Taming the bull

In the New Yorker issue of 2/15&22/21, the winning caption to a drawing by Joe Dator:


(#1) ‘Twas commissions tamed the bull

Well, yes, the cartoon has the bull talking and taking orders and handling money and all that, but this is CartoonWorld, where animals routinely do such things. What’s remarkable is that the bull has given up a core aspect of his bull nature: aggressiveness (an especially troublesome characteristic in a creature of such size).

From Wikipedia:

Adult bulls may weigh between 500 and 1,000 kg (1,100 and 2,200 lb). Most are capable of aggressive behavior and require careful handling to ensure safety of humans and other animals. Those of dairy breeds may be more prone to aggression, while beef breeds are somewhat less aggressive, though beef breeds such as the Spanish Fighting Bull and related animals are also noted for aggressive tendencies, which are further encouraged by selective breeding.

An estimated 42% of all livestock-related fatalities in Canada are a result of bull attacks, and fewer than one in 20 victims of a bull attack survives. Dairy breed bulls are particularly dangerous and unpredictable; the hazards of bull handling are a significant cause of injury and death for dairy farmers in some parts of the United States. The need to move a bull in and out of its pen to cover cows exposes the handler to serious jeopardy of life and limb. Being trampled, jammed against a wall, or gored by a bull was one of the most frequent causes of death in the dairy industry before 1940.


(#2) An angry bull paws up dust in a threat display (Bart Hiddink, Creative Commons 2009)

… In many areas, placing rings in bulls’ noses to help control them is traditional. The ring is usually made of copper, and is inserted through a small hole cut in the septum of the nose. It is used by attaching a lead rope either directly to it or running through it from a head collar, or for more difficult bulls, a bull pole (or bull staff) may be used. This is a rigid pole about 1 m (3 ft) long with a clip at one end; this attaches to the ring and allows the bull both to be led and to be held away from his handler.

An aggressive bull may be kept confined in a bull pen, a robustly constructed shelter and pen, often with an arrangement to allow the bull to be fed without entering the pen. If an aggressive bull is allowed to graze outside, additional precautions may be needed to help avoid him harming people. One method is a bull mask, which either covers the bull’s eyes completely, or restricts his vision to the ground immediately in front of him, so he cannot see his potential victim. Another method is to attach a length of chain to the bull’s nose-ring, so that if he ducks his head to charge, he steps on the chain and is brought up short. Alternatively, the bull may be hobbled, or chained by his ring or by a collar to a solid object such as a ring fixed into the ground.

In larger pastures, particularly where a bull is kept with other cattle, the animals may simply be fed from a pickup truck or tractor, the vehicle itself providing some protection for the humans involved. Generally, bulls kept with cows tend to be less aggressive than those kept alone.

Some bulls of course, are specially bred and trained for aggressiveness: those groomed for the bull ring and the rodeo. Which provides the spring for my bull-cartoon posting of a week ago: my 2/7 posting “The bull validates Peter’s family”:


(#3) Just don’t bring your bull…

In the posting: a section on the idiom bull in a china shop ‘an extremely clumsy person [in a delicate situation]’.

2 Responses to “Taming the bull”

  1. kenru Says:

    The original cartoon clearly takes place in a “china shop,” since all the merchandise is made of china. I was surprised that you didn’t mention that in your comment (even though you did bring it up with the more obvious 2nd cartoon.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      I didn’t mention it because it seemed obvious enough not to require comment. If you think it needs mentioning, then you should mention it, instead of exclaiming in mock surprise that I failed to do what you thought I should have done. (The “I was surprised that you didn’t …” trope is going to piss me off every single time someone uses it.)

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