13 Incredible Bull Shark Facts

Written by Heather Ross
Updated: September 19, 2022
© Willyam Bradberry/Shutterstock.com
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Key Points:

  • The female bull shark weights 400-500+ pounds, which is double the weight of a male bull shark.
  • Bull sharks can survive in freshwater, and many have swam thousands of miles upriver!
  • The juvenile bull shark may serve as a decadent meal for another shark, like a tiger shark or great white shark.

The bull shark is an underrated shark that has lived in the shadow of the great white shark and the tiger shark. Yet, did you know that the bite of the bull shark is actually more forceful? Also, unlike the great white or tiger, they can also live in both freshwater and saltwater. Learn 13 incredible bull shark facts, below!

1. Female Bull Sharks Outweigh Male Bull Sharks

Bull shark facts - a bull shark underwater
A bull shark underwater!

©Albert Kok / Creative Commons

The male bull shark is roughly 7 feet long, and 200-300 pounds. Impressive, right? Well, the female bull shark weighs up to double this at 400 to 500-plus pounds! Clearly, a male bull shark would not want to approach an uninterested female bull shark; he might very well get more than he bargained for!

2. The Bull Shark Has More Teeth Than Your Average Shark

Bull sharks not only have super-powerful bites, but they’ve also got way more teeth than your average shark. While most sharks have 5-15 rows of teeth, the bull shark has a whopping 50 rows, each with 7 teeth, for a grand total of 350+ teeth at one time (shark teeth fall out frequently).

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3. Bull Sharks Can Live in Both Saltwater and Freshwater

Most sharks are limited to saltwater. Bull sharks, on the other hand, can live in both, switching between freshwater and saltwater! This is due to a very unique process that they’re capable of. It’s called osmoregulation, and it allows them to adjust the water and salt in their bodies. In saltwater, they will urinate out more salt, to balance it out. In freshwater, they will hold onto more salt and urinate more freshwater. The more you know!

Bull shark facts - a bull shark swimming
A bull shark swimming

©bluehand/Shutterstock.com

4. Bull Shark Fins Are Used as a Delicacy in Soup

Rather tragically, humans are the bull shark’s primary predator. These stout, pale-bellied sharks are hunted for their fins. This is most commonly practiced in Asia, where they are used for a delicacy called shark fin soup.

This used to be fed to royalty but is now saved for weddings and other special occasions (by those who can afford it).  The fin is not used for flavor. Rather, the cartilage is removed from the fin and dried. As it rehydrates in the soup, it soaks up the flavor. While the dish is popular, it may potentially put the long-term wellbeing of the bull shark at risk!

5. Bull Sharks Can Swim (Extremely Far) Upriver

Because they can swim in freshwater (and because they’re very strong swimmers), bull sharks can make it impressively far upriver. In one of the most noteworthy cases, a bull shark was found just under 2500 miles from the ocean! They’ve also been found over a thousand miles up the Mississippi River, and they frequently swim the Zambezi River in Africa and the South Asian Ganges River!

Bull shark facts - mouth of a bull shark

©Willyam Bradberry/Shutterstock.com

6. The Bull Shark is a Super-Opportunistic Eater

The bull shark feeds primarily on fish, such as marlin, tuna, bass, etc., but that’s not all. These opportunistic eaters also hunt sea turtles (using their powerful bite to crack the shell), sea otters, dolphins, lobsters, oysters, even sea birds. Very rarely, they will even hunt and eat each other!

7. Hippos Sometimes Face-Off the Bull Shark

Hippos and bull sharks sometimes face-off. Bull sharks will sometimes purposely hunt hippos’ young, and unsurprisingly, hippos do not like their company. Bull sharks will even occasionally go in for a bite on an adult hippo, perhaps mistaking it for a young hippo or some other water mammal. Both of these events can result in an enraged hippo attack!

Bull shark facts - bull shark with human
A bull shark next to a diver

©wildestanimal/Shutterstock.com

8. The Bull Shark Bites Harder Than the Great White Shark

The bull shark’s bite packs quite a punch, at a whopping 5,914 Newtons (1,330 pounds/foot). Compared to the 4,000 Newtons of a great white, and the tiger shark, at 3,300 Newtons, the bull shark’s bite is incredibly powerful!

9. Crocodiles Sometimes Attack and Even Eat the Bull Shark

While humans are by far the biggest threat to bull sharks, crocodiles can still give them a run for their money. These large, fearsome reptiles have been known to attack and even eat the bull shark!

It’s not too shocking that these two threatening creatures can pass each other on a swim. The saltwater crocodile is found in brackish, coastal regions. They can even stay underwater up to an hour. That’s enough time to find and fight a shark! Then, there’s the bull shark who can thrive in freshwater and saltwater. It may encounter crocodiles in the rivers!

Bull shark facts - crocodile vs bull shark
Crocodiles will hunt bull sharks that enter fresh water!

©Sergey Uryadnikov/Shutterstock.com

10. Bull Sharks Do Not Eat People But May Still Attack

While bull sharks do not hunt people, they are still a somewhat aggressive species (in the top 3 most aggressive along with tiger sharks and the great white shark). While bull shark attacks are by no means common (they prefer to hunt fish and more natural prey), they do occur. This is partly because they spend so much time in the shallows and along beaches and rivers in particular. Curiosity or a simple territorial urge may spur them to attack!

11. Bull Sharks Can Be Seen at Aquariums and Do Well in a Tank

There are aquariums around the world that are proud to feature the bull shark. You see, most sharks cannot tolerate aquariums for more than a few months. Bull sharks are different. As long as they have ample room and good care, bull sharks can spend a large portion of their lives in a tank!

Bull shark facts - a group of bull sharks
A group of bull sharks!

©Katja Tsvetkova/Shutterstock.com

12. Jaws Is Probably (Loosely) Based on A Real Bull Shark

In the 1990s, there were a string of shark attacks in New Jersey. Within the course of just days (even hours) a few adults and even a child were killed. An 8-foot shark was ultimately found to be responsible and killed, which ended the bloodbath. This was the (very loose) inspiration for the movie Jaws. While a great white was thought to be responsible at the time, it’s now speculated that a bull shark would have been much more likely to swim so far upriver!

13. Other Sharks May Eat a Juvenile Bull Shark

While adult bull sharks are not typically hunted, juvenile bull sharks are another matter! These little guys are born live, rather than in eggs, and their parents do not rear them. This means that they are left to do their best to survive and evade other types of hungry sharks, like the Great White or the Tiger Shark!

So, there you have it: 13 incredible bull shark facts. Did any of them surprise you? They have an amazing number of teeth, and who knew that Jaws was most likely based not on a Great White Shark, but a Bull Shark!

Summary of 13 Bull Shark Facts

1Female Bull Sharks Outweigh Male Bull Sharks
2The Bull Shark Has More Teeth Than Your Average Shark
3Bull Sharks Can Live in Both Saltwater and Freshwater
4Bull Shark Fins Are Used as a Delicacy in Soup
5Bull Sharks Can Swim (Extremely Far) Upriver
6The Bull Shark is a Super-Opportunistic Eater
7Hippos Sometimes Face-Off the Bull Shark
8The Bull Shark Bites Harder Than the Great White Shark
9Crocodiles Sometimes Attack and Even Eat the Bull Shark
10Bull Sharks Do Not Eat People But May Still Attack
11Bull Sharks Can Be Seen at Aquariums and Do Well in a Tank
12Jaws Is Probably (Loosely) Based on A Real Bull Shark
13Other Sharks May Eat a Juvenile Bull Shark

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Bull shark facts - mouth of a bull shark
© Willyam Bradberry/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Heather Ross is a secondary English teacher and mother of 2 humans, 2 tuxedo cats, and a golden doodle. In between taking the kids to soccer practice and grading papers, she enjoys reading and writing about all the animals!

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