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Aesop's Bulls, Irish Bulls and Other Bulls

Updated on July 10, 2011
Ferdinand the Bull
Ferdinand the Bull
Aesop's Fable
Aesop's Fable | Source
This cartoon appeared in Punch, the satirical magazine, at the outset of the First World War. Germany attacked the neutral countries in Europe under a vague pretext.
This cartoon appeared in Punch, the satirical magazine, at the outset of the First World War. Germany attacked the neutral countries in Europe under a vague pretext. | Source
By Mark Lynch. This is a classic example of an Irish bull.
By Mark Lynch. This is a classic example of an Irish bull. | Source
By WB Park.
By WB Park. | Source
By John R Herman. In his Bulltoon series.
By John R Herman. In his Bulltoon series. | Source
By John R Herman
By John R Herman | Source
By John R Herman
By John R Herman | Source

Literary Bulls

I started writing about bulls, to give an introduction to a children's poem of mine, but my research took me far and wide and I landed up with what you might call 'literary bulls', i.e. bulls in literature, and oddities that are called 'bulls'.

Literature begins with stories you hear and read in childhood. And so we begin with Aesop’s fables, where you come across a host of animals, including bulls.. The most popular ones are the ones about the gnat and the bull; the the lion and the three bulls; and the bull and the goat. Here they are:

i. A Gnat settled on the horn of a Bull, and sat there a long time. Just as he was about to fly off, he made a buzzing noise, and inquired of the Bull if he would like him to go. The Bull replied, "I did not know you had come, and I shall not miss you when you go away." Moral: Some men are of more consequence in their own eyes than in the eyes of their neighbors.

ii. Three Bulls for a long time pastured together. A Lion lay in ambush in the hope of making them his prey, but was afraid to attack them while they kept together. Having at last by guileful speeches succeeded in separating them, he attacked them without fear as they fed alone, and feasted on them one by one at his own leisure. Moral: Union is strength.

iii. A Bull, escaping from a Lion, hid in a cave which some shepherds had recently occupied. As soon as he entered, a He-Goat left in the cave sharply attacked him with his horns. The Bull quietly addressed him: "Butt away as much as you will. I have no fear of you, but of the Lion. Let that monster go away and I will soon let you know what is the respective strength of a Goat and a Bull." Moral: It shows an evil disposition to take advantage of a friend in distress.


I can’t remember any famous poems about bulls, but I remember reading the stark and vigorous account of the ‘old unhappy bull’ – the story of an animal’s lost youth and power – in the lengthy narrative poem, The Bull, by the Georgian poet, Ralph Hodgson (1871-1962). It is a popular poem, well worth reading, and is easily available on the Internet. Here's the first stanza:

See an old unhappy bull,

Sick in soul and body both,

Slouching in the undergrowth

Of the forest beautiful,

Banished from the herd he led,

Bulls and cows a thousand head.

One of the great short-stories that I’ve read was Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Bull that Thought’. You can read all about Apis the bull and Chisto, the old matador at

The Story of Ferdinand is a one of the best-selling children’s stories written by Munro Leaf, an American author, in 1936. It’s about a little bull who prefers sitting quietly under a cork tree, smelling the flowers, to jumping around, snorting, and butting heads with other bulls. As Ferdinand grows big and strong, his temperament remains mellow, until the day he meets with the wrong end of a bee. In a show of bovine irony, the one day Ferdinand is mostly definitely not sitting quietly under the cork tree (due to a frightful sting) is the selfsame day that five men come to choose the ‘biggest, fastest, roughest bull’ for the bullfights in Madrid. Ferdinand's day in the arena gives readers not only an education in the historical tradition of bullfighting, but also a lesson in non-violent tranquility. Robert Lawson's black-and-white drawings are evocative and detailed, with especially sweet renditions of Ferdinand, the serene bull hero.

The book was released nine months before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, but was seen by many supporters of Franco, the right-wing dictator of Spain, as a pacifist book. It was banned by the right-wing leaderships in many countries. However, it was promoted by many on the left-wing. Gandhi and Franklin Roosevelt are supposed to have loved this story.

In 1938, Walt Disney made a short animated film on this story, which won an Academy Award. It can be viewed on Youtube at


Here are some Literary Bulls:

i. A cock and bull story is an absurd or highly improbable tale passed off as being true.

ii. Take the bull by the horns – is to attack a difficult or risky problem fearlessly.

iii. Bull in a china shop – is an awkward or clumsy person; an inconsiderate or tactless person; a troublemaker.

iv. Bull’s eye - is a very hard globular candy. It is also the centre of a target in archery.


Joke: How do bulls drive their cars? They steer them.

Joke: This seems to me rather a tame joke; it's a pun on the word 'heifer' (which sounds like the word 'ever' - that is, if you huff and puff while saying 'ever'!)

There were seven bulls in a pasture discussing their future careers.

The first said he wanted to go to Rome and become a Papal bull.

The second said he wanted to go to New York and become a bull on Wall Street.

The third said he wanted to go to the Windy City and become a Chicago Bull.

The fourth said he wanted to go to Beijing and be a bull in a China shop.

The fifth said he would go to Dublin and be an Irish bull.

The sixth said he would have a Red Bull, get wings and fly.

The seventh, who was the farmer's most obedient bull, said he would not go anywhere, but would do his duty and stay in the pasture for 'heifer' and 'heifer'.


Here are some famous 'Bulls':

i. Raging Bull– was listed as one of the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time.

ii. Sitting Bull– was a famous Sioux war chief who fought against Gen. George Custer in the bloody Battle of the Little Bighorn.

iii. John Bull - is the British equivalent of America’s Uncle Sam. There are lots of John Bull cartoons in the old English magazines, like Punch.

iv. Papal Bull - is a formal papal document have a bulla or seal attached; it’s a papal edict of the Roman Catholic Church.

v. And lastly, Irish Bulls -

An Irish bull is a ludicrous or logically absurd statement, generally unrecognized as such by its speaker. The Irish have a fondness for incongruous speech. Irish bulls are what you might call 'expanded oxymorons'. C.S. Lewis explains it like this: 'A man bought a new kind of stove that cut his fuel consumption in half. So he went and bought a second one so that he could use no fuel at all.' The classic Irish bulls are:

i. "Patrick! Patrick! Are you all right? If you're dead please tell me."

A voice came back, "I'm not dead, William, but I'm knocked speechless."

ii. A waitress in a pizza parlor asked Yogi Berra if he wanted his pizza cut into four slices or eight. Berra replied, "Better make it four. I don't think I can eat eight pieces."

iii. "With a pistol in each hand and a sword in the other"

iv. "Don’t blame God; He’s only human."

v. Always go to other people's funerals. Otherwise they won't come to yours. ~Yogi Berra

vi. All my friends and I are crazy. That's the only thing that keeps us sane.~Matt Schucker

vii. Thank God, I’m an atheist. ~Anonymous

viii. Deep down, this guy is really shallow.~Jim Hightower, radio commentator.

ix. I am not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens. ~Woody Allen

x. Honk, if you love peace and quiet. ~Bumper sticker.

xi. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to apologize.~Anon.

xii. It's not that I'm afraid to die. I just don't want to be there when it happens.~Woody Allen

xiii. San Francisco isn't what it used to be, and it never was.~Herb Caen

xiv. I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member. ~ Groucho Marx

xv. Anyone who would go to a psychoanalyst should have his head examined!~ Sam Goldwyn.

xvi. Don’t talk to me while I’m interrupting.~Sam Goldwyn

xvii. A hospital is no place to be sick.~Sam Goldwyn

Witticisms (about bull-fighting and bulls)

For almost seventy years the life insurance industry has been a smug sacred cow feeding the public a steady line of sacred bull. ~Ralph Nader

If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull. ~W.C. Fields

While Spain's Catalonia region has banned bull fighting over concerns that it is cruel to the animals, a new bill was approved this week that allows other traditions to continue such as the "Bull of Fire" festival, in which burning sticks are attached to the horns of bulls as they chase people. And the "Bull of Broadway" festival, in which the bulls are forced to do synchronized dancing to Stephen Sondheim songs.~ Mark Miller’s Topical Joke


I think I will end with this PUN JOKE

A herd of cows and two bulls are eating grass out in the pasture.
Suddenly, a great gust of wind comes ripping across the prairie and knocks all the cows to the ground. But the bulls just sway in the wind and continue eating.
When the wind quiets down, the cows stand up, brush off the dirt, and start eating again.
A bit later, one cow looks up just in time to see a tornado tearing through the pasture fence. The tornado knocks the cows every which way, but the bulls just rock back and forth as they are buffeted.
When the cows get back on their feet and pick the straw out of their hide, they all walk over to the bulls.
One cow says, "Why do we cows get knocked over by wind but you bulls keep standing?"
The two bulls laugh and reply, "We bulls wobble, but we don't fall down."

(P.S. If you didn't get the joke, check out the Weeble toys of Hasbro Playskool.)


© Pratonix


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    • Pratonix profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Asia

      Thanks, Quill. I appreciate your encouragement. I've written a more sober hub on Bulls and Bull-fighting which you might like to take a look at. It is a more 'scholarly account', and it has a children's poem attached.

      Thanks, tipoague. Glad you liked the jokes. As Quill rightly observed, a lot of effort went into both the 'bull-hubs'. Hope you liked the cartoons! :)

    • tlpoague profile image


      7 years ago from USA

      That is interesting look at bulls. I loved the jokes. I haven't seen any bulls in a china shop, but I heard about one in a restaurant. It was impressive. They are such massive beasts. Thank you for sharing.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thank you for sharing and all the hard work you have done to give us this gem. Bulls are unpredictable in real life, I think its a guy thing.

      Blessings and Hugs


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