He broke his neck on a bull. Now he keeps it as a 'big ol' pet' at his Texas ranch.

World champion rider J.B. Mauney broke his neck on Arctic Assassin last year. Now he keeps the old bull at his ranch.

He broke his neck on a bull. Now he keeps it as a 'big ol' pet' at his Texas ranch.

DALLAS — The hefty black bull was always going to hold a place in rodeo history. He was, after all, the last bull the great J.B. Mauney ever rode, and it was a ride that didn't last long; the bull, Arctic Assassin, bucked him off within seconds last September, and Mauney broke his neck, an injury that ended the famed $7 million cowboy's career.

But that alone isn't the reason Arctic Assassin rapidly became one of the most well-known bulls in America in recent weeks.

No, Arctic didn't just retire Mauney.

He retired with him.

That detail was one of several nuggets we covered in our wide-ranging feature and interview with Mauney earlier this month. In fact, when we arrived at Mauney's XV Ranch near Stephenville, Arctic, 11, greeted us at the front gate.

Mauney described the old bull as a "big ol' pet" and "dog gentle," capable of being scratched and petted without worry.

Mauney proved his point. He walked us over to the pasture where he keeps Arctic and Baxter, another retired bucking bull. While we cautiously tip-toed along the fence line, Mauney walked right up to Arctic.

"Which side?" Mauney asked him. "This side?"

Mauney then began petting the hulking bull like a dog.

"This is the one that ended it," Mauney said. "The bull I was on when I broke my neck."

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The exchange between Mauney and Arctic was just one piece of our larger story. But we decided to throw up a clip of the moment on social media. The reaction took off more than we could have imagined.

Between Instagram, YouTube and TikTok, the video of Mauney and Arctic was viewed tens of millions of times. Our story also came on the heels of Mauney's and Arctic's connection playing a role in an extensive story about Mauney's career in the Washington Post, and Mauney's own social media posts with Arctic.

The flood of reactions and comments ranged from awe to appreciation in how Mauney made amends with the bull that ended his career. Not that Mauney ever held any ill will to begin with.

"He had a job to do," Mauney said. "I just didn't do mine."

A thousand or so miles to the north, Arctic's previous owner, Matt Scharping, could only smile.

"We see that every day," Scharping said of Mauney's connection with Arctic. "It's just a respect thing. We see it a lot."

Scharping, a stock contractor with Phenom Genetics in Minnesota, bought Arctic when the Wisconsin-born bull was just a feisty four-year-old. Scharping gave him his name -- a nod to Minnesota's colder climate and also the bull that sired him, Arctic Cat.

Outside of competition, Arctic eventually mellowed out. In the arena, he became a regular on the pro circuits, bucking in the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) world finals and National Finals Rodeo.

A life as a pro bucker traveling the country to top rodeos might have been a longshot for Arctic, who was a unique case from the start.

He was an embryo calf, Scharping explained, born from an embryo that was placed inside an angus cow. Typically in those cases, Scharping said, the bull takes on more of the personality of its mother and doesn't tend to buck.

But Arctic was a bucker from the start, Scharping said, with a bit of a mean streak when he first encountered him.

"I quickly realized it's a mutual respect deal," Scharping said.

Arctic grew to more than 1,700 pounds, a tick above average. His journey converged with Mauney's on Sept. 6, 2023, in Lewiston, Idaho. By that point, Mauney had accomplished all there was to conquer in bull riding: Two PBR world titles, dozens of event wins, more than $7 million in earnings, a berth in the National Finals Rodeo.

But he climbed onto Arctic, and the two aging rodeo athletes went head to head.

Arctic won.

He got Mauney out of sync early in the ride, and then launched him off backward. Mauney landed on his head and broke his neck.

"It was my fault," Mauney said.

[video_shortcode_youtube src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0Zv8gfKxDUI" itemprop="image" content="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0Zv8gfKxDUI" data-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0Zv8gfKxDUI"]

Mauney avoided paralysis, or worse, but the doctor gave it to him straight: He wouldn't be so lucky the next time. A week later, Mauney announced his retirement.

Mauney's decision happened to coincide with Scharping's decision to retire the 10-year-old Arctic.

"It was time," Scharping said. "I don't like to buck a bull until he can't anymore."

Then Scharping got a call from Mauney, who caught wind that Arctic was hanging it up.

He wanted to buy him.

"For what?" Scharping asked him.

As Mauney explained it, not too many cowboys get to keep the last bull they ever rode.

Scharping talked it over with his business partner, and they decided they couldn't sell Arctic to Mauney.

Instead, they decided to give him the bull, free of charge, and deliver it, too.

Scharping was heading down to Texas late last year, so he brought Arctic with him and swung by Mauney's XV Ranch. Arctic stepped out of the trailer and into his forever home, a pasture on the XV. Mauney paired him with Baxter, another retired bucking bull.

"They're both big pets," Mauney said. "I put the two yard ornaments together in the pasture, and that's where they stay."

When word leaked out on social media that J.B. Mauney was now keeping that last bull he ever rode, the response was a collective, "That's J.B."

"That's so fitting on who he is and what he stands for," Scharping said. "Everybody got to see J.B. riding. But he really respected the animals."

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