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World Cowboys
First Posted: Jan 26, 2013
Jan 26, 2013

Willie M. Pickett aka Bill Pickett, the Bull Dodger and the Greatest Cowboy/Black Cowboy

Image: Public Domain
Pickett's image on a handbill advertising the movie "The Bull-Dogger," released in 1922 by The Norman Film Manufacturing Company. Pickett was billed as "the world's colored champion" in "death-defying feats of courage and skill."

Image: Public Domain
Bulldoggin' Bill Pickett invented the sport of Bulldogging on his horse Spradley

Born: Willie M. Pickett. December 5, 1870, Jenks-Branch, Texas, U.S.
Died: April 2, 1932 (aged 61), Ponca City, Oklahoma, U.S.
Occupation: Rodeo performer

Willie M. "Bill" Pickett (December 5, 1870-April 2, 1932) was a cowboy and rodeo performer. Pickett was born in the Jenks-Branch community of Travis County, Texas. He was the second of 13 children born to Thomas Jefferson Pickett, a former slave, and Mary "Janie" Gilbert. Pickett had 4 brothers and 8 sisters. The family's ancestry was African, white and Cherokee Native American.

Early Years

Pickett attended school through the fifth grade, after which he took up hard ranching work. He invented the technique of bulldogging, the skill of grabbing cattle by the horns and wrestling them to the ground. Pickett's method for bulldogging was biting a cow on the lip and then falling backwards. This method eventually lost popularity as the sport morphed into the steer wrestling that is practiced in rodeos. He also helped cowboys with bulldogging.


Bill Pickett was born near Taylor, Texas in 1870. He was later called the "Greatest Cowboy" of his day. Bill Pickett was one of five boys among the Picketts' thirteen children. Bill left school in the 5th grade to become a ranch hand, and soon he began to ride horses and watch the long horn steers of his native Texas. It was known among cattlemen that, with the help of a trained bulldog, a stray steer. Bill Pickett had seen this happen on many occasions. He also thought that if a bulldog could do this feat, so could he. Bill Pickett practiced his stunt by riding hard and springing from his horse and wrestling the steer to the ground. Bill Pickett soon became known for his tricks and stunts at local country fairs. With his four brothers, he established The Pickett Brothers Bronco Busters and Rough Riders Association. The name of Bill Pickett soon became synonymous with successful Rodeos. He did his Bull-Dogging act, traveling about in Texas, Arizona, Wyoming and Oklahoma. In 1905 he joined the 101 Wild West Shows as they traveled across the country and in Canada, South America, and even Great Britain. In 1921, he appeared in the films, "The Bull Dogger" and "The Crimson Skull".

In 1932, after he retired from the Wild West Shows, Bill Pickett was killed when he was kicked in the head by a wild bronco. In 1971 Bill Pickett was inducted into the National Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Bill Pickett has a Headstone beside the graves of the Miller brothers at the Cowboy Hill Cemetery, But he is buried near a 14-foot stone monument to the friendship of Ponca Tribal Chief White Eagle and the Miller Brothers on Monument Hill, also known as the White Eagle Monument to the locals, less than a quarter of a mile to the North-East of Marland in Noble County, Oklahoma.

His Marriage

In 1890 Pickett married Maggie Turner, a former slave and daughter to a white southern plantation owner. The couple had nine children. Pickett had a kid and his brothers started their own company, the Pickett Brothers, Bronco Busters and Rough Riders Association, to offer their services as cowboys. Pickett also made a living demonstrating his bulldogging skills and other stunts at county fairs. In 1905, Pickett joined the 101 Ranch Wild West Show that featured the likes of Buffalo Bill, Cowboy Bill Watts, Will Rogers, Tom Mix, Bee Ho Gray, and Zach and Lucille Mulhall. Pickett was soon a popular performer who toured around the world and appeared in early motion pictures. Pickett was shown in a movie created by Richard E. Norman. Pickett's ethnicity resulted in him not being able to appear at many rodeos. He often was forced to claim that he was of Comanche heritage in order to perform.

For More Information:

Bill Pickett
Bill Pickett/National Cowboy Museum
Find A Grave