When people think of a male cow, it’s common that an image of a large, muscular bull comes to mind. However, a bull is not the only male bovine out there. In this article, we’ll run you through the difference between two common types of male bovines – a bull and a steer.
While bulls and steers may belong to the same bovine family, they possess distinct traits that set them apart from each other. Bulls are usually larger and more muscular than steers. This can be attributed to the fact that steers are castrated at a young age, which means they physically mature differently to bulls, which have not been castrated. Bulls are therefore able to reproduce, while a steer cannot. The muscular build of a bull allows them to be easily spotted in a herd as they are significantly larger and bulkier than the other cows. In contrast, a steer is typically harder to spot within a herd as their body characteristics more closely resemble a female cow.
Physical traits aren’t the only thing that differentiate bulls and steers. Their behavioural attributes are also quite distinct. Bulls tend to be more aggressive and short-tempered than steers, and will fight each other to establish dominance within a herd. A bull’s aggression is related to their reproductive instincts, as the presence of other bulls or humans may be perceived as a threat to their relations with the female cows in a herd. On the other hand, because steers have been castrated, they produce lower levels of testosterone than bulls. As a result, steers are less aggressive and more docile, making them easier to handle. Steers don’t reproduce, so they don’t need to fight other herd members for dominance. At ‘Til The Cows Come Home, we have many steer adoptions because their docile nature makes them great companions. All the males are desexed in our care before they are rehomed.
Some people may be worried about adopting a male calf because they’re not ready to handle their large and muscular bodies. However, you don’t have to worry about this when adopting a steer, as they are more similar to female cows in terms of their physical and behavioural characteristics. There are so many welfare concerns related to male calves, especially when it comes to dairy farms. Therefore, it’s crucial that we continue to grow our foster and adopter communities so we can rehome as many of these sweet calves as possible. To find out more about the importance of saving male calves, head over to our blog explaining why we have so many male calves coming into our care.