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The Toughest Job In The Rodeo Arena Is Being A Bullfighter In Face Paint

It's late in the afternoon in south Tucson.

A cowboy is perched on top of 2,500 pounds of pure irritation, waiting for his wild ride to begin.

One foot back, he's crushed. One foot forward, he's trampled.

The horn sounds, the shoot opens, and the rider has to stay on the back of the bull for eight long seconds.

Within a full two seconds, the cowboy is flat on his back, and the angry one-ton bull is on the loose.

It's the type of situation that would send most people running for the fences, but for the bull fighters, dressed in baggy clothing and face paint, it's game time.

"I want to read the situation at hand and react that way I can prevent certain injuries or wrecks or things that could happen," said Dusty Tuckness, a seven-time PRCA Bullfighter of the Year.

He's the best at buying cowboys time to scramble to safety.

"Your mind is gonna’ tell you real quick after a bull runs at you and runs you down if you're gonna’ try to make this a career or not," he said.

Jenny Wyly is Tuckness' athletic trainer.

"I watch it and think that's totally against everything you would think about if you see an animal of that size charging at you, the idea that you can step in front of that animal," she said.

It's her job to keep the contestants and bullfighters healthy and to patch them up after they get injured.

"We've seen an ear get detached because it's been just lucked out by a bull, we've seen broken bones and certainly sprains and then major contusions and cuts," said Wyly.

Tuckness was the one who lost his ear.

"A few years back here they had to stitch my ear back on and then turn around and fight bulls the next morning," he said. "If you don't play you don't get paid so you gotta’ learn to try to heal fast and be able to be determined and fight through the pain."

While the pain may be bad, Wyly said the bullfighters actually feel worse if they don't take the hit.

"Anytime a cowboy gets hurt, the bullfighters feel like they haven't done their jobs," she said.

It takes something special to put yourself in harm's way, but for Tuckness, it's all about helping someone else.

"You've gotta’ have a strong mind and a will to not back down or lose, you're kind of running into the fire when a lot of people are running out," he said.

So the next time you go and see a rodeo, spare a thought for the guys and gals dressed up as clowns. They may look funny, but their job is deadly serious.