There was man jumping over a bull last week when Cinch World’s Toughest Rodeo stopped by St. Paul’s X.
Imagine a matador without a cape jumping over a charging bull, and you can visualize bull jumping. Frenchman Emmanuel Lataste, whose stage name is Manu Lataste, claims to be the world’s only professional bull jumper. I thought he gave the bulls and the cowboys a run for their rodeo entertainment dollar — and Manu wasn’t on stage that long. Understandable given the stamina required. (I was surprised by how engrossing this rodeo was. I accidentally stayed for the whole show!)
Lataste’s act was about the most unusual I’ve ever seen; it’s less violent than MMA, although the potential for harm and death is omnipresent. Lataste told me that bull jumping has been a tradition in France for a couple centuries. “My father used to do that, my brothers. It was kind of normal,” said Lataste. “I have jumped maybe 500 bulls. I have broken [bones throughout] my body. I love what I do; it’s my passion.”
When asked if some of the bulls might be playful and might not be trying to cause injury, Lataste said, “I only work with Mexican bulls because Mexican bulls are fighters. A Brahman in an arena will not try to come and hit you.”
Lataste said the job is hard on his family — not because of the danger but the separation. They were saddened when he announced he was going to the United States to jump bulls. He calls home daily to let them know he’s fine. My video will be posted Wednesday afternoon.
Q: Whose idea was this?
A: Bull jumping is a tradition in France. It’s like 200 years old. The name in French is not bull jumping, it’s course landaise. I have practiced course landaise 15 years, before the idea to come to Canada and the USA to jump bulls.
Q: You seem spring loaded, you really bounce. Were you a gymnast?
A: Yeah, I practiced [gymnastics] since I [was] 6 years old. When I jumped the first cow in France I was 14.
Q: Jumping cows sounds safer than jumping bulls?
A: Jumping cows is not safer, but if a cow gets you, you have more chances to be [uninjured].
Q: How many times have you been injured bull jumping?
A: I have been injured from my head to my feet. My first injury was 15 years old, my shoulder. The baddest injury was my skull. The cow broke my skull. [Other injuries:] My knee, the patellar tendon. My ribs. My nose four times. My teeth.
Q: So you jumped and you didn’t quite make it or the animal ran into you?
A: Sometimes the cow or the bull is too fast and you take off too late and [he hits his palm with his fist].
Q: It is interesting that you have not chosen to dress in red.
A: Everybody thinks that the bulls or the cows see the red [and react]. That’s wrong. If you paint a tree in red, a bull will never go [after] the tree. But if the tree goes running, [he laughed] maybe the bull will follow. I’m in white. The bull sees a human, something white. What the bull thinks is something comes to him, to fight, to kill him, so the bull defends [himself]. I don’t need to be in red.
Q: It’s a myth that bulls are angered by red?
A: Yes, they are attracted by movement.
Q: Are you a daredevil when you are not at the rodeo?
A: I’m an act at the rodeo, but I’m a daredevil, too. The scariest things I [see] in my life are the bulls. It’s normal that there are not a lot of people doing that. I am the only professional. All the guys who do that, and I have a lot of respect for the French guys, the Spanish guys, American guys who try to jump. They do that but they have a regular job all day. They do other things. Me, I am the only professional. I train two times a day. My job is to take risks and engage my life. It’s not like, I don’t know, driving trucks.
Q: This is your only job?
A: Now. [For] two years I am only bull jumping.
Q: How long can you do this as a career?
A: I will stop when my legs tell me, “No more.”
Q: Do you like to drive fast cars or motorcycles?
A: [Laughs] Not too much. I don’t like fast cars, motorcycles. I like rock climbing. Fast, I don’t like it. Maybe when I stop, I will do the other things because I will need adrenaline.
C.J. can be reached at email@example.com and seen on Fox 9’s “Jason Show.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.