I've often wondered why the epithets Bull and Bear are used to describe the particular directions of market movements.

For instance, I have witnessed firsthand how aggressive the Bear is every day, just to survive. The Bull, on the other hand, is lazy most of the day, grazes when he pleases, and is not often dependable on the one thing he is used for: breeding. In nature it seems to me that the Bear is a much more eccentric, powerful, and aggressive beast than the Bull. If I were to use the same epithets for the markets I think I would choose just the opposite of how they are used now.

Scott Brooks comments:

I have wondered the same thing for years. I agree with your assessment. It seems like it should be the other way around. There has to be some kind of a story as to why "Bulls and Bears" were chosen, but I don't know it.

I have looked deeper into this bull/bear dichotomy and have come up with these conclusions. Bears do hibernate each year for a long time. Contrary to what you see on the Discovery channel, bears aren't all that aggressive all the time and are pretty laid back most of the time. They have to work hard for their food, and there is great competition associated with food, and they never know where their next meal is coming from. Further, the fun activities (such as breeding) are highly competitive.

Bulls, which do lay around a lot, are actually pretty aggressive until they've established a pecking order (similar to bears), but then again once that's established they go about living their lives and get along pretty well. But then when you look at a bulls, you are only really looking at a "successful" bull. You see, most bulls are not successful, they're hamburger in your fridge! The successful ones live long prosperous lives, eating good food, getting pampered (by bovine standards), and their most important job is to propagate the species!

Just think about that! It's every school boy’s dream (and middle-aged guy’s dream)! Spend your life being pampered, being fed good food, and hanging out with the guys! And all we've got to do to keep that job is have copious amounts of sex!

I'll take the job of "successful bull" over being a bear any day!

Reminds me of the joke about a father bull and his son standing on top of a hill looking down at a herd of cows. Son says to dad, "Hey dad, lets run down the hill and have sex with one of those cows!" Dad says, "No son, lets walk down hill and have sex with all of them!"

Dylan Distasio notes:

According to Mortimer's definitions, it would appear that "bull" and "bear" had much more specific meanings in 1785 than they do today. A bull wasn't just someone who thought — and hoped — that the market would go up. He was the equivalent of a modern investor who uses margin, and lots of it! The bull of 1785 bought stocks with no money at all and hoped to sell them at a profit before payment became due.

In Mortimer's day, a bear wasn't just a pessimist — he was a short-seller. Mortimer claimed that you could tell bulls and bears apart just by looking at them. It's been 216 years since Mortimer wrote Every Man His Own Broker. But it sounds to me like he could show up on 21st century Wall Street and find his way around just fine. 

Marlowe Cassetti comments:

I remember reading in one of the Senator's books about the "sport" of staging bull and bear fights for the amusement of the early miners and frontiersmen. The bulls would try to toss the bear with its horns and the bear would claw the bull down. Thus the liking of this contest to the early markets. A grizzly contest indeed, then and now! 


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