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Bull rider Luke Snyder gets his 8 seconds in Chicago this weekend

Professional bull rider Luke Snyder learned ropes when he was grade school. 'I just went school [outside Kansas City] learned

Professional bull rider Luke Snyder learned the ropes when he was in grade school. "I just went to school [outside of Kansas City] and learned how to do it when I was 9 years old, like kids go to baseball camp."

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When: 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Allstate Arena, 6920 Mannheim Rd., Rosemont

Tickets: $15-$125

Info: (800) 745-3000;

Updated: January 10, 2013 7:56PM

Call professional bull rider Luke Snyder’s cell phone and you’ll get the sweet sounds of George Strait crooning “Amarillo by Morning.”

And just like Strait sings, Snyder, 30, will be “looking for eight when they pull that gate” at the Allstate Arena this weekend as part of the 2013 PBR Built Ford Tough Series, a bull riding competition that’s traveling the country.

In honor of the eight seconds riders need to stay on the bull to get a score, Snyder, one of the first 20 bull riders to amass more than $1 million in prize money, answered eight city-slicker questions about the professional riding circuit.

1. There’s an old saying — “Take the bull by the horns.” Working with bulls, would you recommend that?

No, not at this level. When we get off we have safety men come in and distract the bulls. We don’t want anything to do with their horns. And some of them are bred without horns.

2. How do you become a professional bull rider?

I just went to school [outside of Kansas City] and learned how to do it when I was 9 years old, like kids go to baseball camp. A lot of guys on tours, their dads rode and their dads taught them.

3. When did bull riders start wearing helmets, and does that mean they can’t wear cowboy hats?

You saw helmets really come into play back in 2005 or 2006. Each year with the new breeding the bulls are getting tougher. Riding without a helmet, it’s like playing professional football without shoulder pads, in my opinion. Some guys still wear cowboy hats [over the helmets].

4. What’s the point of chaps?

They add a slight amount of protection in the shoot. Before we’re getting ready [to ride in the ring] you can get banged along in there, also dragged along the fence. But it goes back more to tradition. It just adds a little extra flash for the fans. It’s also a spot for our sponsors.

5. Is riding a mechanical bull anything like riding a real bull?

No, they’re completely opposite. The bulls we get on are 2,000 pounds. They move freely. They cover ground. They have hide rolls — loose skin. They’re bred exactly like thoroughbred race horses. A lot of the blood lines of top bulls go back to the same bucking bulls. As soon as you see it live, you’ll see the care and everything that goes into these animals.

6. How are city audiences compared to those who are more familiar with the sport?

On a tour, everywhere we ride is a big city. When we go to Dallas they may know a little more about [bull riding] but the energy in New York City last weekend was better than anywhere down south. They don’t know what to expect. It definitely helps us when the crowd gets into it.

7. Are there bull rider groupies?

In any extreme sport, especially, you see the same gals show up to a lot of events. We call them buckle bunnies. We have a big female audience.

8. For those watching bull riding for the first time, what should they look for?

Any scores over 90 points are equivalent to a home run. We’ve got an exclusive entertainer, kind of like an emcee, who also gets the crowd involved. We’ve got a T-shirt cannon. It’s a lot like a hockey game, the same kind of music. You’ll see 35 guys get on the best bulls in the world. It’s constant action, constant adrenaline.

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