Bull Shark vs Tiger Shark: What Are The Differences?

Written by Colby Maxwell
Published: June 11, 2022
© iStock.com/Howard Chen
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Bull sharks and tiger sharks are two of the most famous sharks in the entire world. They both have a reputation for ferocity and aggression, but is that even true? Both of these sharks have a mouth full of teeth, but that doesn’t always make them dangerous. Today, we are going to take a look at these two ocean-dwellers and see what makes them unique. Let’s compare the Bull Shark vs Tiger Shark!

Comparing a Bull Shark and a Tiger Shark

Bull sharks are smaller, can live in freshwater, and have a wider distribution than tiger sharks.


Bull sharkTiger shark
SizeLength: 7-11 feet long
Weight: 200-500 lbs.
Length: 10-14 feet long
Weight: 286-1,400 lbs.
AppearanceLarge, stout body and head. Grey across the body with a white underbelly.Second largest predatory shark. Blue to light green skin with a light yellow underbelly. Dark spots and stripes give a “tiger” appearance.
DistributionWorldwide in coastal areas, particularly warm oceans.Tropical and subtropical waters around the world.
AttacksResponsible for 3rd most attacks, fatal and non-fatal alike.Responsible for 2nd most attacks, fatal and non-fatal alike.
Freshwater toleranceTotal freshwater tolerance. Can live its entire life in freshwater.Freshwater intolerant.

The 5 main differences between a bull shark and a tiger shark

The main differences between a bull and a tiger shark are that bull sharks are smaller, are freshwater tolerant, and prefer shallow waters. Tiger sharks are larger, can’t enter freshwater, and are usually in deeper water.

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Both the bull and tiger shark are among the scariest members of the shark family for any human to encounter. Only the great white shark is more famous, but the reputation these two have is still renowned. Although they are both large, predatory sharks, they are different in quite a few ways.

While bull sharks are large, tiger sharks are listed as the second-largest predatory shark in the world, only behind the great white. Additionally, tiger sharks have a distinct appearance due to their camouflage striping along their sides. As they age, the stripes and spots fade, but their name shows just how well-known the stripes have become. Not to be outdone, the bull shark gets its name from its habit of ramming or bumping into its prey before attacking it, plus its rather aggressive nature when compared to other species.

Let’s learn a bit more about what makes these sharks different.

Bull Shark vs Tiger Shark: Size

Bull Shark vs Tiger Shark
Bull sharks are quite a bit smaller than the massive tiger shark.

©Martin Prochazkacz/Shutterstock.com

The bull shark is one of the larger predatory sharks around, although it isn’t nearly as large as the tiger shark. Most bull sharks measure between 7-11 feet long when they reach maturity, although rare individuals can get longer. On average, these sharks weigh between 200 and 500 lbs, with females being larger than males.

Tiger sharks are the second-largest predatory sharks in the world, behind the great white. These sharks often measure between 10 to 14 feet long and can weigh between 286 and 1,400 lbs. The only other sharks that compare to the tiger are the great white, whale, bigmouth, Greenland, megamouth, sleeper, and the great hammerhead sharks. Of those, only the great hammerhead and white are truly predatory. The great hammerhead can grow longer than the tiger in some cases, but they are usually lighter.

Bull Shark vs Tiger Shark: Appearance

Bull Shark vs Tiger Shark
Tiger sharks are named for the dark, vertical stripes found mainly on juveniles.

©Tomas Kotouc/Shutterstock.com

Bull sharks are stout, stocky sharks, giving more credence to their name. Additionally, their snout and faces are small in relation to their bodies. Most individuals are gray to gray-brown with a whitish underbelly.

Tiger sharks are longer than bull sharks and have much longer pectoral fins in relation to their bodies. Their coloration is usually a blue or light green color with a yellowish or whitish underbelly. Part of what makes tiger sharks so famous is their skin patterns. Tigers have distinct stripes and spots along the sides of their bodies that fade as they age. These stripes help to camouflage the shark as it swims through sunlit-streaked waters.

Bull Shark vs Tiger Shark: Distribution

Bull Shark vs Tiger Shark
Bull sharks are found in warm coastal regions worldwide.


While both of these sharks are found around the world, they have slightly different preferences in regard to habitat. The bull shark lives in coastal areas in warm waters around the world. It rarely swims deeper than 100 feet and is most often directly beside the coast. In the Atlantic, the bull shark is found as far north as Massachusetts and as far south as Brazil, and from Morocco to Angola on the other side of the ocean. It is also found from Mexico to Chile and Australasia in the Pacific.

Tiger sharks are also well-distributed but prefer a tropical habitat, not just warm waters. They are found off most North American shores and in South America, plus Africa, China, India, and Australasia. Tiger sharks head towards the coast at night and retreat to deeper waters during the day. Some records list them as being seen as deep as 3,000 feet down.

Bull Shark vs Tiger Shark: Attacks

Bull Shark vs Tiger Shark
Bull and tiger sharks are the 3rd and 2nd most deadly sharks by attacks in the world.


The bull shark and tiger shark hold the 3rd and 2nd places for the highest number of attacks on humans, respectively. Current estimates have bull sharks responsible for 95 non-fatal and 26 fatal attacks on humans, all of which were listed as “unprovoked”.

Tiger sharks are statistically more dangerous than bull sharks, with 102 non-fatal and 36 fatal attacks recorded. The only species with more documented attacks and fatalities is the great white, with 297 non-fatal and 57 fatal.

These sobering numbers show us that sharks aren’t a real threat to humans, at least statistically. Through the entire course of documentation, they have killed only a few dozen humans, while we have killed millions of them.

Bull Shark vs Tiger Shark: Freshwater tolerance

Bull Shark vs Tiger Shark
Bull sharks are able to spend their whole lives in freshwater if needed.

©Albert Kok – Public Domain

One of the primary differences between bull and tiger sharks is their freshwater tolerance. Bull sharks have a remarkable ability to travel into freshwater ecosystems, including rivers, lakes, and more. In fact, there are landlocked bull sharks in many freshwater ecosystems, including Lake Nicaragua, the Amazon River, and Australia. This tolerance has allowed bull sharks to swim to places we would never expect sharks, including Ohio (by way of the Mississippi) and the middle of the jungle in Iquitos, Peru.

Tiger sharks have no such freshwater tolerance. If placed in a freshwater environment, they would die shortly after.

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Largest Tiger Shark - tiger sharks swimming together
The Tiger shark is one of the deadliest sharks in the world.
© iStock.com/Howard Chen

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About the Author

Colby is a freelance writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. When he isn't distracted by his backyard birdfeeder, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone around him about what he's recently learned. There's a whole world to learn about and Colby is content to spend his life learning as much as he can about it!

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