Human Interaction

R.C. Bridges Interview Fatal Attractions

posted: 05/15/12
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R.C. Bridges Interview

A discussion with the man who keeps a bison as a pet.

R.C. Bridges and his buffalo, Wild Thing, are one of the happier pairs featured in Fatal Attractions. Find out more about their relationship in our exclusive interview.

Animal Planet: What made you want to take on the challenge and danger of having a bison as a pet? How did you get him?

R.C. Bridges: We had a herd of buffalo and I lost my left eye about six years ago, and I had to have it replaced. So, I sold my herd because we had no income, but I kept one calf. I always wanted to train [a buffalo], I just never had time to.

Animal Planet: So, at that point you had had experience with Buffalo?

R.C. Bridges: Yeah, I've been experienced with them since 1995, and I had the world's first buffalo petting in 1996.

APL: What initially attracted you to that animal?

Bridges: I was fascinated with them when I was a kid. Then, in 1995, what attracted me to them besides being buffalo, which I was already fascinated with, was that I needed something to train my horses with that wouldn't quit on me. Cattle quit on you real quick. A buffalo could last me two years or longer. They just don't wear out. They're just a wild animal, and they've got more energy and stamina than cattle do.

APL: So you were pretty well prepared to deal with the challenges of having a buffalo?

Bridges: Well, yeah, I thought I could handle it. He was rough in the beginning, and I got him from a boarder/trainer who was quite a bit younger than I am, and he backed out on me. He was in his 30s and I was in my 50s when we started with him. And, you know, I wasn't supposed to do it because I had to be careful because of my eye, but I didn't want to give up so I just kept working with him. And the boy who helped me can't even go around [Wild Thing] now, because he will attack him.

APL: On that note, you say in the episode that Wild Thing will never be a safe animal. Are you prepared for what may happen if he ever does lash out in a catastrophic way?

Bridges: Well we try to keep everything safe now. For some odd reason in the house it seems like everybody is safe. And, you know, there's not a guarantee in life about anything. But, for my own deal -- and it doesn't mean this will work -- but, I've trained him to get away from me when I get his horns. So, if he ever attacks me, I'll grab his horns and shake them, if I can, and get him off of me, or make him get away from me. Because he thinks I've got him if I've got his horns, that doesn't mean it's going to work for sure, but I'm hoping it's going to work.

APL: That's sort of similar to what you say in the episode about making Wild Thing think that you're bigger and stronger than he is, to maintain a sense of control.

APL:Well, in the episode you talk a lot about making him think that you are bigger than him or that you have more power than he does...

Bridges: Well it's like people who raise wolves. You have to make yourself the Alpha, you have to be the tough one, you have to show that you're in charge of the situation. Then also, our deal isn't just based on that, it's also based on love and affection. I'm not out there being macho all the time with him by any means, or trying to prove that I'm the boss. Most of the time I'm proving to him how much I care about him. And he loves being with me. He loves being brushed. I brush him at least twice a day and sometimes four or five times a day because he just eats it up. He knows who feeds him and he knows I'd go out of the way to make him happy, and he seems to do the same for me. He's very well taken care of, and he's happy too. He's a happy buffalo.

APL: In the episode, one of the most memorable moments was when you went swimming with Wild Thing. Have you made that more of a regular activity?

Bridges: Oh it was my favorite moment too. Now that the weather's cold, we're not, but next summer, oh yeah, we're going swimming.

APL: Time for a tougher question. In the episode it says that 90% of buffalo trainers have been injured or killed. What is your reaction to that statistic, and how does that knowledge factor into your mindset of having Wild Thing?

Bridges: Well, I plan on being in the other 10% of trainers. But, I think what is happening ... is that the 10% of the trainers are doing it right and spending a lot of time with their buffalos. Like, the boy [in the news] who got killed a couple of years ago by his, he was just trying to do this every once in a while. There's no way you can do this every once in the while. This is an everyday deal. You have no days off. It's a big commitment when you get into something like this. And something that I didn't say on the show that I wish I had is that there's a reason they don't use buffalos in rodeos. You don't see them swapping out bulls for buffalos because the clowns can't out-maneuver them and can't outrun them, and the riders are going to get killed. They don't show them in halter ... they just won't stand still and do what they're supposed to. I don't think anybody could halter a buffalo.

APL: What makes you prefer buffalo over cattle?

Bridges: Well I've done the cattle too. I've been hurt by them. I had a 2300 lb. one get me down and tear the muscle off my leg. Luckily he didn't crush my chest like that poor Ricky boy featured on the episode. I crawled out of the pen. I've been horned in the face three times, I've had my teeth kicked out three times ... I didn't mention that on the show.

APL: Is there anything you're working specifically on in training with Wild Thing at the moment?

Bridges: Not to much that I can think of. Some of the things I have done like riding a chariot behind him and plowing the garden, I had seen the situation where I didn't feel like I was going to get hurt, but I felt like I was going to get him hurt, so I quit [doing those things]. I nearly got him hurt last time I did the chariot deal, and he tore the chariot to pieces, which was no big deal, but I was scared I was going to hurt him. I've never been scared that I'm going to get hurt, just that I was going to hurt him.

APL: How much interaction does your wife have with Wild Thing?

Bridges: She pats him and stuff, but she's not involved in the training. She's ridden a snow sled behind him and she's ridden on the skis behind him. She's the first woman to have ridden a chariot behind a buffalo. So she's been involved. She likes me to be able to be between her and Wild Thing, because she feels that he should back down from me if there was a problem.

APL: And she's comfortable with Wild Thing being in the house?

Bridges: Oh, very comfortable. It seems like, what I'm noticing with him in the house, is that he respects our property so much that he doesn't even bother people that much, whereas he might bother them outside.

APL: You joked in the episode about you and Wild Thing watching TV together. So, it begs the question: Did Wild Thing watch the Fatal Attractions episode?

Bridges: No, he hasn't watched it yet, he really doesn't pay much attention to the TV. I was kidding mostly when I said that.

APL: Any last words about your relationship with Wild Thing, or the episode?

Bridges: He has just been a wonderful part of our lives. He's brought us a lot of happiness and joy, even before we were ever in a newspaper. We were having a ball with him. And if nothing had ever happened, I would've done everything I've done now. I would still be going because this is my entertainment.

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