From The Multilingual Encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
A Charolais bull.

A bull is an intact (i.e., not castrated) adult male of the species Bos taurus (cattle). More muscular and aggressive than the female of the species, the cow, the bull has long been an important symbol in many cultures, and plays a significant role in both beef ranching and dairy farming, and in a variety of other cultural activities.

Nomenclature[edit | edit source]

The female counterpart to a bull is a cow, while a male of the species who has been castrated is a steer, ox[1] or bullock, although in North America this last term refers to a young bull, and in Australia to a draught animal. Usage of these terms varies considerably with area and dialect. Colloquially, people unfamiliar with cattle may refer to both castrated and intact animals as "bulls".

A wild, young, unmarked bull is known as a micky in Australia.[2] Improper or late castration on a bull results in it becoming a coarse steer, also known as a stag in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.[3] In some countries an incompletely castrated male is known also as a rig or ridgling.

The word "bull" also denotes the males of other bovines, including bison and water buffalo as well as many other species of large animals including elephants, rhinos, walruses, hippos, camels, giraffes, elk, moose, whales and even crocodiles.

Characteristics[edit | edit source]

Bulls are much more muscular than cows, with thicker bones, larger feet, a very muscular neck, and a large, bony head with protective ridges over the eyes. These features assist bulls in fighting for domination over a herd, giving the winner superior access to cows for reproduction.[4] The hair is generally shorter on the body, but on the neck and head there is often a "mane" of curlier, wooly hair. Bulls are usually about the same height as cows or a little taller, but because of the additional muscle and bone mass they often weigh far more. Most of the time, a bull has a hump on its shoulders.[5] When a bull is full-grown, it can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds.[5]

In horned cattle the horns of bulls tend to be thicker and somewhat shorter than those of cows,[6] and in many breeds they curve outwards in a flat arc rather than upwards in a lyre shape. It is not true, as is commonly believed, that bulls have horns and cows do not: the presence of horns depends on the breed, or in horned breeds on whether the horns have been disbudded (conversely, in many breeds of sheep indeed only the males have horns). Cattle that naturally do not have horns are referred to as polled, or muleys.[7]

Castrated male cattle are physically similar to females in build and horn shape, although if allowed to reach maturity they may be considerably taller than either bulls or cows, with heavily muscled shoulders (but not necks).[8]

Reproductive anatomy[edit | edit source]

The reproductive system of a bull

Bulls become fertile at about seven months of age. Their fertility is closely related to the size of their testicles, and one simple test of fertility is to measure the circumference of the scrotum: a young bull is likely to be fertile once this reaches 28 centimetres (11 in); that of a fully adult bull may be over 40 centimetres (16 in).[9][10]

Bulls have a fibro-elastic penis. Given the small amount of erectile tissue, there is little enlargement after erection. The penis is quite rigid when non-erect, and becomes even more rigid during erection. Protrusion is not affected much by erection, but more by relaxation of the retractor penis muscle and straightening of the sigmoid flexure.[11][12][13] Bulls are occasionally affected by a condition known as "corkscrew penis".[14][15] The penis of a mature bull is about 3–4 cm in diameter,[16][17][18][19] and 80–100 cm in length.[20] The bull's glans penis has a rounded and elongated shape.[20]

Behavior[edit | edit source]

A common misconception widely repeated in depictions of bull behavior is that the color red angers bulls, inciting them to charge. In fact, like most mammals, cattle are red-green color blind.[21] In bullfighting, it is the movement of the matador's cape, and not the color, which provokes a reaction in the bull.

Management[edit | edit source]

Beef production[edit | edit source]

Other than the few bulls needed for breeding, the vast majority of male cattle are slaughtered for meat before the age of three years, except where they are needed (castrated) as work oxen for haulage. Most of these beef animals are castrated as calves to reduce aggressive behavior and prevent unwanted mating,[22] although some are reared as uncastrated bull beef. A bull is typically ready for slaughter one or two months sooner than a castrated male or a female, and produces proportionately more, leaner muscle.[22]

Frame score is a useful way of describing the skeletal size of bulls and other cattle. Frame scores can be used as an aid to predict mature cattle sizes and aid in the selection of beef bulls. Frame scores are calculated from hip height and age. In sales catalogues, this measurement is frequently reported in addition to weight and other performance data such as estimated breed value (EBV).[23]

Temperament and handling[edit | edit source]

A bull paws up dust in a threat display
A warning sign for a bull-occupied field

Adult bulls may weigh between 500 and 1,000 kilograms (1,100 and 2,200 lb). Most are capable of aggressive behavior and require careful handling to ensure safety of humans and other animals. Those of dairy breeds may be more prone to aggression, while beef breeds are somewhat less aggressive, though beef breeds such as the Spanish Fighting Bull and related animals are also noted for aggressive tendencies, which are further encouraged by selective breeding.

It is estimated that 42% of all livestock-related fatalities in Canada are a result of bull attacks, and fewer than one in twenty victims of a bull attack survives.[24] Dairy breed bulls are particularly dangerous and unpredictable; the hazards of bull handling are a significant cause of injury and death for dairy farmers in some parts of the United States[25][26][27] The need to move a bull in and out of its pen to cover cows exposes the handler to serious jeopardy of life and limb.[28] Being trampled, jammed against a wall or gored by a bull was one of the most frequent causes of death in the dairy industry before 1940.[29] With regard to such risks, one popular farming magazine has suggested, "Handle [the bull] with a staff and take no chances. The gentle bull, not the vicious one, most often kills or maims his keeper".[30]

On the other hand, and like other domestic animals, some bulls have saved human lives. For instance, when the Beast of Gevaudan terrorized people in France in the 18th century, some people were saved by their bulls.[31]

Handling[edit | edit source]

A bull with a nose ring, tethered to a picket

It is traditional in many areas to place rings in bulls' noses to help control them. The ring is usually made of copper, and is inserted through a small hole cut in the septum of the nose. It is used by attaching a lead rope either directly to it or running through it from a head collar, or for more difficult bulls, a bull pole (or bull staff) may be used. This is a rigid pole about 1 metre (3 ft) long with a clip at one end; this attaches to the ring and allows the bull both to be led and to be held away from his handler.

An aggressive bull may be kept confined in a bull pen: a robustly-constructed shelter and pen, often with an arrangement to allow the bull to be fed without entering the pen. If an aggressive bull is allowed to graze outside, additional precautions may be needed to help avoid his harming people. One method is a bull mask, which either covers the bull's eyes completely, or restricts his vision to the ground immediately in front of him, so he cannot see his potential victim. Another method is to attach a length of chain to the bull's nose-ring, so that if he ducks his head to charge, he steps on the chain and is brought up short. Alternatively, the bull may be hobbled, or chained by his ring or by a collar to a solid object such as a ring concreted into the ground.

In larger pastures, particularly where a bull is kept with other cattle, the animals may simply be fed from a pickup truck or tractor, the vehicle itself providing some protection for the humans involved. Generally, bulls kept with cows tend to be less aggressive than those kept alone. In herd situations, cows with young calves are often more dangerous to humans. In the off season, multiple bulls may be kept together in a "bachelor herd".

Artificial insemination[edit | edit source]

Many cattle ranches and stations run bulls with cows, and most dairy or beef farms traditionally had at least one, if not several, bulls for purposes of herd maintenance.[32][33] However, the problems associated with handling a bull (particularly where cows must be removed from its presence to be worked) has prompted many dairy farmers to restrict themselves to artificial insemination (AI) of the cows.[34] Semen is removed from the bulls and stored in canisters of liquid nitrogen, where it is kept until it can be sold, at which time it can be very profitable, in fact, many ranchers keep bulls specifically for this purpose. AI is also used to increase the quality of a herd, or to introduce an outcross of bloodlines. Some ranchers prefer to use AI to allow them to breed to several different bulls in a season or to breed their best stock to a higher quality bull than they could afford to purchase outright. AI may also be used in conjunction with embryo transfer to allow cattle producers to add new breeding to their herds.

Relationship with humans[edit | edit source]

A bull used in heraldry: Coat of arms of Mecklenburg region, Germany
An aurochs bull in a cave painting in Lascaux, France.

Aside from their reproductive duties, bulls are also used in certain sports, including bullfighting and bull riding. They are also incorporated into festivals and folk events such as the Running of the Bulls and were seen in ancient sports such as bull-leaping. Though less common than castrated males, bulls are used as draught oxen in some areas.[35][36] The once-popular sport of bull-baiting, in which a bull is attacked by specially bred and trained dogs (which came to be known as bulldogs), was banned in England by the Cruelty to Animals Act 1835.

As with other animals, some bulls have been regarded as pets. The singer Charo, for instance, has owned a pet bull named Manolo.[37]

Significance in human culture[edit | edit source]

Bulls have held a place of significance in human culture since before the beginning of recorded history. They appear in cave paintings estimated to be up to 17,000 years old. The mythic Bull of the Heavens plays a role in the ancient Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, dating as far back as 2150 BC. The importance of the bull is reflected in its appearance in the zodiac as Taurus, and its numerous appearances in mythology, where it is often associated with fertility. See also Korban. In Hinduism, a bull named Nandi, usually depicted seated, is worshipped as the vehicle of the god Shiva and depicted on many of the images of that God. Symbolically, the bull appears commonly in heraldry, and, in modern times, as a mascot for both amateur and professional sports teams.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Delbridge, A, et al., Macquarie Dictionary, The Book Printer, Australia, 1991
  2. Sheena Coupe (ed.), Frontier Country, Vol. 1 (Weldon Russell Publishing, Willoughby, 1989), ISBN 1-875202-01-3
  3. "Sure Ways to Lose Money on Your Cattle". Spiritwoodstockyards.ca. Retrieved 2012-08-06. 
  4. C. J. C. Phillips, Principles of Cattle Production (2010), p. 50.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Woods, Katie (30 July 2015). "How to determine if cattle are bulls, steers, cows or heifers - Farm and Dairy". Farm and Dairy. Retrieved December 27, 2017. 
  6. Klaus-Dieter Budras, et al, Bovine Anatomy: An Illustrated Text (2003), p. 36.
  7. "Muley". The Free Dictionary. Retrieved December 27, 2017. 
  8. TIM TRAINOR Montana Standard (2010-04-28). "Example of large steer". Missoulian.com. Retrieved 2012-08-06. 
  9. "A P Carter, P D P Wood and Penelope A Wright (1980), Association between scrotal circumference, live weight and sperm output in cattle, Journal of Reproductive Fertility, 59, pp 447–451." (PDF). Retrieved 2012-08-06. 
  10. "G Jayawardhana (2006), Testicle Size – A Fertility Indicator in Bulls, Australian Government Agnote K44." (PDF). Northern Territory of Australian. Agnote. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 28, 2016. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
  11. Sarkar, A. (2003). Sexual Behaviour In Animals. Discovery Publishing House. ISBN 978-81-7141-746-9. https://books.google.com/books?id=bsCiWUiPY5UC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q=bull&f=false. 
  12. Functional Anatomy and Physiology of Domestic Animals – William O. Reece – Google Boeken. Books.google.com. 2009-03-04. ISBN 978-0-8138-1451-3. https://books.google.com/books?id=naSWWxJLcd0C&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q=bull%20sigmoid%20flexure&f=false. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  13. Modern Livestock and Poultry Production – James R. Gillespie, Frank B. Flanders – Google Boeken. Books.google.com. 2009-01-28. ISBN 1-4283-1808-9. https://books.google.com/books?id=7Z9o_vGPP4cC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q=bull%20sigmoid%20flexure&f=false. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  14. Fubini, Susan L; Ducharme, Norm (2004-01-15). Farm Animal Surgery. ISBN 1-4160-6465-6. https://books.google.com/?id=6MaO63mKKrsC&pg=PT1619&dq=bull+%22corkscrew+penis%22. 
  15. Price, Edward O (2008). Principles and Applications of Domestic Animal Behavior: An Introductory Text. ISBN 978-1-78064-055-6. https://books.google.com/?id=Ww07sIWTYAAC&pg=PA105&dq=bull+%22corkscrew+penis%22#v=onepage&q=bull%20%22corkscrew%20penis%22&f=false. 
  16. Practical Atlas of Ruminant and Camelid Reproductive Ultrasonography. Books.google.com. 2009-09-24. https://books.google.com/books?id=ganPdPc1tUMC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q=penis&f=false. Retrieved 2013-06-22. 
  17. Cattle Medicine – Philip R. Scott, Colin D. Penny, Alastair Macrae. Books.google.com. 2011-07-15. https://books.google.com/books?id=0r4r5qR0NVAC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q=penis&f=false. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  18. Reproductive Pathology of Domestic Mammals – Mark McEntee. Books.google.com. 1990-08-28. https://books.google.com/books?id=j87wTz362roC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q=penis&f=false. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  19. Clinical Examination of Farm Animals – Peter Jackson, Peter Cockcroft. Books.google.com. 2008-04-15. https://books.google.com/books?id=yuBSW1_MyGUC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q=penis&f=false. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 Heide Schatten; Gheorghe M. Constantinescu (21 March 2008). Comparative Reproductive Biology. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-39025-2. https://books.google.com/books?id=6iNdSk7gPf4C&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q=bull&f=false. 
  21. "Longhorn_Information – handling". ITLA. Archived from the original on 2010-05-11. Retrieved 2010-03-28. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 Castration of Calves Factsheet, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, June 2007.
  23. "Frame scoring of beef cattle". New South Wales Government. Department of Primary Industries. 13 September 2007. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
  24. "Handling Livestock Successfully" (PDF). Canadian Farming Administration. 2000. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 12, 2016. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
  25. "Larry D. Jacobson, Extension Agricultural Engineer, Safe Work Practices on Dairy Farms, University of Minnesota Extension Services (1989)". University of Minnesota - Extension. www.extension.umn.edu. Archived from the original on July 12, 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2018. During the last 10 years, 12 farmers in Minnesota were mauled and gored to death by dairy bulls 
  26. Cumberland County (Pa.) Sentinel, Shippensburg, Pa., February 12, 2008 A farmer in Southampton County, Michigan, was killed by a 2000 pound Holstein bull in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, in February, 2008.
  27. The Reading [Pennsylvania]Eagle, March 1, 2010 On February 28, 2010, a farmer near Reading, Pennsylvania was trampled and gored to death by a 2000 lb. black Angus bull that he had been urged to get rid of by friends after earlier mishaps. Michelle Park, "Bull attacks, kills owner at South Heidelberg Township farm".
  28. Alvin H. Clement, We Gotta Have More Jails, The Writer's Club Press, New York (1984–87), at pp. 79-80. A humorous description of moving a cow to a neighbor's Jersey bull for breeding purposes, and the use of a 12-foot bull staff to get the loose-running bull under control after he had already spotted the cow
  29. O.C. Gregg, Ed., Minnesota Farmer's Institute Annual No. 15, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn. (1902), at p. 125; The James Way, The James Manufacturing Co., Ft. Atkinson, Wisc. (1914), p. 103.
  30. Helpful Information for Dairymen, The Farmer, Webb Publishing Co., St. Paul, Minnesota, Mar. 12, 1927, p. 6
  31. Todaro, Giovanni (1 January 2014). "The man-eater of Gévaudan". Google Books. Lulu.com. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
  32. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Yearbook 1922, Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. (1922), pp. 325-28 (noting a national on-farm bull population of over 600,000 "scrub" bulls in addition to a multi-year supply of "pure bred" bulls)
  33. O.C. Gregg, Ed., Minnesota Farmer's Institute Annual No. 15, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn. (1902), pp.129-32 (recommending the keeping and testing of sires for dairy herd improvement).
  34. C. J. C. Phillips, Principles of Cattle Production (2010), p. 121.
  35. "John C Barret (1991), "The Economic Role of Cattle in Communal Farming Systems in Zimbabwe", to be published in Zimbabwe Veterinary Journal, p 10." (PDF). Retrieved 2012-08-06. 
  36. "Draught Animal Power, an Overview, Agricultural Engineering Branch, Agricultural Support Systems Division, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations". Fiat Panis. Archived from the original on July 1, 2010. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
  37. Capretto, Lisa (10 June 2014). "The Unusual Pet That Upset Charo's Neighbors (Video)". Huffington Post. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 

External links[edit | edit source]

  • Quotations related to Bull at Wikiquote
  • Media related to Bulls at Wikimedia Commons