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Brutish Bulls

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"I'm a bull! I need wide open spaces! I need to ramble and roam! I need to break something!"

Generally speaking, bulls have a less-than-stellar reputation. They're territorial, protective of their herds and often easily provoked, and tend to react to perceived threats, rivals and irritations by means of a headlong charge to gore or trample the target of their frustration. This has resulted in fictional depictions of bulls almost always portraying them as violent, bad-tempered creatures that will gore or trample hapless targets at any provocation. They are also not likely to be terribly bright, even in worlds of Funny Animals and Intellectual Animals. The result is a standard portrayal of fictional bulls as dim-witted brutes with anger issues, easily riled but easily outwitted. Bulls are also one of the most likely types of herbivores to be portrayed as villains, in contrast to the usual depictions of carnivores and herbivores in media.

Note that this only usually applies to male cattle. Cows tend to be portrayed as much more friendly, easygoing and calm than their male counterparts, even though real cows can be just as aggressive and dangerous as bulls if provoked. It's also common for them to be depicted with a nose ring, because it makes them look tougher. (In real life, bovine nose rings are used mainly to encourage weaning of a calf, as they make it harder to suckle, thus discouraging the behavior. They may also be used to lead the animals along, although this isn't as common a practice as it used to be.)

Oftentimes, especially in cartoons and/or when in the context of bullfighting, these bulls will be depicted with solid black coats. These bulls will also usually sport large horns, and their victims will be subjects to Horn Attacks. A typical Bully Bulldog was used to counter the Brutish Bulls, before their "bully" traits were bred out.

This trope is evident even in more sympathetic portrayals of bulls; heroic bovines are often portrayed as still being gruff, short-tempered, blunt or harsh, often serving as The Big Guy and pairing this trope with Good Is Not Nice.

Since Tropes Are Flexible, other bovines such as buffalo, bison, yaks or fictional bull-like animals can also fill this role, as can brutish and aggressive characters or factions for whom the bull is a prominent Animal Motif.

See Bull Seeing Red for a common provocation of a bull's bad temper. Also see Bull Fight Boss, for when this trope is used in video games. Compare Rhino Rampage, Angry, Angry Hippos, Full-Boar Action, Hellish Horse and Gruesome Goat for similar portrayals of violent fictional ungulates, and Temper-Ceratops for prehistoric creatures with similar stock behaviors. See also Our Minotaurs Are Different, which often share regular bulls' foul tempers and violent dispositions. See Diligent Draft Animal for depictions of oxen being used as a draft animal.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 3×3 Eyes: In a quick gag, Yakumo accidentally throws his empty tea can at a cow, who proceeds to angrily charge at him and send him flying with her horns.
  • Cesare - Il Creatore che ha distrutto uses this in a few ways. The bull was the emblem of the Borgias, the most prominent Spanish noble family in Italy at the time, and the manga reflects how they used this symbolism historically. Protagonist Cesare, even at 16, did fight bulls in real life, and the manga uses this when Cesare takes on the dumb, racist Barbaric Bully Henri, who had insulted Cesare's Jewish friends. Cesare plucks a bright red cape off of the shoulders of his friend Giovanni de'Medici and stylishly delivers a lecture on tolerance to Henri while beating him to bits in classic Spanish toreador style.
  • In One Piece's Dressrosa arc, during the Corrida Colosseum tournament, one of the "participants" is a bull called "The Brutal Bull" who plows through the gladiators by the dozens. Not long after, however, Luffy (the protagonist) manages to tame it and then ride on it to smash more gladiators.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering: Many ox creatures are printed with the ability "haste", which causes them to attack the moment they're put into play rather than waiting a turn like most creatures do. Even those that don't tend to have references to fictional bulls' typical bad tempers in their flavor text:
    The good news is it's vegetarian. The bad news is it just doesn't like you. — flavor text for "Ironhoof Ox"

    Comic Books 
  • Asterix: In Asterix in Spain, it turns out that the Iberians, instead of throwing people to the lions, throw the to the mercies of foul-tempered aurochs.
  • The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones: In the Cliffhanger linking #11 & #12, Indy is cornered in a dead-end corridor in the stock pen of the Barcelona bullring by an enraged bull that has been stabbed with multiples estoques (matador swords), and needs all of his skill and ingenuity to avoid being trampled to death.
  • Green Lantern: The Butcher is a being of incarnate rage and violence that takes the form of a huge, demonic bull.
  • In the Italian Funny Animals comic Lupo Alberto (Alberto the Wolf), Krug the bull is far and away the most feared animal on the Mackenzie farm. He's not particularly bright — he barely ever speaks, his vocal repertoire being largely limited to grunts — but he's massive, extremely strong and has a notoriously foul temper. It says a lot that even Moses, the farm's shotgun-wielding Angry Guard Dog, is absolutely terrified of him. His presence is one of the few things that can habitually quell the fights between Moses and Alberto, as the two canids' fear of getting on his bad side easily outweighs their usual animosity. In a variation, he's a Gentle Giant unless provoked, and known to accept advice if offered.
  • Mortadelo y Filemón: Valor y... ˇal toro! features an incredibly strong and aggressive fighting bull, which at one point wrecks an entire corrida.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW): In "The Good, the Bad, and the Ponies", the town of Canter Creek is menaced by a band of literal cattle rustlers, a band of bandit bulls led by the villainous and foul-tempered Chief Longhorn, who are attempting to take control of the town through ruthless attacks and fear tactics.
  • The Transformers (Marvel) had the Predacon Tantrum, who turned into a bull, was an idiot, and flew into screaming rages whenever something confused or frustrated him (which was everything because he was an idiot). The Decepticons also had Horri-Bull, who was not only angry and violent but also took pride in having no hygiene at all.

    Films — Animation 
  • Ferdinand: The other bulls in the story are being trained to be bull fighters and tend to be violent and aggressive. Ferdinand himself is a pacifist who would only like to keep smelling the flowers. The main bovine antagonist, Valiente, is a much better fit — he's aggressive, short-tempered and lives for battle.
  • In Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Sid milks a yak. The yak starts chasing him, to which Sid replies "I thought you were a female!"
  • Kung Fu Panda 3: Kai, the Big Bad, is a massive spirit warrior who also happens to be a yak. In the past, he and his brother in arms Master Oogway went on a brutal conquest of China. When Oogway was injured, Kai brought him to a village of pandas who used Ki Manipulation to save his friend's life. In return, Kai decided to try stealing the chi of every panda in the village, forcing Oogway to banish him to the Spirit Realm and erase all knowledge of him except for a single scroll. 500 years later, Kai drains the chi of every kung fu master in the Spirit Realm, including Oogway, and escapes to the mortal realm to steal more chi. As for "Brutish", Kai doesn't come up with plans or tactics to get past his enemies: if he can't overpower them with his jade zombies, or "jombies", he'll plow through them with his horned head and jade swords on chains like a bovine Kratos.
  • The Road to El Dorado: Tulio and Miguel meet one early in the film, after their latest scam — and are promptly chased all the way to the docks.
  • Zootopia: While Chief Bogo, the Cape buffalo Chief of Police, isn't particularly evil by any metric, he's blunt, short-tempered, abrasive and cynical, very tough on his subordinates and serves as an antagonist for the first part of Judy Hopps' character arc. This fits the theme of enforced Animal Stereotypes in the world of Zootopia, where people are expected to act according to the stereotypes associated with their species: the police force, for instance, is heavily dominated by animals expected to be tough and aggressive, meaning big predators and large, aggressive herbivores like elephants, rhinos and buffalos such as Bogo.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Real Steel opens with a rodeo in Texas in which Charlie's fighting robot Ambush is put up against a bull. The bull wins.

  • A tourist asks a farmer how long it takes to reach the nearest village.
    Farmer: If you go straight down the road, it's ten minutes. However, if you take a detour through the field, it's five minutes.
    Tourist: How is it that taking a detour takes less time?
    Farmer: Because the bull is out there.

  • Chronicles of Ancient Darkness: The Stone Age world of the series has a Satanic spirit called the Great Auroch, the most powerful demon of the Otherworld. When the World Spirit threw him from the sky after a terrible battle, a small part of his evil settled on every living creature. He escapes into the night sky every autumn and grows in power during the winter. When he's at his most powerful, the red star that's his eye is at its highest, and the demons are at the top of their power. That why's it's vital in the first book to destroy the demon-possessed bear before that. It's also said that the fire opal, the Artifact of Doom used by the Soul Eaters, can control demons because it's light from the Great Auroch's eye.
  • Feet of Clay has Rogers the bull, a bull with bad binocular vision who believes himself to be two separate bulls with one eye each (hence Rogers). He's not perpetually angry, but he is prone to charging things.
  • Fengshen Yanyi: downplayed by Huang Feihu, who rides on the back of a divine Five-Colored Ox: it is a massive and imposing beast who's not afraid the least by sights or events that would terrify a normal horse, though nothing implies that's particularly ferocious. A straighter example is played by Tongtian Jiaozhu, the wrathful and antagonistic leader of the Jie Taoism who rides a horrible, ferocious monster resembling a one-legged bull, and by the last monster of Plum Mountain Jin Dasheng, an evil brute of a man who's actually a wild bull spirit in human form.
  • In Journey to the West, the Bull Demon King, also known as the Herculean King, was a former comrade of Sun Wukong and, after him, was the strongest of his Seven Demon Kings associates (which included a Rain Dragon Demon King and a Rukh Demon King). When encountered he proves to be one of Sun Wukong's most tenacious and strong opponents, turning into a colossal white bull to square off against him and Prince Nezha.
  • The Story of Ferdinand: Humorously inverted. The titular bull, while massive and strong, is peaceful and easygoing. The humor of the story derives from the deliberate and extreme subversion of this trope, particularly in-universe where people expect the big and strong Ferdinand to be as aggressive as the other bulls and keep trying, and failing, to make him fight in the bullfighting arena.
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms have a chapter where the Qi kingdom general, Tian Dan, devises a method to overcome a far superior army via the Fire-Bull Formation - a herd of cattle, starved overnight, with daggers attached to their horns and released charging into the enemy formations with burning hay tied to their tales. The bulls in a panic will savagely trample their way through the enemy camp, destroying most of the base, and after a night of stampede the remainders are easy pickings.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Cretan Bull from Classical Mythology, which got its name from the sea god Poseidon sending it to Minos, the King of Crete. Minos was supposed to sacrifice it to Poseidon, but when he decided to keep it Poseidon made Minos's wife fall in love with it and then drove it mad. It fathered the Minotaur and started running amuck all over Crete until Heracles captured it for his seventh Labor. Heracles let the Bull go after he fulfilled the Labor, and it went on a rampage in Attica. Finally, it was captured by Theseus, who sacrificed it to Athena.
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh: After being spurned by Gilgamesh, Innana sends the Bull of Heaven to drain the Euphrates dry, requiring both Gilgamesh and Enkidu to defeat it.

  • In Medieval Times' dinner theatre shows, the emblem of the Yellow Knight is a bull that looks eerily similiar to the logo for the Chicago Bulls. His introduction by the Lord Marshal describes him in appropriately brutish terms, referring to him as a "mighty beast", and making consistent use of bovine imagery.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: The Taurian Concordat, one of the periphery states, uses a bull as their national symbol. They're notable for being isolationist, xenophobic, and highly aggressive toward their neighbors (particularly the Federated Suns) and for their love of using nuclear weapons.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Gorgons, despite the name, are a species of armor-plated bulls that breathe out a gas that petrifies those who come into contact with it. They're extremely bad-tempered, attacking other creatures on sight and attempting to gore, trample or petrify them, and are noted to utterly impossible to tame or domesticate.
  • Exalted: One of the most feared barbarian warlords in the setting, an Exalted chieftain who has led his horde on a long path of conquest through the North and crushed every city, nation and army in his way, is known to most as the Bull of the North.
  • Pathfinder: While Kess the Bull, the iconic brawler — a character class focused on unarmed, rough-and-dirty fighting — is a well-intentioned and morally upright person (Chaotic Good, to be precise), her blunt approach to life, love of rough physical combat, dislike for niceties and assorted fripperies and deliberate rejection of a noblewoman's life for one of a bare-knuckle ring fighter more than fit the traditional associations of the animal she names herself after.
  • Warhammer: The evil, tyrannical, slave-driving chaos dwarfs have a prominent bull motif. Their god, Hashut, takes the form of an enormous winged bull with blood-red skin, and when the ancient chaos dwarves turned to his worship many mutated into bull-bodied centaurs. Further, chaos dwarf lords and sorcerers often ride great tauruses — red-skinned, fire-breathing bulls with dragon wings — and lammasu — much like the former, but black-skinned and with the heads of ugly, horned dwarfs — which are believed to descend from chaos dwarfs whose mutations were even more extreme than those that led to the creation of the bull centaurs.
  • Warhammer 40,000: The Goffs, the most brutish, hard-headed and dogmatic of the Ork clans, and the most brutal and feared as well, fittingly use the bull as their clan symbol. This also reflects their preferred battlefield tactic — a direct headlong charge with no pretense of subtlety.

    Video Games 
  • Aggressors of Dark Kombat: Leonhalt Domador is a Garbage Wrestler, Mighty Glacier and one of the game's more brutish fighters. He also has a prominent bull motif, being called "the Black Bull", with a bull's skull on his jacket, and his stage is in a desert with skeletons of bulls in the background.
  • Assassin's Creed: Odyssey has the Kretan Bull, a monstrous bull that's larger than a rhinocerous as an Optional Boss that must be fought to complete The Goddess's Hunt sidequest.
  • Banjo-Kazooie has Big Butt the Bull, an Invincible Minor Minion that can be only knocked out momentarily before he recovers and charges at you again.
  • Of the three heroes of The Bound in Bound by Blades, Kota the bovine brawler is their muscle and The Big Guy, as well as being a Boisterous Bruiser.
  • Conker's Bad Fur Day features Bugger Lugs the Bull as the Mini-Boss of the Windy Chapter. He bears more than a passing resemblance to Toro the Bull. True to what the blurb stated, he decided to attack Conker simply because he's a red squirrel and Bugger Lugs hates the colour red. Really hates the colour red.
  • Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze: One of the enemies is Buffaloafer, a Cape buffalo who will charge whoever gets too close.
  • Dusty Revenge and it's prequel, Dusty Raging Fist have andromorphic bull outlaws as regular enemies, attacking Dusty either with their horns or gatling-gun arms. The original game's first boss, Reddo, is in fact a King Mook version of the recurring bull enemy.
  • Fairy Godmother Tycoon: One of your rival gangs is a mob of bulls in leisure suits known as the Mad Cows.
  • Hero of Sparta, befitting its ancient Greek setting, has the Cretan bull enemy who repeatedly tries to gore you via Horn Attack.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn: The Trampler is a robot that resembles a massive bison. The moment one sees Aloy, it typically charges and attempt to crush her under its giant hooves or fling her into the air with its horns.
  • Kirby and the Forgotten Land: Buffahorn are bull-like enemies that attack by charging down Kirby on sight. Their figurine description calls them "the brutal, brutish Buffahorn".
  • Knights of Valour, an arcade game based on the Three Kingdoms novel, have a rather direct reference to the Fire-Bull formation; occasionally you'll battle stampeding bulls with daggers tied to their horns as an enemy type.
  • Legend of Heroes have the Hun army unleashing stampeding bulls on your heroes every now and then. They take quite a while to beat, but can otherwise be ignored while you focus on enemy soldiers - the bulls will stop stampeding after a while and leave on their own.
  • Pokémon:
    • Tauros, the archetypal bull Pokémon, is regularly described in its Pokédex entries as violent, short-tempered and very fond of charging things down. A Tauros with no enemy to charge will take out its frustration by ramming and uprooting large trees until it calms down. This is subverted with those native to Alola, which are stated to be somewhat calmer and more even-tempered than those found elsewhere in the world.
    • Bouffalant, a buffalo-like Pokémon that serves as Tauros' counterpart species in Unova, is likewise described as prone to charging and headbutting anything it sees. It can apparently charge with enough force to derail a train.
  • Poseidon: Master of Atlantis: Played with, as bulls defend cattle from predators but don't act aggressively towards humans.
  • Rodeo Stampede: Sky Zoo Safari: Once their enclosure is upgraded enough, cape buffalo charge forward briefly as soon as you lasso them, smashing through anything in their path from trees to rocks to other animals.
  • Super Catboy have you fighting a fierce anthropomorphic bull as the boss of the valley stage, who repeatedly tries stomping your feline protagonist into the ground. He's also a literal Bullfight Boss that you can only damage by tricking him into embedding his horns into the arena's walls.
  • Them's Fightin' Herds: Texas' personality makes him more of a subversion. While he looks large and intimidating, he's usually pretty friendly and jovial when not fighting. Though he's the herd leader for a reason, and as shown as a playable character, it's certainly obvious why he's the bull in charge.
  • In Titan Quest, the boss guarding the access to the Yellow Emperor's palace in act III is a massive, bright red demon bull named Yao Guai, who attacks by goring, trampling, as well as bucking, shooting flames and summoning shadow demons to attack you.
  • Subverted by the tauren of World of Warcraft - they're brave, noble, nature-loving minotaurs.


    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender inverts this with flying bison, which served as Bond Creatures to the Air Nomads and are friendly and cuddly unless you threaten someone they care about or otherwise push them too far. Aang's bison companion Appa functions as a Team Pet along with the flying lemur Momo (another creature traditionally associated with the Air Nomads).
  • Back at the Barnyard: Any bull that shows up on the show has a much more muscular build than Otis the Cow, as well as darker fur and a nose ring.
  • Darkwing Duck: Taurus Bulba, the first big-name criminal faced by Darkwing. A massive, Genius Bruiser bull crime lord responsible for the murder of Gosalyn's grandfather to obtain the Ramrod gravity gun. He also behaves as Faux Affably Evil as you'd expect from a villain voiced by Tim Curry. Bulba proved to be such an impressive villain that he reappears in Season 3 of DuckTales (2017), where he's basically a Mad Scientist and a bovine version of The Kingpin.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • Bully for Bugs: Toro the huge black bull takes downright sadistic pleasure in fighting and charging his opponents, even using a grindstone to keep his horns extra-sharp. While doing this with the toreador he faces at the beginning of the short is potentially understandable, his launching Bugs into the stratosphere after a slap on the nose is definitely a case of Disproportionate Retribution. Throughout the short, Toro (mostly) relies on straightforward attacks and powerful charges, and while against expectations he shows a couple moments of cleverness, in the end he is of course outwitted and defeated by Bugs. Other Looney Tunes using fierce bulls in bullfighting arenas are 1936's "Picador Porky" and 1947's "Mexican Joyride" with Daffy Duck.
    • A bull shows up in 1937's "Porky's Railroad". Unusual for the trope, it doesn't turn antagonistic until Porky angers it by pulling its tail (he mistook it for the tail of a cow that had been blocking the railroad track. When Porky is challenged to a race by a much newer and more powerful "Silver Fish" locomotive, the bull performs a Foe-Tossing Charge at Porky's train that flings it over the finish line.
  • My Little Pony:
    • My Little Pony 'n Friends: In "The End of Flutter Valley", when Sting and Morning Glory cross the rainbow to Megan's ranch, the first thing they find is a large, ill-tempered bull that immediately starts chasing them around the farm, until Megan uses a red blanket to draw its attention and lure into a fenced paddock.
    • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: The yaks are uniformly portrayed as stubborn, arrogant and not particularly bright. They all talk in Hulk Speak, without conjugating verbs or using pronouns or proper nouns (they refer to themselves and everyone else by using the person's species instead), and fly into rages whenever their ridiculously high standards for everything aren't met, violently smashing and trampling whatever objects failed to live up to their expectations.
  • The Pink Panther: The panther becomes a matador in "Bully For Pink," using a magician's cape to outwit and subdue the bull during the contest.
  • Two cartoons bear the title "Bulldozing the Bull", one with Popeye who becomes a matador under protest (as he doesn't believe in harming any animals), the other with Heckle and Jeckle who are similarly forced into being matadors after sneaking into an arena to peddle tamales.
  • Thomas & Friends: In "The Beast of Sodor", Sir Topham Hatt tries to find a shortcut to Dowager Hatt's house so he can meet her for their luncheon. When his car gets stuck in a snowdrift, he wanders into a farm, where he is chased by a big black bull.