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‘Long dead’ bull lives on in clones

Practice grows on rodeo circuit

Dylan Brown Lewiston Tribune

Four identical sets of bulging eyes, flaring nostrils and blunted horns paced around their pen among the maze of swinging gates behind the Lewiston Roundup grounds, awaiting their cowboys Friday night at the Les Schwab Tires Chute-Out.

Mr. Slim, Slim’s Ghost, And Another One and I’m Back – all cloned from a previous generation of stock – arrived in Lewiston on Thursday from Louisiana as part of their 11-month journey away from home in North Carolina. The practice of cloning bulls is a relatively new endeavor, but one that is gaining steam on the Professional Bull Riders circuit.

Even after four years in the arena, the owner of these four cloned bulls, Jeff Robinson, said they are still nothing riders sit too comfortable on.

“These bulls have been lasting a long time,” Robinson said Friday, his shirt damp from the heat.

Robinson and his crew of cowboys were walking up and down the pathways of the stockyard Friday, organizing the bulls into the order they would appear in the ring. When they snort and spin out under the lights in Lewiston, the routine is just like many other nights around the country. Some of the bulls are skittish, while others have to be cattle-prodded all the way down to their particular spots.

Funneling the bulls into their different pens puts the crew in tight quarters with literally tons of muscular, well-bred and slightly irritated beef. This is a dirty, dangerous job, but it can be lucrative so long as you have the best of the best when it comes to livestock.

When stock contractors like Robinson go looking for the biggest and meanest bulls, it’s all about bloodline.

By exactly replicating the genetic information of a particular bull in a new generation, contractors can get another shot at owning a champion whirling demon like Bodacious or Red Wolf.

Robinson’s four clones had a “daddy” named Panhandle Slim, a bull with a legendary pedigree.

“He was a world champ back in the late 1990s,” Robinson said.

Panhandle is “long dead,” Robinson said, and the 7-year-old clones of the former champion are not quite the spitting image of their predecessor. But cloning is no guarantee of performance, as a variety of factors beyond genetics influence how a bull stacks up on the PBR circuit.

Robinson said while they aren’t quite Panhandle, the animals are still a good draw for cowboys looking for a big score under the lights.

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