Are Bull Sharks Aggressive? Do They Attack Humans?

Are Bull Sharks Aggressive? Do They Attack Humans?

Of the various apex predators that lurk beneath the chilling depths of waters, the bull shark is one of the most ferocious.

With incredible adaptable skills and top-notch predatory instincts, the bull shark is notorious for ravenously hunting prey.

You may wonder if those instincts do not limit it to hunting marine creatures; hence, the question “are bull sharks aggressive towards humans?”

The bull shark is incredibly aggressive and one of the planet’s most dangerous sharks. Its ability to live in fresh and saltwater, a key adaptable feature of the predator, makes them come in contact with humans more than any other shark.

These aggressive sharks have attacked humans a couple of times, though these attacks are not known to be intentional. 

We bring to light interesting facts about the predatory ways of the bull shark as it relates to humans. 

Are Bull Sharks Aggressive?

Dangerous Bull Shark Underwater

In terms of their ferocity and speed in hunting, the bull shark is incredibly aggressive. This is an innate ability that makes them apex predators.

The aggressive nature of this predator is instinctive, a key aspect of their hunting ability and survival skills. 

Due to this top-notch ability to hunt at record speed, accuracy, and fierce ferocity, they are termed, excellent hunters. 

The habitat of the bull shark is not exclusive to the ocean as they can balance salt concentration and live in both freshwater and saltwater.

Thus, these creatures come in contact with humans and other animals such as alligators at a higher frequency than other sharks. 

When the bull shark comes in contact with humans or alligators in saltwater or freshwater, its predatory instincts kick in and it attacks. Other than that, the bull shark is no more aggressive than other apex predatory sharks.  

Marine ecologist, Dr. Johan Gustafson, revealed that the bull shark possesses limited tolerance compared to its counterparts, and when in warm waters, it tends to be more active due to increased metabolism. 1

Do Bull Sharks Attack Humans?

Yes, bull sharks attack humans. This is not surprising as these creatures are ferocious hunters.

Their presence in both saltwater and freshwater makes an attack more likely. With their predatory nature, they also won’t hesitate to strike. 

According to the International Shark Attack File, there are 121 recorded instances of the bull shark attacking humans. 2

These attacks have been unprovoked, with 95 being nonfatal and 26 being fatal. The bull shark attack on humans is recorded as the third-highest shark attack, topped by the great white and tiger sharks.

Also See: Do Sharks Have Emotions, Feelings, Or Feel Affection?

Are Bull Sharks Dangerous? 

Close Up Huge Bull Shark Swimming With Jaws Open Showing Sharp Teeth

Being one of the most aggressive marine predators, the bull shark is considered dangerous. The reason is not far-fetched. These sharks have body anatomy that is designed to kill prey as fast as possible.

They are also incredibly adaptable. Most sharks are exclusive to living in the ocean; thus, interaction with humans and other species not found in the ocean is limited. 

The bull shark isn’t limited, and its ability to thrive in estuaries, lakes, abysses, and any freshwater or saltwater body formations expands its menu.

Unlike other sharks, bull sharks can attack alligators and humans at a much higher frequency.

Judging by the incredible hunting abilities with which they attack, they should not be trifled with.

The bull shark is dangerous because its adaptable features and apex hunting abilities bring them in contact with animals not ordinarily accessible to other sharks.

Why are Bull Sharks Aggressive? 

The aggressive nature of the bull shark can be traced to three important aspects of their biological framework: 

Predatory Instincts

Bull sharks are carnivores, and one of the most seasoned hunters in the marine habitat. They attack prey with astounding accuracy and deadly force.

Rarely do preys escape their attack. This is innate to their biological framework as it is a survival skill.

The predatory instincts of these macro predators know no bounds as they are cannibalistic, attacking and eating other bull sharks. 3

Thus, their top-notch predatory ability makes them incredibly aggressive. 


Thanks to osmosis, the bull shark can balance salt concentration in its body and adapt to living in waters with higher or lower salt concentrations than the ocean.

Thus, these creatures call lakes, estuaries, and other freshwater and saltwater bodies their homes. Bull sharks come across diverse creatures often not found in the ocean in these water bodies.

When their metabolism is at its peak, their predatory instincts would move them to thus attack animals in these water formations.

They often come in contact with humans in these water bodies and attack.

Poor Vision

This is another important factor pointing to why these animals are aggressive. The bull shark has small eyes, and with that comes poor vision.

Also, their eyes have one cone or light detector which limits them from seeing objects in black and white. 4

Their inability to see objects as it appears moves them to misunderstand things.

The International Shark Attack File reveals that one of the primary victims of shark attacks are divers dressed in black. The bull shark could mistake divers for prey and thus attack. 5

Are Bull Sharks the Most Aggressive?

No doubt, the bull shark ranks as one of the most aggressive sharks, but in terms of human attacks, is the bull shark the most notorious? Data from the International Shark Attack File gives the verdict.

Of the big three sharks, namely, the great white shark, the tiger shark, and the bull shark, the latter has the least recorded instance of attack on humans. 6

The bull shark has 121 instances of attacks on humans compared to 138 and 354 for the Tiger and White shark, respectively. 

This data thus proves that while the bull shark is very aggressive and dangerous, it does not rank as the most aggressive and dangerous shark in the world. 

However, humans are more likely to come in contact with the bull shark than the tiger and the great white shark. Of this fact, the bull shark presents more chances of being harmful to humans than the big three sharks. 


The bull shark is indeed one of the fascinating wonders in marine habitats. A talented predator with amazing hunting abilities, its activities inspire wonders.

However, the danger it presents is far from exciting. Bull sharks are ferocious predators with a habitat advantage, making them more likely to attack humans. 

That said, humans present more danger to them. These creatures are currently termed vulnerable in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

While we avoid encounters with these animals, we should ensure that they thrive and constantly remember that their activities are natural.

References & Notes

Facts Sources:
  1. Heathcote, A., 2021. Bull sharks: fact from fiction. [online] Australian Geographic.
  2. Species Implicated in Attacks. [online] Florida Museum of Natural History.
  3. Bull Shark Species Profile. [online] Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.
  4. Bull Shark. [online] Lamar University.
  5. Victim Activity During Attacks. [online] Florida Museum of Natural History.
  6. Species Implicated in Attacks. [online] Florida Museum of Natural History.