Discover the Largest Bull Shark Ever Recorded

Bull shark in Caribbean sea.
Carlos Grillo/Shutterstock.com

Written by Megan Martin

Updated: June 30, 2023

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Key Points:
  • Female bull sharks, which are larger than males, can grow up to be around 8 feet long and weigh about 290 pounds.
  • The biggest bull shark recorded was a female estimated to be around 10 feet long and weighing around 1,000 pounds.
  • It was nicknamed Big Bull, and recorded by Neil Hammerschlag in 2012.

The ocean is home to a variety of sea life, from the smallest organisms to the largest. This also happens to include a lot of shark species, such as the bull shark. Although bull sharks aren’t the largest sharks in the world — that honor goes to whale sharks — they’re still a top-ten contender.

Keep reading to learn more about the bull shark, including the largest bull shark ever recorded!

Bull Sharks at a Glance

Bull shark

The bull shark is one of the most common types of shark.

Bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) are a common type of shark throughout the world. Also known as Zambezi sharks and Lake Nicaragua sharks, they’re found in most warm water areas — including freshwater. This is because bull sharks are unique in the fact that they are freshwater tolerant. Because of their ability to easily transition between saltwater and freshwater thanks to their adaptive techniques, they are considered diadromous.

As with most types of sharks, female bull sharks are larger than males. When they’re born, they’re already almost three feet long. As they grow older, however, they can grow up to be around 8 feet long. They also weigh around 290 pounds as adults — around the same as a refrigerator.

Bull sharks’ size is supported by their diverse and protein-packed diet. Not only do they eat a variety of fish and crustaceans, but they also eat other smaller sharks. This includes smaller bull sharks! The toughest of prey can quickly become an easy meal for these supersized sea creatures.

Although the bull shark may not be as easy to identify as the whale shark or tiger shark who both have unique appearances, it’s still possible to tell a bull shark. Some of the key characteristics of the bull shark include:

  • dark to light coloration on top that fades to white on the belly
  • short, blunt nose
  • no interdorsal ridge.

World Records: The Largest Bull Shark Ever Recorded

Bull shark facts - a bull shark swimming

Bull sharks can grow to be up to 500 pounds.

The largest bull shark ever recorded can be traced back to 2012.

The coastal waters of Miami are among the most popular areas for marine biologists to study sharks. There are more than 15 species inhabiting the waters, including the bull shark. When Neil Hammerschlag, an associate professor at the University of Miami, set sail on that memorable day in May 2012, he had full expectations of seeing a shark. After all, he’d taken the day to hopefully identify and tag some of the local sharks.

What nobody could have expected, however, was to capture the largest bull shark in the world.

This record-breaking shark, a healthy female, was estimated to be around 10 feet long and weigh around 1000 pounds, or half a ton. Her massive size and place as the largest bull shark ever recorded earned her the name Big Bull.

Bull shark facts - bull shark with human

Bull sharks are a common topic of study by marine biologists.

Although Big Bull holds the record for being the largest bull shark ever recorded, there have been some close seconds. For instance, the International Game Fish Association determined the largest bull shark ever to be caught using a rod and reel to be 771 pounds.

Researchers have also been able to find some of Big Bull’s offspring now. Only time will tell, however, if these new pups can grow up to beat the impressive stature of their mother.


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About the Author

Megan is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is birds, felines, and sharks. She has been researching and writing about animals for four years, and she holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with minors in biology and professional and technical writing from Wingate University, which she earned in 2022. A resident of North Carolina, Megan is an avid birdwatcher that enjoys spending time with her cats and exploring local zoological parks with her husband.

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