MOUNT HOPE, Ala. (AP) — Some 13-year-old girls like wearing frilly dresses and have a cat or dog as a pet.
Cheyenne Martin, 13, prefers wearing jeans and western shirts, and keeps bulls as pets.
These are mean bulls that weigh almost a ton and will toss cowboys who try to ride them off their back and then try to gore or trample the would-be rider.
The Tharptown School eighth-grader from Mount Hope began raising rodeo bulls three years ago. She now owns six that compete in rodeos around the Tennessee Valley, as well as dozens of cows and calves.
So far this year, cowboys have managed to ride only two of her bulls for the eight seconds required to earn a score from rodeo judges.
"Everybody who tries to ride them talks about how good my bulls are," she said. "They tell me my bulls are tough to ride."
The teen begins preparing her bulls for rodeos when they are 1 year old by placing an 18-pound dummy on their back and allowing them to buck it off. She then uses a 25-pound dummy and eventually a real cowboy.
"The first couple of times somebody tries to ride them, the bulls usually don't know what to do," Martin said. "But once they realize that if they buck, jump and twist around enough, they can throw that cowboy off their back. They become tough to ride."
The more a bull bucks, jumps and twists during a rodeo, the more points earned by a cowboy who is able to stay on for 8 seconds. Bull riders prefer the bulls to be active and downright ornery.
Martin said she never turns her back on her bulls when she is working around them.
"Sometimes when they are out in the pasture, they will run at you," she said. "Sometimes when you have them in a stable or a holding pen, they will snort when you walk by. They make me nervous sometimes, but I always keep my eyes on them."
Her father, Jim Martin, said the teen has been around cattle and rodeos all her life and knows how to avoid being injured by bulls.
"She knows what she is doing," he said. "She knows a bull can hurt you, and she respects them. She knows the danger and knows how to take care of herself around the bulls."
In addition to raising bucking bulls, the teen also raises and trains ponies.
She competes in barrel racing competitions at rodeos and for a time thought about riding bulls.
"When she was younger, she wanted to ride a bull," Jim Martin said. "I was able to talk her out of it. I tried riding a bull one time and that was enough for me. There's no animal at the rodeo any tougher to ride than a bull."
Her bucking bull business could pay her way to college. Bucking bulls sell for around $700 for an unproven calf to more than $30,000 for a rodeo star.
"She likes to reinvest the money she earns from her bulls and ponies back into her business," Jim Martin said. "She already has a pretty good bank account from the money she has earned."
The teen spends time with her cattle and ponies every day and makes sure they are in top-notch condition at all times, Jim Martin said.
"She makes sure her animals never want for anything," he said. "She's a good rancher."
Having grown up on a farm and being a member of 4-H, Cheyenne said farming and taking care of animals comes naturally.
She plans to continue her bucking bull business as an adult and hopes that some of her bulls will be selected for professional level rodeos such as those sponsored by the Professional Bull Riders organization.
"She's off to a good start," Jim Martin said. "She has some good bulls and they keep getting better every year. Several people have told us she has some bulls that have the potential to move up to the pro circuits some day."
Jim said a rodeo bull's career typically last from the time they are 3 years old until they are 6 or 7. The good ones will be put out to pasture after their rodeo career in hopes of getting calves that are just as good.
Bulls that fail to live up to expectations in rodeos are typically slaughtered to become ground beef.
"Most people don't realize it, but when they eat a hamburger, they might be eating an old rodeo bull," Jim Martin said.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.