Jim Thompson Looks Back on Built Tough’s Bull of the Year Honors in 2023

By: Covy Moore  Wednesday, March 27, 2024 @ 3:14 PM

Built Tough was crowned the 2023 PBR Canada Bull of the Year. Photo: Covy Moore/CovyMoore.com.

AIRDRIE, Alta. – In Canada in 2023 there was no better bucking bull than Jim Thompson and Thompson Rodeo Co.’s Built Tough

Thompson Rodeo Co. began in 2000 when Thompson hung up his bull rope and bought his first cows. One year later the first bull calf hit the ground and the rest is history. 

With plenty of good bulls in his time, he has never had one like Built Tough, which took him to the top of the heap in 2023, crowned 2023 Canadian Global PBR Canada Bull of the Year and earning the accompanying $10,000 bonus.  

The bucker was born with the Gravelle Family in Alberta. Thompson didn’t get a hold of him until he was about five years old. And right off the bat, the bull needed some work as he was a bit hot in the chutes. 

“He was at the Heritage Futurity as a 4-year-old,” Thompson recalled. “That winter I was called and asked if I wanted him, along with a couple other ones. He was a lot of work; everyone saw what he was in the box. We just needed to get him better in the box, and I have to thank Callum Miller, Ashton Sahli and Wyatt Gleeson for coming all those times to get him over the chute deal.”

The bull had a ton of talent, but his demeanour in that last moment in the chutes wouldn’t let him showcase his bucking abilities. 

“I believed that if we could get him to a spot where he can give those guys and give himself a fair shot leaving the chutes, this would be one of the better bulls going,” Thompson said. 

“You want to believe they will contend, but I have seen some pretty good bulls up here. You never know what people have in their back pocket. No one saw me coming with Built Tough full grown ready to go either. I thought this bull could contend.”

In nearly a dead heat with bulls such as Two Bit Bucking Bulls’ Langham Kid and Vold Rodeo’s Blue Magic, the 2023 PBR Canada National Finals will go down in history from the bovine side of things, too. 

“All I can do is tie the flank and hope for the best. That bull isn’t going to listen to me. No matter what I tell him, ‘Okay now buddy, don't fight the box, just get out there clean, this is yours to lose.’ I took it better than Janet [Thompson’s partner] did. She was wound up,” he laughed.  

“I tied the flank and looked to where Janet was sitting and threw my hands in the air. I told her before, all I can do is flank him. He has to do this all on his own.”

Despite an incredible performance by Blue Magic in the championship round, it would be an 88.5-point matchup with event champion Tyler Craig, including a 43-point bull score for Built Tough, that propelled him to victory. Built Tough edged runner-up Blue Magic by 0.04 points.

“I don't know what to tell you. It was an unreal feeling. It is what you are trying to accomplish, everyone in this game is trying to accomplish,” Thompson said. 

“That bull did great all year and followed it up at Finals. You strive for that. I have had some good bulls over the years that stumble and take themselves out. This one made it. He dang sure paid his way. He paid for a few of his mates too.” 

As for the future at Thompson Rodeo Co., it looks bright.

Having purchased some of the last Wild Hoggs Bucking Bulls calves, and with some Twist of Barbwire sons coming up, Built Tough is already in the short round again ready to carry another group of bull riders to event wins and championships. 

Tyler Craig wound up winning the 2023 PBR Canada National Finals with his ride on Built Tough, and already this season picked the same bovine opponent in the opening PBR Canada Cup Series event of 2024 in Red Deer. That matchup did not go Craig’s way, however. 

“Tyler has come a long way. He rides well and when he is confident you can't buck him off,” Thompson said. 

“He knows if you want to fight with Built Tough, he will fight back in the chutes. He just saddled up and went. We can't thank Tyler enough for picking him. That is what did it for Tyler, winning Finals, and what did it for us, winning Bull of the Year.”