Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bull n.2

also bull-calf
[Grose (1785) posits an eponym, one Obadiah Bull, ‘a blundering lawyer of London, who lived in the reign of Henry VII’: the OED rejects this as having ‘no foundation’. The link to Ireland is simply another example of derog. stereotyping; the term’s use predates any such link by many years. Note OF boul, boule, bole, fraud, deceit, trickery, ME bul, falsehood; NB ‘Sl. Terms & the Gypsy Tongue’ in Baily’s Mag. Nov. 1871 suggests origin in Hindi / Rom. bhul, a blunder]

a blunder, an error; a self-contradictory proposition, esp. that which is made by an Irishman; thus bullery n.

[UK]R. Brome Northern Lasse II vi: What a Bulfinch is this! sure ’tis his language they call Bull-speaking.
[UK]Milton Apology for Smectymnuus in Works III (1851) 293: But that such a Poem should be toothlesse I still affirme it to be a bull, taking away the essence of that which it calls it selfe.
[UK]J. Selden Table-Talk (1868) 96: We can make no notion of it, ’tis so full of intricacy, so full of contradiction: ’tis in good earnest, as we state it, half a dozen bulls one upon another.
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Bull, an absurd contradiction or incongruity.
[UK]N. Ward Hudibras Redivivus II:1 6: With Stale Quibbles, Puns, and bulls.
[UK]C. Coffey Devil to Pay III iii: Ha, ha, ha! a Bull, a Bull.
Irish Miscellany viii: In short, I do not mean the Bull For the Mouth, but the Bull Of the Mouth.
[UK]Sham Beggar II v: An Irishman cannot help betraying what Countryman he is, by his ridiculous Bulls and Inconsistencies.
[UK]Nancy Dawson’s Jests 18: A gentleman in Ireland, remarkable for what are called bulls.
[UK]Macaroni Jester 4: For an Epitaph droll, or an Epigram queer, / Or a broad-faced Hibernian Bull.
[UK] ‘The Bucket of Water’ in Holloway & Black I (1975) 46: ’Tis a mighty fine thing to be sure / It is now, without e’er a bull or blunder.
[UK]Banquet of Wit 68: The late Earl of Shaftesbury kept an Irish footman, who perhasps, was as expert in making bulls as the most learned of his countrymen.
[UK]M. & R. Lovell Edgeworth Essays on Irish Bulls 232: I should say that an incongruity of ideas constitutes a bull.
[UK]W.T. Moncrieff All at Coventry I i: Are you afraid of committing a bull, you dog?
[UK] ‘The Irishman in England’ Universal Songster I 32/2: I wasn’t a calf to be cowed by a bull; / For soon I parsaved it was nonsense and stuff.
[UK]Berks. Chron. 28 May 3/3: Whenever a bull is made by any person, he is set down immediately for a Paddy-whack.
[UK]G. Kent Modern Flash Dict.
[UK]‘Alfred Crowquill’ Seymour’s Humourous Sketches (1866) 155: Watty was so good-humoured a fellow, that he could laugh at an Irish bull.
[UK]London Mag. Feb. 13/2: [I]f Davie was not a Scotchman, this might safely be pronounced an Irish bull; but the fact is, that bulls fatten in all climates.
[UK]Bucks. Herald 4 Mar. 6/5: If this isn’t a practical bull / ‘Betty Martin,’ it is ‘and my eye’.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 30 Sept. 2/5: Thomas Tracy, a rale Emeralder of the genus, [...] with the usual good fortune of his countrymen made a bull, or rather put his foot in it.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 14 Aug. 14/1: He has an Irishman’s capacity for ‘making bulls’.
[UK]Sporting Times 12 Jan. 6/2: Contemptuous silence on your part will probably, to make an irish bull, be your answer.
[NZ]Otago Witness (NZ) 20 Apr. 31/5: Irish wit is delightful [...] and there is a lurking twinkle in its seemingly most obtuse ‘bulls’ that the thorough Saxon mind often fails to grasp.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 8 July 4/7: How they [i.e. the police] watch the pubs and ‘pull’ / Fools who’re caught at Sunday-trading, / But they always make a bull, / When the burglars go a-raiding.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 14 July 13/1: ‘The Turner Govt. thought they had got the ear of the constituencies and could therefore throw dust in their eyes.’ – Small bull-calf from the speech of Kirton, M.P. for Ballarat, in the Victorian Parliament.
[US]Flynt & Walton Powers That Prey 170: It was a great bull somebody wasn’t croaked for the killin’ o’ Patrolman Stimson two years ago.
[US]Paducah Sun (KY) 2 Sept. 7/2: The Irish member of Parliament is due the credit for the first ‘bull’ of the session. ‘Then when will the heliogram correspondence be published?’ demanded the persistent Irishman.
[US]Ade ‘The Fable of the Poor Woman’ in True Bills 7: Whenever he told a ripe old Scandinavian Wheeze or an Irish Bull she would let out a Whoop.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 17 Mar. 1/1: [He] declines to allow a boy to laugh when ‘bull’ answers are given by other scholars.
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Young Manhood in Studs Lonigan (1936) 379: It was bull number one for him, bad way to start the evening off. Girls got sore when fellows pulled little boners like that.
[Ire]‘Myles na gCopaleen’ Best of Myles (1968) 278: Superimpose on all that the miasma of ironic usage [...] Irish bullery and Paddy Whackery.
[Ire]J. Ryan Remembering How We Stood 89: Kavanagh admitted to having perpetrated only one Irish ‘bull’ in his life.

In phrases

pull a bull (v.) (also make a bull)

to blunder.

[UK]C. Dibdin ‘Life’s a Pun’ Collection of Songs II 169: Men play on our passions to turn us to fools, / And make puns and quibbles, that we may make bulls.
[UK]Sporting Mag. Nov. I 100/2: By the holy Shannon, if I had said as much, I should have been accused of making a bull.
[UK] ‘Paddy’s Trip From Dublin’ in A Garland of New Songs (16) 6: I told him the bull we had made in our journey; / But for bull making Irishmen always bear blame.
[UK]H. Kingsley Recollections of G. Hamlyn 430: He was telling the most outrageous of Irish stories, and making, on purpose, the most outrageous of Irish bulls.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 18 Apr. 17/2: You have made rather verbose comments upon a Liverpool alderman making the ‘bull’ of advocating the raising of a volunteer ‘corpse.’ But you should judge of blunders by comparison.
[US]S. Crane Red Badge of Courage (1964) 131: Oh, thunder, MacChesnay, what an awful bull you made of this thing!
[UK]W. Sickert Fortnightly Rev. Dec. 1027: While it must be admitted that Godwin here made a bull, he perhaps put, in this quaint form, a criticism which was not wanting in point.
[UK]H.S. Harrison Queed 392: He had never once made a bull in ‘Mr. Queed’s copy’ since the day of the famous fleas.
[US]S. Lewis Arrowsmith 209: We’ll [...] have a good laugh about that bull you made over the smallpox.
[US]J. Callahan Man’s Grim Justice 37: She was satisfied that I wouldn’t pull any ‘bulls’.
[US](con. 1910s) C.W. Willemse Behind The Green Lights 157: ‘You’ve pulled a bull,’ I said, ‘so take your medicine.’.