Bulls are extremely strong on an objective level (they are strong enough to flip cars, and can pull roughly their own weight. With some bulls weighing up to 3000 lbs, that’s a lot of pulling power!
In this article, we’re going to look at the insane strength of bulls, learn how and why they are so powerful, and put their power in practical terms to get a better understanding of how their strength compares to other animals.
How Strong are Bulls?
You may have heard the phrase “as strong as an ox”. Well, guess what… Oxen and bulls are the same animals.
Bulls are extremely strong, although just like humans the exact strength of each bull depends on the individual animal. As a rough estimate, bulls are strong enough to pull roughly their own bodyweight.
Read More: How Big are Cows?
What Makes a Bull so Strong?
In the wild, cattle were much leaner than the domestic cows we see today, and having excess muscle would have been an evolutionary disadvantage since it also comes with increased energy requirements.
The strength of today’s bulls is largely due to their extreme muscle mass compared to their body weight, which has gradually increased over the centuries as farmers selectively breed their cattle, selecting only the biggest and strongest bulls to create the next generation of the herd.
In a report by Don Blakely, leader of the Beef Quality Assurance Program at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, it was found that most bulls have a total muscle mass of between 49 and 63% of their body weight.
Given that some bulls can weigh up to 3000lbs, it’s easy to see why bulls are so strong.
How Much Weight can a Bull Lift?
According to Lancaster Farming, a bull can expect to pull around its own body weight at a walking pace, but that for short bursts, they could be expected to pull up to double their bodyweight
As an example, one of the heaviest common breeds of cattle are Hereford cattle. Herefords are commonly raised for meat, since they are larger and hardier than the more common Black Angus cattle.
A hereford bull weights around 1,800lbs, which means we could reasonably expect it to pull around 1,800lbs at a walking pace, and up to 3,600lbs in short bursts.
Comparisons to Other Animals
How bulls compare in strength to other animals depends on two factors. The mass of the animal in question, and the percentage of muscle in their bodies.
Cow vs Bull
Typically, cows are not as strong as bulls, since the male of the species is typically larger and stronger than the female.
Even compared to other male cattle, bulls are usually larger and stronger. This is because most male cattle are castrated, which inhibits the production of testosterone. (Testosterone is an anabolic hormone, which means it promotes muscle growth)
Dairy vs Beef Bulls
All bulls are strong, but beef bulls are usually stronger than dairy bulls.
Dairy cattle are selectively bred to be efficient milk producers, which means they are more lightweight with less muscle and less dense bones than beef breeds. In comparison, beef cattle are are selectively bred to be as large as possible to maximize the meat yield.
Bull vs. Man
In an article in Scientific American from all the way back in 1857, it was estimated that an average human man could exert a “dragging force” of 107lbs for short periods.
If we compare human strength with the strength of a Hereford bull, which can drag 3,600lbs for short bursts, we can calculate that a bull is around 34 times stronger than a human.
Let’s take a look at a few animals and see how a bull stacks up:
Bull vs Lion
In general, a regular cattle bull is going to be a lot stronger than a lion in terms of brute force. Bulls are more than four times as massive as lions, with the largest male lions reaching a weight of around 180kg or 400lbs, compared to 1800lbs for a bull.
Bull vs Horse
Both horses and bulls (in the form of oxen) have been used for ploughing fields and hauling cargo for thousands of years, so we have lots of experience with the two species.
In general, bulls are stronger than horses. When selecting an animal for draft, farmers found that bulls (oxen) could not only pull heavier ploughs than horses, but that they could pull for longer without becoming tired.
Bull vs Buffalo
Buffalo (or Bison) are usually larger than domestic cattle, and with a higher overall level of muscle as a percentage of their body mass.
Buffalo bulls have much larger and stronger front quarters than a regular domestic cattle bull.
For this reason, some ranches are raising a buffalo/domestic cattle hybrid called beefalo. The advantages of this cross breed are that they inherit the more docile and less aggressive nature of domestic cattle, while also inheriting the higher protein beef from the buffalo.
Read More: Are Cows Buffalo?
Strongest Parts of a Bull
Bulls’ strongest muscles are found in their shoulders, and in their necks. Bulls have huge muscles in their necks, called scalene muscles which are necessary to manage their large, heavy skull.
Bulls’ necks are very strong. There have even been instances of bulls lifting up cars with their necks and horns!
Legs and Kick
Bulls and cows can deliver a dangerous kick, but only from their hind legs.
A bull’s kick is strong enough to break bones and to throw a human several feet backwards.
Farmers know that bulls can be extremely dangerous, which is why bulls are usually kept in a separate enclosure called a bull pen.
In a paper published in the Journal of Mechanics in Medicine and Biology, it was found that bull horns were over seven times stronger than solid bone, with a tensile strength of 162 Megapascals (MPa) at its strongest point.
To put that in to perspective, here is a comparison of the tensile strength of bull horns compared with other common materials:
|Material||Tensile Strength (MPa)|
Source: Engineering Toolbox
To sum up, bulls are extremely strong, being able to pull up to twice their own body weight for short bursts.
Bulls’ strength is mostly foud in their shoulders and necks, and there have been instances of bulls lifting entire cars off the ground with their horns.
Humans have been making use of bulls’ strength for centuries, by raising them for draft and having them plough fields and haul other farm equipment. When a bull is raised for this purpose, they are called an ox.