Naturespeak A naturalist's view of the world

August 23, 2010

Full of Bull

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 7:37 pm

There’s a lot of bull in this world. No, I don’t mean the “B. S.” kind of bull, although there is plenty of that to go around too. There are many things that bear the name “bull” something or other – a term usually attached to denote something large or pugnacious. For example, bull thistles, bulldogs, bulrushes, bull snakes, bull sharks, and – of course – bull moose and bull cattle are good examples of living things bearing the name. There are no bull shrimps as far as I know. Bull Durham is a tobacco and a movie, so it doesn’t count – either does Kevin Costner, although he can be full of BS at times (by that I mean big screen, I think).

Since there are so many bull-like things roaming and growing out there, it is inevitable that they will come in contact with each other from time to time. Most of these contacts are of a benign nature – bull cattle won’t each bull thistles, for instance, so they let them be. If a bull moose were dropped into the ocean, then the bullshark would definitely be at an advantage, but there is no logical scenario on earth that would put a bull moose with a bull shark unless they are both dead and stuffed in a museum. In that realistic case, however, they would get along famously. Realistically, there are situations in which an encounter of bulls could be deadly for one or the other. Bull moose will eat bulrushes on occasion and bulldogs could rip the tar out of a bull snake if they were in a suitably pugnacious mood.

On a recent walk I encountered just such a negative merger of bull-named things – a bullfrog in the process of eating a bullhead. The frog initially caught my attention because it was in such an odd upright position. I didn’t see the reason for this pose until I focused my lens on her. Although not as exciting as smack down between a bull moose and a rodeo bull, it was interesting – in a slow motion sort of way. The frog was a medium-sized individual, about hand-sized, which had selected a 4 inch bullhead catfish for its meal of the day. Had the quarry been any other critter, it would have disappeared down the big frog’s gullet without delay. Bullheads are armed with spines, however, and they don’t go down so easily.

The frog probably made the grab long before I came upon the scene. As a reaction, the small bullhead would have locked its pectoral (side) fin spines as well as the single spine on the dorsal (top) fin. Rather than rip himself a new esophagus, the frog simply waited for the fish to die. He waited at least ten minutes into the period I watched him, during which time the hind end of the fish hung out of his mouth like a wet noodle. Without any expression, and only an occasional pass of the front foot over the prey, the bullfrog remained motionless. Finally, the limp fish was re-positioned sideways and folded in half for the stomach-ward journey. I would think that this would have been the worst way to swallow a spiny fish, but what do I know. I gave up on catching the last gulp since it was going on twenty minutes and I had some drying paint that needed watching, but I’m sure the deal was all but done.

Bullfrogs will eat just about anything that will fit into their mouths. This list numbers insects of all description such as dragonflies and moths, but also includes other frogs, mice, and even small birds. Fish are on the diet as well, but not as often as you’d think because they generally don’t take prey under water. I suspect this individual popped the bullhead as it rose to the surface to catch some prey of its own.  Bullheads are also known for eating just about anything – including frogs – so there were several layers of poetic justice going on in this case.

As a final piece of semantic completeness in this bull-eat-bull situation, the small pads upon which the frog was perched were obnoxious alien plants which are new to the Lake Erie marsh scene. They are called, and I am not making this up, European Frogbit. So, it appears, bullheads have bullfrogs to bite ‘em and pads under the frogs that bit ‘em… and that’s no bull.

1 Comment »

  1. Hello,

    I really enjoyed this piece about the Bullfrog and the Bullhead. No Bull…. Anyway,I am a teacher and songwriter. I have created some educational children’s songs and one of them is called Bullfrog. You may listen to it here:

    I am making a free video to accompany the song. I would like to ask if I may use your picture this bullfrog with the bullhead in its mouth to put in the video? I have mostly used photos from people I have gained permission from on but this photo is top notch.

    I would definitely send you the link when it is complete.

    Thank you,


    Comment by Dan — May 31, 2012 @ 1:01 pm

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