Bull riders might where jeans, chaps, cowboy hats, boots and numbers pinned to the back of their protective vest.
Not Daniel Unruh. Open buttondown, suspenders, torn blue jean cutoffs with shorts underneath, knee braces and cleats is what Daniel’s attire consists of.
Unruh will be protecting the cowboys this year at the Miami County Fair Rodeo.
Growing up in western Oklahoma, he began his rodeo career riding bulls but quickly found that was not his calling. He began fighting bulls at the age of 16 and was immediately hooked.
Unruh is a rodeo bullfighter. He’s not a matador: he does not use a cape or a sword. Nor is he a rodeo clown; he is not funny, performs no skits, tells no jokes. His job is the keystone of the modern rodeo: keeping bull riders alive.
“Bullfighters are there to protect bull riders, not entertain the crowd,” Unruh said. “My job is similar to that of the Secret Service that protects the president of the United States. I offer up my body as an easier target for the bull and let him hit me so the rider can escape.”
Many miles have been put on his truck as he has fought bulls from Minnesota to Texas and everywhere in between.
“Bullfighting has blessed me with the opportunity to get to travel the U.S.,” Unruh said. “I have fought bulls in 18 different states, mostly throughout the Midwest, but have gone as far northwest as Idaho.”
Throughout his career, Unruh has earned the reputation of being one of the best bullfighters in the Midwest. He has been voted by the bull riders of the Interstates Rodeo Association as Bullfighter of the Year, been voted to protect them in multiple finals rodeos and earned the respect of many world champion bullfighters.
Unruh lives outside of Rantoul on his ranch with his wife, Elli, and their dogs Day and Lucy.
Elli is a veterinarian at the Paola Veterinary Clinic.