Feared C+ Rodeos bucking bull Van Helsing beats up on Quesnel’s Steve Hohmann at a rodeo in Smithers.

Feared C+ Rodeos bucking bull Van Helsing beats up on Quesnel’s Steve Hohmann at a rodeo in Smithers.

Casual Country: Van Helsing, Wahoo a feared tandem

Since C+ Rodeos stock contractor manager Roy Call entered the business in 1984 few animal athletes have left a mark quite like these two.

Since C+ Rodeos stock contractor manager Roy Call entered the business in 1984 with his brother, Earl, few animal athletes have left a mark contestants will remember quite like these two.

Wahoo — a blue-eyed, Chestnut bareback horse — and Van Helsing — a legendary black, Mexican-brahma bull cross — struck fear into the hearts of rodeo athletes for years at the Williams Lake Stampede.

Wahoo was raised on the Cotton Ranch west of Williams Lake and purchased by the Calls from Grant Huffman and Evan Howarth in the mid-1980s. It turned out to be one of the best purchases the brothers made.

“We don’t have a lot that come from close areas and he was a spoiled saddle horse and a real character,” Roy said of Wahoo. “He wanted to be your friend, but he really bucked.”

Wahoo went to the Canadian Finals Rodeo four times making him one of the top 30 horses in Canada.

“We probably got 15 years out of him as a bucking horse which is a very long time,” Roy said.

At Stampede, Wahoo had began to garner a reputation among fans and cowboys, alike.

“It was fun because there were a lot of guys who knew who he was,” Roy said. “They saw him in the amateur circuits and saw him around and got to come to Stampede to see him against some of the best guys in the world here every year.”

One of the most important parts of the rodeo business, Call explained, is starting with something spectacular and ending with something spectacular.

“You can get by with some stuff in the middle but that first horse you buck, it better buck and that last bull you buck, it better buck. That’s what people see, and that’s what they remember.”

After the first couple of years the Calls bucked Wahoo, it became clear to them he was a sure-fire hit.

“For almost 10 years we started [the rodeo] with that horse,” he said. “The rodeo didn’t start until that horse was there. If he had a good guy on him they’d get 82, 83 or 84. He never let us down. If he had an average guy on him they were 76. They always put up a good score on him. It didn’t matter if it was muddy or 40 degrees.”

As for the notorious Van Helsing, it didn’t take long for bullriders from around the country to take note of his fierce nature.

“He was a dirty, mean little bull,” Roy said.

A 2004-born calf, Van Helsing — who made his retirement in 2015 — was ridden to the whistle just three times in his career. Two of those times were by 150 Mile House bullrider Kyle Lozier.

“He went on a long stretch of six years where no one ever rode him once and that’s saying a lot,” Roy said. “With those top-end horses we take them for maybe 20 trips a year and some of the better ones in the teens. That black bull, we used to buck him sometimes up to 40 trips a year.”

Roy said Van Helsing’s success could be attributed to his size. Topping out at around 1,400 pounds, he was just the right size for a bucking bull.

“He never beat himself up,” Roy said. “He was never hurt because he broke himself down being too heavy and he stayed that way. With that cross he had in him he had lots of temper, too. He hooked the crap out of lots of guys.”

Later on in Van Helsing’s career, he had reached a point of notoriety to the extent where no bullrider wanted to draw him.

Roy said one of his proudest moments was near the end of Van Helsing’s career at the Williams Lake Stampede.

“The real top-end guys, they wouldn’t get on him. Unless you went to an amateur rodeo and had a kid that was too dumb to know any better or a guy who took it as a personal challenge a lot of guys just turned him out and said ‘no thanks, we’ll get on next week,’” Call said.

During that Stampede weekend, Roy, who had been a little put out with a few guys for not wanting to ride Van Helsing, decided he would buck the bull at all four performances.

“That’s what we did to combat that,” he said. “Normally at a rodeo you’ll put a bull out twice — one day on, then a day off — but never, ever four times. That weekend he bucked all four guys off, who were all outstanding including Reid Lozier and former Canadian champion Scott Schiffner. He actually hooked three of the four including Scott on the last day.”

Van Helsing didn’t take kindly to his retirement, however, so Roy, again, found himself loading his prized bull up and making a few rodeo appearances.

“We bucked him maybe eight years, which is an incredibly long time for a bull,” Roy said. “He’s one of those bulls that just seems to never get older. Last fall he was standing around here at the ranch fighting and causing a pain every day so we put him on the truck and took him to some rodeos to get that out of him.”

Van Helsing, now 12 years old, still resides happily on the C+ Rodeos ranch.

Asked what makes for a successful bucking horse or bucking bull, Roy said there’s no way to truly know.

“With us we breed them that way,” he said. “Really, though, when you find them you can’t tell until you buck them. Very few work out because once you conquer them a couple of times they quit. They’re smart animals. Most of them say, well, I don’t want to do this, but the few that do it for a long time are either very stubborn or enjoy doing it. But until you put them in the chutes and buck them you don’t know.”

Roy said he hopes his animal athletes will put on the show of a lifetime this year when the 90th anniversary of the Williams Lake Stampede rides into town.

“The Stampede is our most fun event of the year,” he said. “You get the best guys in the world. With us and the horses and the bulls and all the people in the community involved it’s just a great event.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Audrey McKinnon was officially named the NDP nominee for the federal riding of Cariboo-Prince George. (Twitter)
Audrey McKinnon confirmed as Cariboo Prince-George federal NDP nominee

The nomination comes during speculation the federal government

Gibraltar Mine general manager and community sports coach Ben Pierce moved to Williams Lake in 2008 for a career, and has fallen in love with the area while raising his family in the Cariboo. (Photo submitted)
OUR HOMETOWN: Mine manager on solid ground

Juggling academics, sports and a family was a challenge, but Pierce said he and Liselle made it work

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Stolen truck found broken down on Highway 97C, Williams Lake suspect arrested near Ashcroft

A security guard first noticed the truck, and thought it looked suspicious

Habitat Remediation Working Group takes a tour in 2020 of what was then the newly-constructed confluence of Edney and Hazeltine Creek channels. Mount Polley Mine is expected to reopen by September, 2021. (Photo submitted)
Mount Polley mine expected to open by fall 2021: Imperial Metals

The reopening will create about 300 full-time mining jobs

The red rock garden in Williams Lake was filled with new rocks in recognition of the National Day of Awareness of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Wednesday, May 5, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Red rocks left as reminder of missing and murdered local women in Williams Lake

May 5 marked the National Day for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Victoria police photo of suspected cat thief was just a woman with her own cat

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Findings indicate a culture of racism, misogyny and bullying has gripped the game with 64 per cent of people involved saying players bully others outside of the rink. (Pixabay)
Misogyny, racism and bullying prevalent across Canadian youth hockey, survey finds

56% of youth hockey players and coaches say disrespect to women is a problem in Canada’s sport

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hospital investigating whether Alberta woman who died after AstraZeneca shot was turned away

Woman was taken off life support 12 days after getting vaccine

People line up for COVID-19 vaccination at a drop-in clinic at Cloverdale Recreation Centre on Wednesday, April 27, 2021. Public health officials have focused efforts on the Fraser Health region. (Aaron Hinks/Peace Arch News)
B.C. reports first vaccine-induced blood clot; 684 new COVID cases Thursday

Two million vaccine doses reached, hospital cases down

Allayah Yoli Thomas had recently turned 12 years old when she died of a suspected drug overdose April 15. (Courtesy of Adriana Londono)
Suspected overdose death of Vancouver Island 12 year old speaks to lack of supports

Allayah Yoli Thomas was found dead by her friend the morning of April 15

Most Read