A mechanical bull is a device that simulates the rodeo activity of riding a bucking bronco, except without the need for training and experience, and the danger of being gored and/or trampled by an enraged bull. It is a popular form of entertainment at county/state fairs, amusement parks, bars, rodeos, and generally places that cater to a decidedly lowbrow clientele.
The bull is basically a covered metal frame attached to a motor and a hydraulic pump. The rider sits atop the covered frame and holds a hand strap with one while the bull rotates on the base and the pump pushes it up and down in the back. The rider's other hand is up in the air to keep their balance. It may look like they're doing it to look good, but if you try it, you will quickly become aware of it's neccessity. The speed and power of both the rotation and the bucking action are usually adjustable and controlled by the operator. The bull is surrounded on all sides by a large mat to pad the landing of all those who inevitably fall.
Staying on the bull is much harder than it looks. Your average macho, type A personality guys who haven't tried it scoff at those who fall, thinking it's easy. Nothing satisfies quite like watching Mr. Macho get thrown as quickly as he hops on. Needless to say, falling off the bull is quite a humbling experience.
Riding the bull isn't exactly on par with polo and F1 racing, socially speaking. The majority of the activity's devotees are usually rednecks and country folk. However, it can be enjoyed by anyone, provided that you don't mind making a fool of yourself in front of a large group of people.
The television program Monster Garage on the Discovery Channel recently turned a 1970 Ford Ranchero into a mobile mechanical bull. Jesse James and his team mounted the saddle in the bed of the vehicle, and the bucking motions were provided by car's new hydraulic suspension.
Despite the fact that it isn't the most classy pastime, the mechanical bull can be a lot of fun. Next time you're at your local country and western bar, state fair, rodeo, or whatnot, give it a try. You'll fall off a few times, but you'll probably want to do it again. Just don't hog the bull, you might piss off the rednecks in line behind you.