Pete Burns, a former professional rodeo cowboy and nationally known college rodeo coach who owned one of the most intractable bucking bulls of the 20th century, died on Sunday at his home in Laramie, Wyo. He was 85.
His son Hal confirmed the death.
A retired competitive bareback rider, bull rider and steer wrestler, Burns coached the University of Wyoming’s rodeo teams from 1982 to 1996. Under his supervision, the women’s team won three national championships and eight regional ones, and the men were seven-time regional champions.
More than 100 colleges and universities, mostly in the West, participate in rodeo and are governed by the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. Athletes compete in events like bull riding, bareback riding, steer wrestling, barrel racing and goat tying.
With Hal, Burns founded the Burns Rodeo Company, a stock contracting concern, in the late 1970s. The company supplies bulls and bucking horses to rodeos around the country.
Holding on with one hand, a competitive bull rider must remain astride the rearing animal for eight seconds, a feat comparable to piloting an open car with no brakes down a mountain road in the midst of an earthquake.
Mr. T, a large spotted bull owned by Burns’s company, was “considered one of the meanest bucking bulls in the history of the sport,” The Houston Chronicle wrote in 1994.
In hundreds of attempts over the years, only three cowboys managed to ride Mr. T without being thrown. Among them was Ty Murray, who went on to television celebrity on “Dancing With the Stars” and other reality shows.
In 1986, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association named Mr. T its bull of the year.
David Peter Burns was born on July 19, 1928, in Darien, Ill. As an undergraduate at Wyoming, he was a member of the rodeo team; in the 1940s and ’50s he competed on the professional circuit before embarking on a career as a stock contractor.
Burns’s marriage to Mary Jo Patton ended in divorce. His survivors include four sons, Franklin Hal, David Edwin, Sheldon Matthew and Peter Lindsay; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
Mr. T, who retired in 1991 to a productive life at stud, died in 1994 at the age of 16 or 17. His progeny, of at least marginally sweeter disposition than he, included Winchester, Pretty Boy Floyd and Vindicator.