Bull Sharks: Types, Diet, Location, and Temperament

The bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) is a type of requiem shark, putting it in the same family as tiger sharks and spinner sharks. It’s not the biggest shark species in the sea, but it’s one of the most ferocious.

About Bull Sharks

In many parts of Africa, the bull shark is known as a Zambezi shark while in parts of South and Central America it’s the Lake Nicaragua shark. It is also known as a Ganges River shark.

The varied names stem from the many habitats in which the bull shark resides. It can live in both saltwater and freshwater and is found all over the world.

The name “Carcharhinus leucas” comes from the Greek words for “shark” and “nose”, while the “bull shark” name stems from the creature’s short, thick, and stocky frame.

Bull Shark Appearance

Although they are far from the longest type of sharks, the width and stockiness of the bull shark is quite imposing.

They have a short and rounded snout and very small eyes. The bull shark belly is white and they have a dark grey body.

One of the most distinctive features is a triangle-shaped dorsal fin.

How Big Is A Bull Shark?

Adult bull sharks are around 8 feet in length and can weigh approximately 300 pounds on average, with female sharks being larger and heavier than males.

At their biggest, bull sharks can stretch to around 13 feet, although it’s rare for them to grow this big.

Compared to other requiem sharks, bull sharks are usually stockier and heavier, but there are larger sharks in this species. The tiger shark, for instance, can grow up to 18 feet.

Where Do Bull Sharks Live?

You can find bull sharks in coastal waters throughout the world, including the East Coast of the United States and in the Gulf of Mexico.

One of the unique things about this shark species is that they can also be found in rivers and lakes, including the Amazon, Brisbane River, and the Ohio River.

Are Bull Sharks Dangerous?

Bull sharks are considered to be one of the most dangerous sharks in the world. The fact that they stick to rivers and shallow coastal waters means they regularly come into contact with humans. They are also aggressive, fast, and strong. However, the odds of being attacked by one of these creatures is very low.

Films like Jaws have conditioned us to see sharks as the ultimate ocean predators—man-eaters with an insatiable appetite for human flesh.

But as with everything else, we are more of a threat to them than they are to us. In fact, just 80 incidents of shark attacks are recorded every single year, yet millions of sharks are killed as a result of shark fin fishing and the use of shark nets.

There are just under 500 species of shark in the world and only three of these are responsible for double-digit shark attacks. The bull shark is one of those three, with the tiger shark and the great white shark being the other two.

So, if we compare bull sharks to other species of sharks, they are dangerous. If you’re swimming next to a bull shark and provoking it, they’re incredibly dangerous. But in the grand scheme of things, you don’t need to worry about them. More people are killed from vending machines than bull sharks.

Can Bull Sharks Live In Freshwater?

Yes, bull sharks can survive in freshwater for long periods of time. They have been found in rivers all over the world.

Bull sharks are some of the only cartilaginous fish found in freshwater and they are able to survive a variety of salinities.

What Do Bull Sharks Eat?

A bull shark’s diet consists of everything from bony fish to small sharks, sea turtles, sea birds, and even other bull sharks. It’s a pretty varied diet, although bony fishes are the bull shark’s primary source of food.

Bull sharks are apex predators, putting them at the top of the food chain. However, they can also be prey for other, larger sharks. To escape predators, they will often regurgitate the food in their stomachs, thus distracting the predator and giving them some extra time to escape.

FAQs About Bull Sharks

How big are young bull sharks, how aggressive are adult bull sharks, and do they attack humans? There are still a few questions to answer about this shark species, so let’s take a look!

Are Bull Sharks Aggressive?

Bull sharks can be very aggressive, even more so than other dangerous shark species. They have powerful jaws, sharp reactions, and even sharper teeth. They are also opportunistic predators and will seek to eat quickly.

Do Bull Sharks Attack Humans?

The fact that bull sharks live near the coast and in rivers gives them easier access to humans and they are known to attack. However, they don’t see humans as prey and oftentimes their attacks are the result of curiosity or error. They may also attack if they are provoked.

Are There Bull Sharks In Lake Michigan?

It’s highly unlikely that you will find bull sharks in Lake Michigan. The water itself isn’t the problem, but the temperature is.

In the future, as the earth heats up and the water temperature increases, that might change, but for now, you probably won’t encounter these ferocious sharks in Lake Michigan.

Bull sharks have been found in some strange places, including Lake Pontchartrain following the disastrous Hurricane Katrina.

How Fast Can A Bull Shark Swim?

This aggressive species of shark can reach speeds of up to 25 MPH or around 40 KPH. They are incredibly fast and agile creatures. For perspective, the fastest human swimmers can reach speeds of around 5 or 6 MPH unassisted.

In other words, if there is a bull shark heading straight for you, trying to swim away probably won’t help you.

How Big Are Juvenile Bull Sharks?

Juvenile sharks are around 27 inches long at birth. Female bull sharks reach maturity at around 18 years and gestate for a year, producing between 1 and 13 young bull sharks.

Juvenile bull sharks are free-swimming when they are born and the parents don’t do much to protect them. However, they are born in safe areas, ensuring they remain safe as they mature.

Are They A Threatened Shark Species?

Bull sharks are classed as “Vulnerable”, which means they are threatened but there is no immediate cause for concern. However, if their numbers continue to drop as a result of climate change and commercial fishing, that could change.

Summary: Bull Sharks

Although bull sharks are considered to be one of the most dangerous sharks in the world, they are also breathtaking creatures that are a sight to behold. These stocky beasts are agile hunters and they are incredibly adaptable, thriving in rivers as well as the ocean.

They are a threatened species, but there’s still enough of them not to cause concern and these creatures will be around for some time to come!