Beloved bullfighter and clown Leon Coffee announces retirement from Houston Rodeo

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Monday, March 18, 2024
Leon Coffee, legendary bullfighter and clown set to retire at the end of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo on Sunday
Leon Coffee, who has been a part of Rodeo Houston for nearly 3 decades, will take his last crawl to the barrel after announcing his retirement.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The time has come for the end of a staple at RodeoHouston. Beloved rodeo clown and barrel man Leon Coffee has announced his retirement.

Coffee, the cherished clown and ProRodeo Hall of Fame inductee, is set to hang up the face paint and his signature barrel at the end of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

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The bullfighting clown has painted his face for decades and got big laughs at rodeos nationwide. But despite the makeup and the silly costume, being a rodeo clown is no funny business.

"I'm the barrel man. I'm an island in a sea of sharks," said Coffee. "I've got to be out-of-the-way and ready to get in the way if needed."

In 2022, ABC13 spoke with Coffee about what being a bullfighter entails, mentally and physically.

He first began riding bulls as a young child but then started his bullfighting career before making his official debut in 1993.

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"I don't fear those bulls. I have a healthy respect for their ability to hurt me," said Coffee. "But I also have a very healthy respect for my ability to get around them. You're looking at that bull, and you're going, okay, it's a big game of tag, let's see who's going to get there first. You know, those bulls run 40 miles an hour, and the fastest man in the world can only run 30. And I ain't him," Coffee said in a 2022 interview with ABC13.

Coffee's talent didn't just stop at the Houston Rodeo. He performed at nearly 30 to 45 rodeos every year.

"Simply put, Leon Coffee is the heart of the rodeo; he dedicated his life to protecting cowboys first as a bullfighter, then as a barrel man."

Coffee will take his final crawl and bow at RodeoHouston on Sunday but says it won't be his last rodeo. He says you will see him at the rodeo each year from now on.