Bull Shark vs Great White Shark: Explaining the 9 Main Differences

Bull Shark vs Great White

Written by Krishna Maxwell

Published: June 7, 2024

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There are over 1000 species of sharks living throughout the world. Bull sharks and great white sharks are two of the most interesting. They’re both large sharks that can swim at fast rates of speed. However, there are lots of differences between these two ocean creatures. The most obvious difference is size. Great white sharks are much larger than bull sharks. Also, they live in different areas of the ocean.

Which shark has a reputation for being more dangerous? Does one shark live longer? Is one shark faster? Discover the answers to these questions along with others to learn more about these amazing ocean swimmers.

Bull shark in Caribbean sea.

Bull sharks have high levels of testosterone and are naturally aggressive.

Comparing Bull Sharks vs Great White Sharks

Check out this chart comparing some of the most significant differences between these two sharks.

Bull SharkGreat White
Length:7-11 feet11-20 feet
Weight:200 lbs.-500 lbs.4,200 lbs.- 5,000 lbs.
Color:Gray/brownDark gray, blue, or black
Snout Shape:RoundedSlender
Habitat:Shallow, coastal watersOpen waters
Speed:25mph35mph
Lifespan:12-16 yearsUp to 70 years
Social Behavior:SolitaryLives in groups
Bite Force:1300 PSI625 PSI


The 9 Key Differences Between Bull Sharks vs Great White Sharks

1. Length

In terms of size, great white sharks are longer than bull sharks. While male bull sharks are usually around seven feet long, a female can measure up to 11 feet. Adult male great white sharks are 11 to 13 feet long whereas females can be from 15 to 20 feet long.

2. Weight

The impressive size of a great white shark doesn’t stop with its length. Great white sharks can weigh 5,000 pounds or more when fully grown. Alternatively, adult bull sharks weigh between 200 to 500 pounds as adults.

3. Color

The upper part of a bull shark’s body is gray or brown. A great white shark’s upper body is dark gray, blue, or even black. Both sharks have a light-colored underbelly.

The dark and light coloration helps both sharks to camouflage themselves in the ocean waters. Looking up from below, a shark’s light underbelly helps it to blend in with the sunlight filtering through the surface of the water. Someone looking into the ocean from above would not be likely to see a shark with its dark upper body.

This specific coloration can help a shark sneak up on prey. In fact, these sharks are known to swim well below the surface in order to surprise-attack fish swimming above.

4. Snout Shape

Studying the snout shape of these sharks is helpful in identifying them. The snout of a great white shark is slender and streamlined. Alternatively, a bull shark’s snout is rounded.

5. Habitat

Bull sharks are found swimming in the (relatively) shallow water near coastlines worldwide. Furthermore, they are able to thrive in freshwater habitats. Great white sharks are most likely to be seen swimming out in the open ocean.

Great White Shark

Great white sharks can reach speeds of up to 35 mph.

6. Speed

Both of these sharks are known for their ability to swim at great speeds over short periods of time. However, the great white shark is the faster of the two. It can swim up to 35 mph while the bull shark reaches 25 mph.

7. Lifespan

The great white shark has a lifespan that’s a lot longer than a bull shark. Great white sharks can live up to 70 years while a bull shark lives 12 to 16 years.

8. Social Behavior

The social behavior of these two sharks is another thing that sets them apart. Bull sharks are solitary for the most part. However, they’ve been known to swim with another bull shark when hunting. Great white sharks are social animals cruising through the ocean in schools, otherwise known as shoals.

After capturing prey, great white sharks in a school may fight with one another for a bigger portion of the food. When they do fight, it often causes deadly injury to one or both of them.

9. Bite Force

The bite force of an animal relates to the strength and pressure of its bite. It’s gauged in PSI, or pounds per square inch. A bull shark has a bite force of 1,300 PSI whereas a great white shark has a bite force of 625 PSI.

The weight of a shark has a lot to do with its bite force. A 20-foot great white shark is likely to have a stronger bite force than an eight-foot bull shark.

Summary

When we hear about sharks, we tend to envision the great white. However, there are over 1000 species of shark that range in size from the dwarf lantern shark, which is smaller than a human hand to enormous whale shark – so named for its whale-like proportions. Both the great white and the bull shark are at the larger end of that spectrum. They are both consummate predators and they sometimes prey on the same animals. However, their behavior and social interactions set them apart. While they sometimes share the same waters while hunting, they don’t interact as a rule.

As for which shark is the most dangerous: that mostly depends on where you are. Tiger sharks head the list as most aggressive toward humans. Given that bull sharks prefer shallow water near tropical coastlines, they are the most likely to encounter humans. They are also aggressive and territorial. As a result, the bull shark is listed as the shark most likely to injure people. Great white sharks are most likely to injure people in deeper or colder waters, which is why they are more of a threat to surfers.

Both bull sharks and great white sharks should be given a wide berth and avoided if possible.


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About the Author

Krishna is a lifelong animal owner and advocate. She owns and operates a small farm in upstate New York which she shares with three dogs, four donkeys, one mule, and a cat. She holds a Bachelors in Agricultural Technology and has extensive experience in animal health and welfare. When not working with her own animals and tending her farm, Krishna is helping other animal owners with behavior or management issues and teaching neighboring farmers about Regenerative Agriculture practices.

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