All Inductees

Rudy E. Vela

Empty Saddles

Rudy Vela is a true Texas legend who spent a lifetime setting the standards as a stock contractor and in the sport of rodeo. His devotion to the ranching industry, as a second generation South Texas rancher, spanned over 50 years. Vela’s ranch was recognized in 1978 as a Texas Century Ranch by the State of Texas. In 1953, Rudy’s roping talents earned him a trip to the National High School Rodeo finals. He was awarded the coveted Sportsmanship award. He continued his rodeo career as a member of the rodeo team for Texas A&I University. Later, Rudy was instrumental in establishing a rodeo team at the Pan American College in Edinburg.

However, Rudy’s innate calling to be a stock contractor sent him on a different path. His first “rodeo” was in Zapata, Texas. Vela Rodeo produced rodeos all over the State of Texas and the Country for top rodeos and associations. Vela’s bulls were elite in their field and earned Rudy the nick-name “Bullman”. Throughout the 60’s, Vela was the only stock contractor to have an all black herd. By 1970, Vela Rodeo was partnered with the most influential in the sport of rodeo and continued to provide quality stock at the best rodeos including to the Loretta Lynn Rodeo tour. That same year Vela bull, V-61, was awarded the prestigious “Bull of the year” and was featured in Life magazine.

In the 80’s, Vela bulls became record setters. Savage Seven, who won bull of the year in back to back years in 1981 and 82, joined the Vela stock. In 1987, Savage Seven was retired at the National Finals Rodeo with a winning 10th round ride by Tuff Hedeman. Vela bulls continued to dominate as they combined their efforts at the 1985 Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo to make rodeo history. Each round of the bull riding, including the short go, was won by winning rides on Vela bulls. Vela became the first Hispanic stock contractor in 1983 to join the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association. Officially by 1986, Vela Rodeo became known as the now iconic Vela & Sons.

Today the Vela stock contracting dynasty continues with the fifth and sixth generations of the Vela family to carrying on the “family tradition”. Rudy and his wife Betty were married for 44 years until his death in 1999. Rudy leaves his six children, numerous grandchildren, and his legacy.