Has bull riding been outsourced?
It's a fair question.
After five events this season, the top of the Professional Bull Riders standings still has a traditional rawhide background. Leader Matt Triplett is from Montana; No. 2 Reese Cates is from Arizona. And riders with names such as Chase Outlaw and Ryan Dirteater will be prominent competitors in a three-day Professional Bull Riders Series event that begins Friday at Honda Center.
But seven riders currently in the top-20 — and six of the last nine world champions — come from Brazil. So there will be as much Samba as line dancing around Anaheim this weekend as riders attempt to stay atop a bull for the required eight seconds.
"A lot of that has to do with maturity level," said Triplett, 23. "They are not as wealthy as Americans. They see this as a way to make a living. It's a whole new perspective on life. They are all business. There's no partying. They're here to make a name for themselves."
Triplett is on that quest as well in his second full season on the tour. He learned bull riding from his father. His first ride was as a 12-year old, and it didn't last long. He was thrown.
"I told my dad to get me another one," Triplett said. "I stayed on six seconds. It went from there."
Silvano Alves of Brazil, who has won three of the last four world titles, sits third in the standings behind Triplett and Cates. Joao Viera is 15th, but he finished second in 2014 and third in 2013.
Triplett finished third last season.
Guilherme Marchi, the 2008 world champion who is fifth in the current standings, told the Men's Journal in 2013 that Brazilian riders "ride more strong. We push more. We love the bulls that buck harder."
Triplett sees it as healthy competition.
"You're not going against each other, you're going against the animal," Triplett said. "They motivate us. We motivate them."
The Brazilian contingent is not without some controversy. There are claims that Brazilian rope harms bulls. Brazilian rider Robson Palermo lashed out at those claims after a rider's meeting in Baltimore last month.
"It is very frustrating to hear every weekend bad stuff about us Brazilians," Palermo said in a Facebook post. "Some people are always complaining about something, about our rope, how we pull our rope, how long we take in the chutes, etc. We are not here in the [United States] to hurt anyone's bull or do anything wrong. We are here to ride bulls at the best championship in the world and to provide a better life to our family."
Triplett doesn't know what the fuss is about.
"I think it is all blown out of proportion," he said. "I use a Brazilian rope. A rope is a rope. The only change I'd like to see is for them to get out of the box faster. But they're doing better."