Ryan Byrne always wanted to be a cowboy. And, in a rodeo career that lasted more than 20 years, he was one of the best.
Byrne began participating in rodeos at the local level as a junior steer rider, calf roper and a bull rider. But, he soon took up bullfighting. A rodeo bullfighter has dual responsibilities – to help get a bull to buck, and then, if the rider is thrown, to distract the bull to keep him away from the cowboy. It is a difficult and dangerous profession and Byrne had his share of injuries during a career that ended in 1999.
Byrne received tremendous recognition from his peers.
He was chosen 14 times by bull riders to fight at the Canadian Finals Rodeo. And, in 1986, he became the first and only Canadian to participate at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nevada. The top 15 bull riders in the world vote on the bullfighters who participate at the National Finals Rodeo. Byrne was an alternate at the event in 1987 and 1993.
Rodeo was a demonstration sport at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary and Byrne was the gold medal winner in the bullfight competition between Canada and the United States. He was also the featured bullfighter at the Calgary Stampede from 1994 through 1999.
Chosen the “Cowboy of the Year” by the Canadian Professional Cowboys Association in 1993, Byrne also represented Canada at international events such as the Wrangler Showdown Competition in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Beyond the rodeo arena, Byrne appeared in television movies and documentaries; participated in television commercials and music videos; and was known for his charity work – visiting children’s hospitals and schools in many cities.
The Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame is pleased to induct Ryan Byrne in the athlete category.
Inducted into the Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.