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Why Do Bulls Have Nose Rings?

Nicole Cosgrove

If you’ve ever noticed a bull or several bulls with rings in their nose and wonder why those rings are there, we have the answer you need! While you may think that nose rings in bulls are some kind of ‘bull bling’, there’s a more practical reason for these rings.

A ring in a bull’s nose is called a bull ring. It’s something that’s been used for ages as a way to control a bull, which is a rather unruly animal by nature. A bull ring is typically made of some type of metal such as brass, stainless steel, or aluminum and it’s put into the septum of a bull’s nose when the animal is just months old.

A bull ring is typically hinged to make it easy to open, insert, and lock. The bull is given a local anesthetic before the ring is placed to make the piercing less painful.

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Using a Lead

Bull with a nose ring
Image Credit: Lars Schlagater, Pixabay

When a ring is in a bull’s nose and snapped closed, a lead is attached to the ring to give the handler something to hold onto when leading the bull around. The bull quickly learns to follow its handler’s lead when it’s being pulled on via the ring because the tissues in the nose are very sensitive. Just imagine for a moment if you had a ring in your nose and someone tugged on it. Undoubtedly, it would get your attention, at the very least!

As you may know, if a bull attacks a human, the human doesn’t usually fare well as bulls are aggressive and strong animals. Bulls also have big attitudes and weigh several hundred pounds. When you put a muscular and powerful bull with a bad attitude up against a man that weighs a couple of hundred pounds, the man doesn’t stand much of a chance of walking away unscathed.

A Halter is Usually Used with the Nose Ring

In addition to a bull ring, most bull handlers put a halter on their bull’s head. Then a lead is clipped on the ring and onto the halter, to give the handler more security. When a bull is led around this way, it is not likely to attack the handler. If the bull does try to step out of line, a good tug on the lead is usually all it takes to remind the animal that the handler is in charge.

Sometimes a device called a bull staff is attached to a bull’s nose ring to help control the animal. A bull staff is a sturdy metal pole about four feet long with a spring release on one end and a clamp on the other that clips to the nose ring on the bull. Leading a bull with a bull staff gives the handler much more control, plus it’s sure to keep the bull a safe distance from the handler.

Bull Rings are Required by Most Cattle Shows

Most cattle shows require that all bulls have rings in their nose. This is because bulls are in close proximity to the people attending a cattle show. A bull handler attaches a lead to the ring in a bull’s nose to make it a safer environment for everyone. It’s common for two handlers to lead one bull around at a cattle show to be extra certain that the animal doesn’t get loose and cause harm to the attendees.

It’s not unusual for bulls at cattle shows to be near cows and heifers. If any heifers or cows are in heat, it’s not easy to stop an unrestrained bull from getting to those females. There’s no doubt that bull nose rings play an important role at cattle shows!

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Nose Rings are Also Used to Help Wean Calves

Nose rings are sometimes used by farmers to wean calves off milk by preventing them from getting to their mother’s udders. A calf nose ring is made of metal or plastic and usually has some spikes extending from it.

Unlike a bull nose ring that is pierced through the septum, a calf nose ring clamps onto the septum. The spikes extending from the ring cause discomfort to the cow’s udders when the calf tries to suckle wherein the cow pushes the calf away. It usually only takes a few days for a calf to become completely weaned when wearing one of these devices. Once a calf has been weaned, the nose ring is simply removed, cleaned, and used again on another calf.

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Conclusion

The next time you see a ring in a bull’s nose, you’ll know why it’s there. Bull rings are used on farms, at agricultural events, rodeos, and cattle shows to help move bulls from one place to another. While a bull nose ring may seem a bit cruel, it’s really the only way a human can safely direct a bull from point A to point B without getting hurt.


Featured Image Credit: danielfotowelt, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.