Fact Check

Shooting the Bull

Planned disposal of one bull precipitates the shooting of others.

Published Jun 9, 2000

Claim:   Planned disposal of one animal precipitates the shooting of others.


Example:   [Brunvand, 1993]

Three Minnesota hunters drove into a farm yard, and one went up to ask the farmer's permission to hunt his fields. The farmer approved, on the condition that the hunters shoot an old bull that he had been planning to get rid of.

The hunter went back to the car and pulled a little gag on his buddies. He told them that the farmer was a rotten old coot who refused them permission to hunt. Then he had the driver stop when they passed the old bull.

He climbed out, very deliberately took aim and shot the bull, then said, "That'll take care of the rotten old coot." Whereupon his two companions each shot a cow, commenting, "That'll REALLY take care of that rotten old coot."


Variations:   Old mares, mules, geldings, and bulls have been sent to glory in this story.

Origins:   This


"hunting prank gone wrong" tale turned up in a 1985 [Minnesota] Pioneer Press and Dispatch column, told as something that happened locally to three unnamed hunters. Two years later, former New York Yankees player and manager Billy Martin regaled David Letterman with this story on 16 April 1987, claiming Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford had played this trick on him while the trio was hunting in Texas. Martin said that Mantle, at the rancher's request, shot an old mule, pretending this was an act of retribution for being refused permission to hunt on his land. Martin claimed he was then inspired to shoot two of the rancher's cows and had to pay $800 in reparations.

Unfortunately for raconteur Billy Martin's credibility, his "personal experience" appears in the 1945 Morton Thompson book Joe, The Wounded Tennis Player. (Martin, Mantle, and Ford didn't become teammates until the 1950s.)

Barbara "yankee doodle'd" Mikkelson

Sightings:   Comedian Jerry Clower tells this yarn as "Bird Huntin' at Uncle Versies'" on his 1975 album Live in Picayune.

Last updated:   1 August 2011


    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Curses! Broiled Again!

    New York: W. W. Norton, 1989.   ISBN 0-393-30711-5   (pp. 138-141).

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   "Be Skeptical If You Hear About Hunters Shooting the Bull."

    The San Diego Union-Tribune.   11 June 1987   (p. D2).

Also told in:

    Healey, Phil and Rick Glanvill.   Now! That's What I Call Urban Myths.

    London: Virgin Books, 1996.   ISBN 0-86369-969-3   (pp. 108-110).

    The Big Book of Urban Legends.

    New York: Paradox Press, 1994.   ISBN 1-56389-165-4   (p. 51).