Brown Bullhead
  • Side view adult.
  • Side view adult.
  • Side view adult.
  • Top view adult.
  • Bottom view adult.
  • Head-on view adult.
  • Close-up flank.
  • Close-up head.
  • Close-up mouth and snout.
  • Close-up tail.
  • Close-up dorsal fin.
  • Close-up anal fin.
  • Close-up pectoral fin.
  • Close-up pelvic fin.
  • Close-up pectoral fin: There are saw-like barbs; the membrane is separated from spine for clarity of top pectoral fin.
  • There are 12-16 (usually 13-15) gill rakers.
  • Close-up anal fin: There are 21-24 rays, including rudimentaries.
  • Close-up head: There are dark chin barbels; the jaws are similar in length.
  • The sides display a mottled color, there is no bar at the base of the tail and there is a "free" adipose fin. The tail is round/slightly forked.
  • Note the absence of horn-like backward lateral extensions from the tooth patch on the roof of the mouth.
  • Top view of a yearling: Yearlings are similar to adults. Note the saw-like margin of the pectoral spine..
  • Young-of-year are similar to adults.
  • Bottom view of a young-of-year: They are similar to adults.
  • Yearlings are similar to adults.
  • Alternative side view.
  • Alternative view of caudal region.
  • Alternative view of underside of head.
  • Black bullhead (top) and brown bullhead (bottom): Both show similarities in appearance. Both are of solid color; the black bullhead is darker and more yellow on the bottom.
DescriptionSimilar Species
Bullhead Catfishes (Ictaluridae)
Mouth and snout: Slightly subterminal or terminal, patches of numerous fine teeth on jaws. 8 obvious barbels (4 pairs; 2 pair on chin, 1 pair on side of upper jaw (near corner of mouth), 1 pair on top of snout). Body patterning, color, and scales: Usually mottled, but sometimes a solid color. Body usually yellowish brown to dark gray with dark brown mottling, with a cream or tan belly. Fins darkly pigmented. No scales. Body shape and size: Body dorsal-ventrally flattened with a rounded head; in cross section approximately oval (with a long horizontal axis) to round with a flattened ventral surface. Typically 200-300 mm (8-12 in) TL; maximum in Wisconsin about 375 mm (15 in).
Tail, dorsal and other fins: Rounded, squared, or slightly forked (shallow notch) tail. Single dorsal with 1 stout spine and 6-7 rays, attached by membrane. Pelvic fins abdominal. Adipose fin present. Anal fin with 21-24 rays (including rudimentary rays).
Distinguishing Characteristics
The brown bullhead can be distinguished by its “free”, flaplike adipose fin, by its square or rounded or very slightly forked tail, in having its upper jaw extend slightly beyond the lower, in not having the tooth patch in the roof of its upper jaw with lateral backward extensions, and having their anal fin base longer than their post-orbital distance. It also has obvious barbels. See also similar species information.
Breeding Adults
Similar to non-breeders.
Similar to adults, although more likely to be a solid color.
Black bullhead X Brown bullhead reported from Wisconsin.
Compare Similar Species
Anal Fin Rays
Bullhead, Black15-21
Bullhead, Brown21-24
Bullhead, Yellow24-27
Color Pattern
Bullhead, BlackMainly solid and dark, with white or yellow belly; faint pale yellow vertical bar at base of tail
Bullhead, BrownUsually mottled, but may be solid, generally yellow brown or gayish, belly usually cream or tan; no bar at base of tail
Bullhead, YellowMainly solid, black to yellowish brown; belly white or yellow; no bar at base of tail
Pelvic Spine
Bullhead, BlackEdge rough or with irregular small barbs
Bullhead, BrownEdge with regular saw-like barbs
Bullhead, YellowEdge with regular saw-like barbs
Chin Barbels
Bullhead, BlackDark gray, brown or black
Bullhead, BrownBlack to yellowish brown
Bullhead, YellowWhitish or light gray
Gill Rakers, 1st Arch
Bullhead, Black15-21, usually 17-19
Bullhead, Brown12-16, usually 13-15
Bullhead, Yellow12-18, usually 13-16
Similarity Index
Bullhead, BlackVery similar
Bullhead, BrownN/A
Bullhead, YellowVery similar