Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Steer and Bull

Both the steer and bull belong to the cattle family but with distinctive features between them. Even though they are both male bovine, they are different in terms of their anatomical traits as well as how they behave towards humans and other members of their herds.  Also, the way humans use or rear them differs in separate ways.

The key step is to set the two apart and state their key traits. With the characteristics, it will be easier to know which bovine, between a steer and bull, falls where. This article, as such, seeks to separate the two and draw the boundaries between them.


What is a Steer?

A steer is male belonging to the family of cattle. It is normally a bull, but if it gets castrated, it becomes a steer. The term is also used to describe a young neutered male primarily raised for beef.

Desirable Qualities of an Ideal Market Steer

An ideal market steer has the following traits:

  • A thick and strong level top.
  • A long, level, wide, and full rump.
  • Strong pasterns
  • Adequate bones
  • Square and correct placement of feet and legs.
  • Long, deep, thick, and muscular quarter.
  • Wide and deep loin.
  • Long neck
  • Trim middle
  • Deep forelimb
  • Trim and neat throat, brisket, and dewlap.
  • Smooth shoulders
  • Well-sprung ribs


What is a Bull?

The term bull is used to refer to an uncastrated male bovine animal. It is a male animal of the cow family, especially one that is sexually mature.

Ideal Qualities of a Bull

An ideal market bull:

  • Has a high ability to convert feeds in to beef.
  • Is a good forager even on poor pastures.
  • Is short legged
  • Breeds regularly
  • Is tolerant to high ambient temperatures.
  • Grows fast and matures early.
  • Is resistant to most diseases compared to the dairy breeds.
  • Has a deep chest and girth.
  • Has square rumps and heavy quarters.
  • Has a deep and well-fleshed body.
  • Has a body that is blocky and square or cylindrical in appearance. The top and lower lines are both almost straight.
  • Is much more muscular, has thicker bones, larger feet, extra muscular neck, and a larger bony head. It also has protective ridges over the eyes.


Differences Between a Steer and a Bull

Steer and bull are both male bovine but are not of the same critter. Their notable differences include:

  1. Reproductive Differences in Steer and Bull

A bull is a male bovine that is capable of mating and reproducing as its testicles are intact. A steer, on the other hand, is a castrated male bovine because he is usually bred for meat production and does not need to have testicles then. His testicles are removed even though the sheath and penis remain intact.

The steer is usually castrated long before he hits sexual maturity. This is commonly done when the bull is still a young calf. However, it’s not all steers that are castrated. Some, the ones certified to have the best genetics to service many cows, are left fully intact.

  1. Physical Differences in Steer and Bull

Since most steers have had their testicles removed at a younger age, their bodies develop and mature differently from bulls’. For instance, a bull develops a muscular crest over his neck and shoulders, a feature that is not present in steers.

Also, bulls have muscular bodies, which are different from female bovines. This makes them easily identifiable within a herd. As for a steer, it is not easy to identify them since they have a body and muscular development that resembles a bovine cow’s except for the presence of the penis. They also have less hairy prepuce in the middle of their underbelly that covers the sheath that houses the penis. The sheath is also less pronounced.

  1. Behavioral Differences in Steer and Bull

When a steer is castrated and have their testicles removed, they experience a reduction in the production of testosterone. Testosterone is a sex hormone that not only drives male mammals to copulate but it also makes them grow to be more aggressive.

This means that a steer grows into a more docile bovine male and never causes fights within his herd as he is not competing for the female bovines.

Bulls, on the other hand, are usually aware of such periods when a female bovine is in estrus. Therefore, it seeks to constantly dominate the herd and service as many fertile females as possible in a season. The aggressive behavior among bulls is also transferable to humans whenever the bull thinks that a human is threatening their control over a herd or its female bovines. In short, a steer is less likely to charge at a human than a bull.

  1. Meat Production Differences in Steer and Bull

Bulls are relatively bigger than steers, body wise. Therefore, they have more meat content than steers do. A well-fed and full-grown bull can produce anywhere between 10 and 20 percent more meat when compared to what a steer can produce.

Steer Vs. Bull: Comparison Table


Summary of Steer verses Bull

The key differences between a steer and blue are based on the uses, physical, reproductive, and behavioral traits. As for the steers, they are castrated at a young age since they are bred for meat. Bulls, on the other hand, are bred for both meat and reproduction. As a result, they are not castrated unless they are certified to be of a poor breed.


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References :

[0]"Steer Vs. Bull". Animals.Mom.Me, 2018, https://animals.mom.me/steer-vs-bull-3150.html. Accessed 28 Nov 2018.

[1]"CHARACTERISTICS OF BEEF CATTLE". Kcse-Online.Info, 2018, http://www.kcse-online.info/Form%202%20Agriculture/Form%201%20Agriculture14.html. Accessed 28 Nov 2018.

[2]Government of Alberta, Alberta Ag-Info Centre. "Castrating Beef Cattle - Frequently Asked Questions". Www1.Agric.Gov.Ab.Ca, 2018, https://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/faq10883. Accessed 28 Nov 2018.

[3]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Highland_Cattle_bull.jpg

[4]Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/cow-steer-cattle-farm-beef-897533/

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