Never Make a Pet Out of a Bull
Bulls are one of the most unpredictable and dangerous farm animals to have on the farm or ranch, next to horses. This article shows basic common sense on how to handle and work with bulls safely.
It is well known (and the stats are there) that bulls are one of the most dangerous farm animals that a person can ever have on the farm or ranch. Every year, many people (numbering in over a hundred) get crushed or trampled by a bull every year. The most common reason for this complacency. The other reason is lack of common sense in regards to the proper and safe handling of a bull, mostly because he has been raised as a bottle calf, or because he's so tame that you are easily lead to believe that he's not going to do anything to you. The docile bulls are actually worse than those that give you warnings ahead of time: warnings include snorting, pawing the ground, growling, rubbing his head in the ground, showing his side, etc. The docile ones can suddenly turn on a dime at you and catch you totally off guard. Older men are more prone to getting killed by a bull than women or younger men are. And all of this is due to complacency.
Many people think that cows and bulls are slow and stupid and that anyone can outsmart and even outrun one. This couldn't be farther from the truth. A bull may be massive and large, but he can move VERY fast, much faster than a human can. He can turn around and have a person pinned to the ground with his head before that person knows what hit them. Cows are no different, especially when they're protecting a calf.
Here are some basic rules to follow when handling and working with bulls.
Rules to Follow
1. Never invite a young bull to play (i.e., head butting, chasing, bucking, etc.). This is especially important when raising a bull calf because you are actually encouraging this fighting/domineering behaviour and letting him know that he can get away with this when he's older and sexually mature.
2. Never touch ANY part of the bull. Head scratching is the worst you can do, as this will simply irritate and encourage the bull to use his head on you. Petting induces complacency on your part because you can easily think that he has become your pet and induce you to wrongly put your trust in him to not turn around and maul the begeezuz outta you.
3. Never turn your back on a bull. You don't have eyes on the back of your head so you can't see whether that bull is giving you warning signs to get out or not.
4. Make sure the bull knows you are The Boss. Bulls will test you (as they always do with each other) for dominance and you have to let them know that you are the Top Bull in the herd. And, even though this sounds easier said than done, you MUST stand your ground when establishing dominance. The bull must be the one to move away after being hit, NOT you.
5. Protect yourself at all times when in the bull pen. Having a piece of PVC pipe or an axe handle or even a sorting paddle (those that have the beads in the paddle end that makes a racket when shook) on hand at all times will give you a good amount of protection in the bull pen. When the bull does come after you or challenges you, hit him on the muzzle or nose as hard as you can. You need to hit so hard that it hurts him and he will leave you alone.
6. If you have a bull that is challenging you (head shaking, pawing the ground, showing his side, staring right through you, etc.), SHIP HIM ASAP. It's not worth your life to have a bull around that already knows he can intimidate you and send you over the fence, even if he's your best herd sire for your cowherd.
7. When feeding, either feed the bulls from the other side of the fence, or put them in a different pen and let them into the feed when you are done. There's nothing worse than having a bull challenge you during feeding time.
8. Be extremely careful around bulls during breeding time. Bulls don't think rationally like humans do, so when it's breeding time, there's always a high risk that he will see you as a threat and possibly come after you.
9. Always have an escape route whenever you go in. This way you know where to run to to get out of an angry bull's way. It also helps to keep some sort of object between you and the bull, like your tractor, a fence, a tree, and even a large round bale at all times.
10. Don't show any fear towards them from your angle. This is a lot easier said than done because when you're faced with an animal that is over 10 times your size and weight and 100 times your strength, it's easy to get scared of them. Breathe, and relax and don't think about what you think is going to happen (because chances are it WILL happen), but at the same time keep an eye on them (or him). Cattle, just like any animal, knows when someone is scared of them, and they will take advantage of that. If you are calm and assertive, then they will also be calm.
A Bull's Only Ambition In Life
A bull's only ambition in his entire life is to breed as many cows and heifers as he can before he dies or he becomes too aggressive for his owners to keep. Bulls are not designed to be pets, nor are they bred to be companion animals like dogs, horses and cats are. And therefore, a bull should not be treated as such.
Bulls deserve respect because of their size and stature in the herd, but they don't deserve to be trusted because of their ability to be very unpredictable: there's no telling when or where a bull will decide that he's had enough of being lower on the totem pole than you and when he decides you're better off dead than alive.
So the next time you come face to face with a bull, show him respect but never underestimate his power nor his speed.