Wild Women Of The West: Berenice Dossey

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In early February 1941, more than twenty-five hundred people jammed into the stadium to watch the exciting events at the World’s Championship Rodeo in Phoenix, Arizona. They came to see wild cow riding, calf roping, steer roping, bronc riding, and trick rider Berenice Dossey. Not only was she a “spectacular performer” according to the Arizona Republic newspaper, but she was also known as one of the most beautiful women on the rodeo circuit. Among the myriad of tricks that she perfected on top of her horse Sundee were the hippodrome stand, double vault, and the Cossack drag, where she would hang under her ride’s belly at full gallop. It was her flawless execution of the Cossack drag that helped earn her the title of World Champion Trick rider in 1941 and 1945.

Berenice was born on April 26, 1913, in Ellensburg, Washington. Her parents Louis and Winnifred Smith Blair owned a ranch and its’ there she began riding horses at the age of three. By the time she was twelve she was standing up in the saddle when she rode and attempting a number of other stunts on the backs of the many thoroughbred horses belonging to her father and uncle. Like many skilled horsewomen in the 1930s, Berenice was a part of the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West shows. While she was with the famous show, she not only honed her trick riding skills, but became an accomplished horse racer and an expert of a type of choregraphed dressage riding called quadrille. 

The trick rider’s peers considered her to be a “real trouper of the rodeo game.” On those occasions when she lost her balance and fell to the ground or was thrown off the back of her ride, she always continued with show, doing all the difficult stunts no matter what kind of pain she was experiencing. 

Not only was Berenice an exceptional rider, but she was also a gifted seamstress. She made all the western apparel she wore in the various rodeos in which she participated. 

Berenice worked as a professional trick rider for more than twenty years, performing in rodeos across the United States and Canada. She was married three times. Her second husband, Carl Dossey, was a World Champion bareback rider. The pair were living in Chandler, Arizona, when died tragically trying to stop of team of runaway horses at the Madison Square Garden Rodeo parade held on March 12, 1955. 

The talented Berenice retired in 1956 after marrying Frank Bolen in Nogales, Arizona. The couple moved to California for a brief time before settling in Pocatello, Idaho. Berenice was active in several civic organizations and served as a 4-H leader and was on the board of directors for the Little Britches Miniature Rodeo. Her hobbies included dress pattern making and leather works. She made custom belts for her three adult children, grandchildren, and numerous friends. 

Berenice Blair Taylor Dossey Bolen died of cancer on September 18, 1974, at the age of sixty-one. She was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1991. 

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