What Do Bull Sharks Eat? 15 Animals in Their Diet

Written by Dana Mayor
Updated: September 27, 2022
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What Do Bull Sharks Eat
Bull sharks are highly opportunistic eaters that eat a carnivorous diet consisting mostly of fish, but will also prey on dolphins, seals, stingrays, and much more!

Key Points

  • In spite of their immense size, bull sharks only need to consume 3% of their total body weight twice every week.
  • They love to eat sea turtles, fish, and even birds as well.
  • They also hunt dolphins, seals, and may even eat stingrays.

Bull sharks are beautiful and powerful denizens of the sea. Weighing hundreds of pounds, they must consume at least 3% of their body weight twice a week. This consists of mainly fish, but also small mammals, sea turtles, and even birds. In summation, the bull shark is not a picky eater! Let’s dive into what bull sharks eat!

How to Recognize a Bull Shark

Bull sharks are dark to light gray on top, with pale bellies. They are rather stout, medium-sized sharks. While males measure a respectable 7 feet on average, females can reach an impressive 11 feet.

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The eyes of bull sharks are somewhat small, and they have blunt, rounded snouts. These saltwater dwellers inhabit the shallowest, warmest parts of the U.S. East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. There have also been the occasional bull sharks sighted in the Mississippi and Amazon River!

Thanks to special mechanisms in their bodies, bull sharks are capable of swimming in both fresh and saltwater. This places them in the same category as river sharks which are capable of tolerating fresh water too. It also sets them apart from other saltwater sharks which will experience bloating and rupturing, both of which would be fatal if they ventured into fresh water.

Bull shark facts - a bull shark underwater

Bull Shark

©Albert Kok, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Do Bull Sharks Attack People?

So, bull sharks are fairly plentiful, and they hang out around beaches – this begs the question: do bull sharks attack people? Thankfully, bull sharks do not consider people to be food. This being said, attacks do happen when one of these sharks feels their territory is intruded on. In total, bull sharks have had the third most unprovoked attacks on humans behind great white and tiger sharks. In summation, although bull sharks are not our natural predators, they can still sometimes present a very real risk!

What do bull sharks eat - face close up

A close up of a bull shark


What Do Bull Sharks Eat?

Despite its intimidating size, the bull shark is predominantly a fish eater. They are also known to eat sea turtles, seals, and birds. Very rarely, they have even been observed to kill and eat each other! 

Bull sharks hunt alone, and they rely on both stealth and speed to make their kills. Luckily for the local sealife, they only need to eat a couple of solid meals (consisting of about 3% of their body weight) a week.

Here’s a list of some of the most common things a bull shark might consider for a meal or snack!

  • Seals. As with dolphins, seals are not the bull shark’s usual fare. This being said, they may pursue them if they are hungry enough, or on a whim.
  • Dolphins. Although bull sharks typically seek out smaller prey, they have been known to hunt dolphins when they’re in the mood.
  • Sea otters. Seat otters are small enough that many bull sharks would consider them an easy, filling snack!
  • Stingrays. Surprisingly, sharks often consume stingrays – a feat of considerable bravery.
  • Squid
  • Seat bass
  • Mackerel
  • Oysters
  • Scallops
  • Lobster. Bull sharks bypass the lobster’s shell entirely, splitting it with their powerful jaws and consuming the meat (and bits of the shell).
  • Bluefish
  • Marlins
  • Flounders
  • Tuna. Tuna are nice, big, fat fish, and they make a hearty meal for the bull shark.
  • Shrimp. Although barely a mouthful on their own, a large amount of shrimp can make an adequate meal for a bull shark.
What do bull sharks eat

Adult bull (Carcharhinus leucas) at Shark Reef Marine Preserve, Beqa Lagoon, Fiji

©Pterantula, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

So, if you’ve been wondering, ‘what do bulls sharks eat?’ you have your answer. They eat just about everything, although they prefer smaller, easier prey in general. Also, while they don’t hunt people for food, they may do it for fun. When all is said and done, it’s wise to maintain a healthy wariness of the mighty bull shark!

Up Next…

Keep reading these posts for more incredible information about key animal facts.

  • What Do Greenland Sharks Eat? The clean up crew of the ocean and a surprising Icelandic delicacy, Greenland sharks are extremely fond of decaying food. Find out what they are likely to settle down to at dinner time out at sea.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Havoc/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

I love good books and the occasional cartoon. I am also endlessly intrigued with the beauty of nature and find hummingbirds, puppies, and marine wildlife to be the most magical creatures of all.

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