Could Bull Riding Become the Next NASCAR?

The wild sport of bull riding has always had its fans, but a group of cowboys wants more. It is trying to do for bull riding what NASCAR did for stock-car racing -- propel it into the big leagues.

With high-tech shows and big-money promotions, bull-riding competitions have been filling arenas from California to the Carolinas and building a loyal TV audience of millions of fans.

Bull-riding advocates say the sport appeals to more than just cowboys.

"You don't have to have a cowboy hat, you don't have to be from Wyoming, you don't have to have an agriculture background, it's just the sports fan," said Tuff Hedeman of the Professional Bull Riders Association.

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Extreme Sport Can Be Dangerous

Riders are drawn to this extreme sport by the lifestyle, the money and the drama -- the tough breaks, the close calls and the fact that a victory can bring a rider hundreds of thousands of dollars. But a defeat can be devastating.

Former rider Jerome Davis knows that firsthand.

"It's a dangerous business. I mean it's the most dangerous sport in the world. I've had friends get killed doing this. So it's no joke."

Davis, a legendary bull rider, was paralyzed in a bad ride. But the cowboy culture is a powerful draw, and he came back as a livestock contractor.

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"It's funny, I don't know what I'd do if I wasn't stirring up some bucking bulls on the farm or bucking some calves or looking at mama cows," Davis said. "I don't know what I'd do, to be honest about it."

Bulls Have Personality

Bull riding is an unusual sport, with unusual characters. The leading bull rider in the country right now is from Brazil. His name is Adriano Moraes, and he is deeply religious and known to cheer for his competitors. He studies the bulls, convinced each has its own personality.

"Some bulls are happy," Moraes said. "Some bulls are grumpy. Some bulls are alert. Some bulls are just relaxed. Some bulls love to buck. And some bulls just hate the guys, and that's why they buck."

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Bull owner Bernie Taupin said each animal demands respect.

"You can't mess with 'em because they've got a lot of attitude and they're very smart creatures," he said. "And people should never underestimate them, because they are remarkable."

Cowboys Dream Big

Taupin is the co-owner of champion bull "Little Yellow Jacket," but he's better known as the songwriter for pop star Elton John. He's not your typical "cowboy," but Taupin saw the potential in the sport after being invited to a bull-riding event several years ago.

"I think when people are brought along to an event, they get hooked," Taupin said. "I mean, hey, it happened to me, so it could happen to anybody."

Other bull-riding aficionados are betting he's right.

"In five or 10 years, I'd like to see this sport be as big as every other major sport," said Justin McBride, a bull rider. "I want to see it up there with NASCAR, the NFL, the NBA."

When cowboys dream, they dream big.

ABC News' Erin Hayes originally reported this story for "Good Morning America" Weekend.

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