Bull Shark Vs Great White: Speed, Size, & Who Would Win in a Fight?

So, you want to find out the most crucial differences between a bull shark vs great white? You’re in the right place because this is the only guide you need!

The great white is a shark that needs no introduction. Since its exposure to the greater public consciousness in the 1975 blockbuster Jaws, the world’s largest predatory fish has cultivated a much-maligned reputation as a ruthless and relentless man-eater. 

The bull shark, on the other hand, maintains a much lower profile than its notorious cousin. It’s virtually unknown to the public (unlike the extremely recognizable great white), and yet it probably should be; it is, along with the great white and the tiger shark, the shark most likely to attack you when you’re in the sea (or, as we’ll see later, even in rivers). 

During the course of this bull shark vr great white article, we’ll be taking a look at both the great white and the bull shark and their various similarities. Which shark is bigger? Which is more dangerous? And the most important question of all – which would win in a fight? 

Join us, dear reader, as we list the tale of the tape between these two ocean killers. 

Bull Shark Vs Great White Size – Which Is Bigger? 

The great white’s name is well-earned and comes from the fact that it’s, well, pretty damn big. Males reach 11-13ft (3.4-4m) on average, while the larger females come in at around 15-16ft (4.6-4.9m). The largest great white ever recorded, however, clocks in at around 20ft (6.1m)! 

Bull sharks, on the other hand, are much smaller. Females reach lengths of about 8ft (2.4m), while males average 7ft (2.25m). 

When it comes to size, then, there is simply no competition between the two – the great white shark easily takes this one. 

A Bull Shark’s Speed Is No Match For The Great White

The Great White Shark: Everything You Need to Know

As a bull shark is smaller than a great white, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s much faster. And it certainly is no slouch in the speed department, able to achieve bursts of up to 25mph

However, it’s simply not as capable of speed as the great white, despite the latter’s bulkier form. A great white can if it needs to, reach speeds of up to 35mph for brief periods.

We can often see the results of this speed when great whites attack seals from below, with the momentum often carrying them clear of the water for a moment. 

That said, then, the undisputed king of speed between the two is the great white

Where Do Bull Sharks & Great Whites Live?  

Great white sharks can be found coastally throughout much of the world. For instance, they appear as far north as Portugal in Europe and can be found off the southernmost tips of all continents except Antarctica. They also migrate across the open ocean, but they do not stay (or hunt) there. 

The bull shark is much less widely distributed and is found typically in warm coastal waters. In the Pacific, it’s found from Baja California to Ecuador; in the Atlantic, it’s found as far north as Massachusetts and as far south as the southern portions of Brazil. 

On the other side of the Atlantic, bull sharks can be observed on the coast of West Africa from Morocco to Angola. It’s also found in the waters off the northern, western, and eastern coasts of Australia. 

“Bull sharks get quite a lot of bad press.”

Jeremy Wade.

Where the bull shark has the edge, however, is in its ability to live in freshwater as well as salt. It is regularly found in rivers and lakes throughout its range and commonly hunts in estuaries. 

It’s also turned up in some unusual places following hurricanes and typhoons; for instance, Hurricane Katrina caused several bulls to be displaced into Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana, and sharks were observed swimming through the streets in Brisbane. 

The bull continues to astonish with the places that it can turn up in. Some sharks have been seen as far upriver as Baghdad (by swimming up the River Tigris) and in Illinois (via the Mississippi). There is even a lake on a golf course in Australia that’s home to a few stranded bulls! 

Given its adaptability and ability to get pretty much anywhere that’s got a river, this one has to go to the bull shark

Bull Shark Attacks Are No Joke, But Which Is More Aggressive? 

This one is a little more complicated to answer. If we’re talking about a number of recorded attacks on human beings, then it’s pretty easy – the great white takes the ticket. 

Great whites have been involved in a total of 351 unprovoked attacks, according to the International Shark Attack File. Of those attacks, 59 have been fatal. Odds are, then, that if you’re going to be killed by a shark, it’s likely to be a great white. 

Bulls, on the other hand, are much less prolific. There are 119 unprovoked bull attacks on record, of which 26 were fatal. That’s 56% fewer fatal attacks than great whites. 

That said, the ability of bull sharks to thrive in freshwater means that you could potentially be attacked in a river or creek by one – which isn’t generally possible with great whites. 

In fact, it’s believed that a bull (or bulls) was (or were) responsible for the infamous 1916 shark attacks – a spate of attacks that inspired the novel Jaws. Two of these attacks took place in a creek some 11 miles inland, in which a boy was killed by an unidentified shark. One of his rescuers, who entered the water to retrieve his body, sustained fatal bites mere minutes later. 

Overall, however, the cold hard facts speak the truth on the question of which shark is the more aggressive – and the great white easily takes the cake. 

Which Shark Would Win In A Fight? 

This one isn’t much contest. As the size difference between the two sharks would suggest, the great white would easily best the smaller and lighter bull in a contest.

Though the bull is noted for its innate pugnacity (this is partly where its name comes from), it would quite simply have no chance against the stronger and larger shark. 

In Summary? The Mighty Great White Naturally Wins, But Never Underestimate a Bull Shark! 

Although it’s hard to compare two fairly different sharks (from different shark families), we’ve done it anyway. And the conclusion in this guide to a bull shark vs great white is that when it comes to size, speed, strength, and aggressiveness, the great white shark is the clear victor. 

When it comes to adaptability, however, we have to give it to the bull shark. It’s not every day, after all, that you find a shark as far inland as Baghdad or Illinois. 


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Akula is the founder of GreatWhiteShark.org. Building on a lifelong passion for the world of majestic great whites, he founded the site with a mission to inform and educate people about the world's largest predatory fish, as well as promote shark conservation worldwide.



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