Local bullfighter saves man

01:43, Jan 31 2009
LIFE ON THE LINE: Kimbolton's Shane Bird, in a green shirt under the bull, covering injured Hawaiian bullfighter Jeremy Starr.

A Kimbolton man threw himself on a Hawaiian bullfighter in the ring. BOBBIE NICHOLLS reports.

Shane Bird's quick actions probably saved a young rider at a South Island rodeo on Sunday from more serious injuries.

Mr Bird, of Kimbolton, is one of only three or four professional bullfighters in New Zealand and was on duty at the first rodeo of the season at Methven on Sunday.

Sometimes described as clowns because of their costumes and face paint, it is the bullfighters' job to protect the riders on the ground and get the bulls back into the pens.

At Methven, a 30-year-old Hawaiian rider, Jeremy Starr, was riding a bull named Extreme when he was bucked off, and hit in the head. He lost consciousness and the bull was spinning on top of him.

Mr Bird said it was second nature that he threw himself on top of the rider to save him from further injury, while the other bullfighter, Mark Tweedy from Gore, distracted the bull and got him out of the way.


The actions of the New Zealanders and Hawaiian bullfighter Patrick Ching, who was also in the arena, greatly impressed the crowd.

Mr Starr was taken to Christchurch Hospital where he was recovering this week from lacerations to his head and body, cracked vertebrae and bruising.

Mr Bird, who was wearing protective clothing, escaped injury.

"I was lucky the bull stepped all around me," he said.

There were 16 Hawaiian cowboys taking part in the rodeo and Mr Bird said it was the first time he had met Hawaiian bullriders in New Zealand.

"They had these bright green shirts they gave us to wear, and Patrick was wearing a grass skirt and orange shirt."

As a professional bullfighter, and former bullrider, Mr Bird is no stranger to injury from the sport, but it is all part of the job.

Along with his father Roger he breeds bulls for the sport and organises the Parklee Bullriding in January at the family's property north of Kimbolton, where they have built a special arena for teaching and watching bullriding.

He is registered as a bullfighter for both Bullriding New Zealand and the New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Association, and will be in action at the bullfighting at Manfeild stadium on November 16, Otane in two weeks, and again at Parklee and Ohingaiti in January, which are part of a circuit for young riders.

With two or three of the five New Zealand bullfighters at each event, it is a busy season, travelling all around the country every weekend. "It's a matter of training on the job," the 26-year-old bullfighter said, "and learning the hard way."

Feilding Herald