Leon Coffee: 40 years of bullfighting

HOUSTON, Texas – Rodeo legend Leon Coffee knows how to entertain an audience. For more than 40 years, the bullfighting clown has been putting on makeup and causing a laugh at rodeos across the country. But despite the makeup and goofy costume, being a rodeo clown is no fun affair. It is actually one of the most dangerous jobs in the world!

“I’m not afraid of these cops. I have a healthy respect for their ability to hurt me,” Coffee said. “But I also have a very healthy respect for my ability to bypass them. You look at this cop and you say ok it’s a big tag game, let’s see who gets there first. You know, these cops run 40 miles an hour and the fastest man in the world can only run 30. And I’m not him!”

Coffee has been a rodeo clown since the early 1970s. He began riding bulls as a child, then took up bullfighting in high school and performed in major rodeos across the country. He estimates that he attends 35 to 40 rodeos each year.

“It became an obsession,” he said. “And I’m an adrenaline junkie. I love living on the edge and this is as close to the edge as you can get. You don’t know what the cops are gonna do, how they’re gonna do it, but you know what you gotta do. You have to realize that you are out there to protect the bull rider.”

After suffering dozens of injuries and even a few near-death experiences over the years, Coffee serves as a barrel man at rodeos. He was also inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and was named 1983 PRCA Clown of the Year, among many other awards.

“To be a part of that and still be here, I’m blessed in more ways than you can ever imagine,” he said. “Not everyone can stay in this business. You have to have that burning desire to do it.” Leon Coffee: 40 years of bullfighting

Dais Johnston

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