The bull shark is not the first shark most people think of when they think of man-eaters. That title is reserved for the great white shark, the tiger shark, and sometimes even the great hammerhead shark. While it is true that these species of shark have and will attack human beings, the bull shark may be the real danger to human beings overall. Great whites attack out of curiosity primarily, or because they mistake us for normal prey items such as seals. Tigers will attack a human for food, but they are not commonly encountered by the average swimmer. The same goes for the great hammerhead. The bull shark, however, is different.
The bull shark is one of the more common sharks that people come in close contact with, whether they know it or not. These massive sharks actually prefer shallow water, estuaries, and even freshwater rivers. Bull sharks have been found in freshwater lakes and streams, and they are found in all the oceans of the world. When you add to this the fact that they are aggressive, you have a recipe for problems.
The bull shark is so named because of a wide blunt snout, as well as because they are extremely persistent. They also are known for bumping their prey before they attack. This is probably a case of the bull shark testing to see if you are, in fact, prey. Bull sharks will eat most anything that enters the ocean, and this includes fish, other sharks, dolphins, sting rays, crabs, and even on occasion people. This makes them a serious contender for the most dangerous shark in the world.
The bull shark is not only aggressive, it has the body to back up that aggression. The bull shark is on average around 7 to 12 ft long, and weighs in excess of 500 pounds. In addition to that powerful body, they have rows of razor sharp teeth that can easily shred human flesh. Bull sharks are notorious for biting off limbs, and swimming away with them. Because they are so powerful, and they have such serious bite strength, they can tear off an arm or leg with ease.
As for the actual numbers, the bull shark is in a near dead heat with the tiger shark for second place in attacks on humans. The great white is still far and away the most common shark species, but the numbers are far from wholly dependable. It seems almost certain that a great many attacks are not properly attributed, simply because most people are not focused on the type of animal that is trying to eat them. The great white is probably attributed with some that were actually bull sharks, and vice versa. Whatever the case, the odds are much higher that the average swimmer will be attacked by a bull than any other. Why? Because bulls are much more common in shallow water where swimmers tend to be.
In the broad scope of things, your odds of being attacked by any shark are microscopic. The odds are certainly in your favor as long as you do not engage in high risk behaviors. These include swimming at night or dusk, surfing, diving, spear fishing, and other sports that might bring you close to a shark. The shark is a beautiful yet powerful predator of our oceans, and should be respected at all times. The bull shark is certainly a wonderful example.