Bull vs. Steer

What's the Difference?

Bulls and steers are both male cattle, but they have distinct differences. Bulls are intact males that have not been castrated, while steers are males that have been castrated at a young age. Bulls are known for their aggressive behavior, as their testosterone levels are high, making them more territorial and prone to fighting. On the other hand, steers are generally more docile and easier to handle due to their lower testosterone levels. Additionally, bulls are often used for breeding purposes, while steers are commonly raised for meat production.


Photo by Richard Gatley on Unsplash
Reproductive CapabilityFertileSterile
Presence of TesticlesYesYes
Used for BreedingYesNo
Used for Meat ProductionYesYes
BehaviorCan be aggressiveGenerally docile
SizeVaries by breedVaries by breed
WeightVaries by breedVaries by breed
Age at MaturityVaries by breedVaries by breed
Used for WorkYesNo
Photo by Larry Costales on Unsplash

Further Detail


When it comes to cattle, bulls and steers are two distinct categories that often get confused. While both are male bovines, there are significant differences in their attributes and roles within the cattle industry. In this article, we will explore the characteristics of bulls and steers, highlighting their physical traits, behavior, and purposes. By understanding these differences, we can gain a deeper appreciation for these magnificent animals and their contributions to various aspects of human life.

Physical Attributes

One of the most noticeable differences between bulls and steers lies in their physical attributes. Bulls are intact males, meaning they have not been castrated, and therefore retain their reproductive organs. As a result, they possess certain physical characteristics that differentiate them from steers. Bulls typically have a larger and more muscular build, with a prominent hump on their shoulders and a thicker neck. Their testicles are also visibly present, contributing to their overall size and appearance.

On the other hand, steers are castrated males, which means their testicles have been surgically removed. This castration process eliminates the production of testosterone, resulting in a different physical development compared to bulls. Steers tend to have a more streamlined and leaner body structure, with less muscle mass and a smaller hump. Their necks are generally thinner, and without the presence of testicles, their overall size is often smaller than that of bulls.

Behavioral Differences

Aside from their physical attributes, bulls and steers also exhibit distinct behavioral differences. Bulls, being intact males, possess a more aggressive and territorial nature. They are known for their tendency to display dominance and assertiveness, especially during the breeding season. Bulls may engage in challenging behaviors such as head-butting, bellowing, and pawing the ground to establish their dominance over other bulls and attract females for mating.

On the other hand, steers, having been castrated, generally exhibit a calmer and more docile temperament. Without the influence of testosterone, they are less prone to aggressive behavior and are often easier to handle and manage. Steers are commonly used in various agricultural practices, such as draft animals or for meat production, due to their more predictable and cooperative nature.

Purposes and Uses

The purposes and uses of bulls and steers differ significantly due to their physical and behavioral attributes. Bulls are primarily utilized for breeding purposes, as their intact reproductive organs allow them to sire offspring. They play a crucial role in maintaining the genetic diversity and improving the overall quality of the cattle population. Bulls are carefully selected based on their desirable traits, such as size, conformation, and genetic lineage, to ensure the production of healthy and productive offspring.

Steers, on the other hand, are commonly raised for meat production. The castration process not only alters their physical development but also affects their meat quality. Steers tend to have more tender and flavorful meat compared to bulls, making them a preferred choice for beef production. Additionally, their docile nature and ease of handling make them suitable for various agricultural tasks, such as pulling carts or plowing fields.


In conclusion, bulls and steers are two distinct categories of male bovines with notable differences in their physical attributes, behavior, and purposes. Bulls, being intact males, possess a larger and more muscular build, exhibit aggressive behavior, and are primarily used for breeding purposes. On the other hand, steers, having been castrated, have a leaner body structure, display a calmer temperament, and are commonly raised for meat production or utilized in agricultural practices.

Understanding the attributes of bulls and steers allows us to appreciate the unique roles they play in the cattle industry and the benefits they provide to human society. Whether it is through the production of healthy offspring or the provision of high-quality meat, both bulls and steers contribute significantly to various aspects of our lives. By recognizing and respecting these differences, we can ensure the well-being and sustainable management of these magnificent animals for generations to come.

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