Mack Arena at the 2018 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, his feet weren’t on the ground for long.

Lataste, “The Bull Jumper,” astounded the audience by leaping over a charging bull multiple times – a custom he brought across the Pond from his home in Montfort, France. 

“Where I was born in France, it’s a tradition,” said Lataste, who is known as Manu. “It’s not like freestyle (bullfighting) where they can do whatever they want. In my tradition it can be two hours, and we try to do the best moves ever.”

Lataste’s bull jumping is the result of a lifetime of work. He started doing gymnastics when he was 6 and attended a bull-jumping class when he was 14. Now, he’s in the 20th season of his career at 33 years old. 

“In my culture, if you want to be a man you have to jump the bull, but not everyone does it and not everyone is good at it,” Lataste said. 

Lataste lives in Saint-Tite, Quebec, Canada. His first rodeo in North America was the 2013 Festival Western de Saint-Quentin in New Brunswick, Canada. Two years later, he made his U.S. debut at the 2015 Reno (Nev.) Rodeo. 

The French bull jumper compared the bulls at American rodeos to the bulls found in Spain 500 years ago. American rodeos use Mexican bulls which came from Spain but have since been crossbred into something on par with what was used centuries ago in Spain. 

“Jumping a bull is one of the most exciting things I can have in my life,” Lataste said. “When I’m in the arena, I’m really professional and I focus on the bull. The only moment I can see what just happened in the arena is when I have the reaction of the crowd. Last week, I had a standing ovation, and the people stood up by themselves. It (that reaction) is like a gift to me – that makes my day, when the crowd stands up.” 

In addition to jumping bulls, in France, Lataste is a beekeeper.

“I’m pretty sure I will do beekeeping in Canada soon, it’s in my blood,” Lataste said. “The bull jumping is stronger than me.” 

He attended the Wrangler NFR as a spectator in 2016 and 2017, but he never anticipated being in the arena in 2018. 

“It wasn’t me who brought me to the NFR, it looks like it was the bull jumping,” Lataste said. “It was my dream. When I went to the NFR by myself, I said that’s where I have to go one day, and then I got called and I didn’t believe it.” 

The challenge at Las Vegas wasn’t the size of the crowd or knowing he was at the pinnacle of professional rodeo, it was condensing his usual five-minute performance to one. The shorter performance made it a challenge to get in a number of jumps.

“(Longtime Wrangler NFR general manager) Shawn Davis told me I have one minute, ‘Do whatever you want, but you have one minute,’” Lataste said. “It was the shortest and hardest performance of my career.” 

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