Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bull n.5

[Ger. sl. Bulle, police officer or poss. synon. Sp. sl. bul; orig. US but Aus./UK black use late 20C]

1. (orig. US, also bul, a police officer; thus US tramp) bull buster, one who is obsessed with assaulting the police; bull-hearted, keen to offer information; fresh bull, a police officer who cannot be bribed; wise bull, a detective.

[[UK]Canting Academy, or the Pedlar’s-French Dict. 114: Bailiffs Napping Bulls].
[US]J. London ‘The Road’ in Hendricks & Shepherd Jack London Reports (1970) 311–21: Attempt to translate this: – De bull snared me; got a t’ree hour blin’ [...] he (fly) (bull) (policeman) arrested me and the judge gave me three hours in which to leave town.
[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 165: Them bulls is round lookin’ fur bot’ uv youse.
[US]Spokane Press (WA) 22 Sept. 7/3: ‘A bull buster’ is one who makes a practice of assaulting policemen.
[US]Lincoln (NE) State Journal 9 Mar. in DN IV:ii 119: Two weeks ago one of our detectives caught one of them (mashers) and, honest, when that ‘bul’ got through with him he was a sight.
[US]E. O’Neill The Web in Ten ‘Lost’ Plays (1995) 54: D’yuh think I’m a simp to be gittin’ yuh protection and keepin’ the bulls from runnin’ yuh in.
[Aus]Mirror (Sydney) 31 Aug. 8/1: Old-timers still remember the stirring days, or nights, when Superintendents, then Inspectors, Roche and Kelly led their ‘bulls’ against many a strongly fortified fan tan shop.
[US]N. Putnam West Broadway 47: ‘I heard a very curious thing about Westman this morning. It seems he’s disappeared.’ [...] ‘I bet the bulls are after him’.
[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 399: Bull. Police. Wise bull – detective.
[US]Dos Passos Manhattan Transfer 122: Too many bulls an detectives in this town.
[Aus]Eve. News (Sydney) 5 May 4/5: Policemen: demons, bulls, johns, and john hops.
[US]Irwin Amer. Tramp and Und. Sl. 39: bull buster.–One with a morbid passion for assaulting the police. [Ibid.] 80: fresh bull.–An energetic policeman, or one who cannot be bribed or silenced.
[US]‘Goat’ Laven Rough Stuff 23: We went around the South End again seeing if we’re still ‘hot’ (whether any bulls were on our trail).
[US]C. Brackett & B. Wilder Ball of Fire [film script] When the bulls gave Benny a ticket, they saw Kinnick in the back of the car. Dead.
[US]Mad mag. Mar.–Apr. 30: Once upon a time there wuz t’ree bulls. Dere was dis big poppa bull who wuz a double-crossin’ dick.
[US](con. 1950-1960) R.A. Freeman Dict. Inmate Sl. (Walla Walla, WA) 19: Bull-hearted – to be by nature, an informer; a pigeon.
[US]H. Selby Jr Last Exit to Brooklyn 28: Feeling superior [...] because he knew Steve who had been killed by the bulls.
[US]E. Torres Carlito’s Way 13: Big Jeff [...] was the first bull through the door.
[US]Pileggi & Scorsese Goodfellas [film script] 86: The bulls are across the street [...] watching everything we do.
[US] (ref. to 1931) J. Breslin Damon Runyon (1992) 5: ‘Police department. You’re under arrest.’ ‘Frankie! I told you. Bulls!’.
[UK]N. Barlay Crumple Zone 140: Fergal he’s orderin’ me to shift the guy outside [...] shift the body before the bulls show.
[US]W. Ellis Crooked Little Vein 178: The attending officers from homicide were a couple of old bulls of that type that I’m always comfortable dealing with.
[Aus](con. 1943) G.S. Manson Coorparoo Blues [ebook] The bulls had his number – some bastard had shopped him – and he was done for if they nabbed him.
[US]R.W. Hart ‘How to Make the Perfect New York Bagel’ in ThugLit Jan. [ebook] ‘I still know a few of the bulls in this neighbborhood’.

2. a railroad security guard.

[US]J. London ‘Road-Kids and Gay-Cats’ Road 159: Salinas is on the ‘hog,’ the ‘bulls’ is ‘horstile.’.
[US]N. Algren ‘If You Must Use Profanity’ in Texas Stories (1995) 46: He’ll be walking the tops and be dressed like a ’bo, so you’ll never know by his looks he’s a bull.
[US]W.A. Gape Half a Million Tramps 317: There are many fights between railway ‘bulls’ and hoboes when the ‘bulls’ try to make arrests for ‘stealing a ride’.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 243: train bull A trailroad detective; a railroad watchman train dick A railroad detective.
[US]N. Algren Walk on the Wild Side 17: The A. & W.P. bulls made a point of putting you off at a water tank in the wilderness.
[US](con. 1930s) M. Graham Tales of the Iron Road 3: There were frightening memories of the ‘bulls,’ the brutal, sadistic railroad police.
[UK]Sun. Times Mag. 6 Feb. 22: We [...] duck down, out of sight of a ‘bull’ – a railroad security guard – who is patrolling the yard.

3. (US prison) a prison warder; thus night bull, the night guard.

[US]Hopper & Bechdolt ‘9009’ (1909) 22: Didn’t have to look out for no ‘bulls’.
[US]D. Lowrie My Life in Prison in Hamilton Men of the Und. 248: Dat’s th’ night bull.
[US]D. Lamson We Who Are About to Die 23: The bull in that tower is one of the centers of consciousness on the Condemned Row.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 36/1: Bull. [...] 3. (California prisons) A prison guard.
[US]J. Mills Panic in Needle Park (1971) 198: You remember Mickey, how he used to make you laugh with the stories about when he was in Sing Sing and he kept the bulls running around?
[US]M. Braly On the Yard (2002) 53: Other night bulls sit out in the towers [...] They sip black coffee, read girlie magazines, or watch the moonlight.
[US]E. Bunker Animal Factory 36: What about [...] the bull they killed in the hospital?
[US]J. Ellroy Silent Terror 67: The deupty sheriffs who served as jailers were ‘bulls.’.
[US]E. Bunker Mr Blue 131: The tank trusty came out of the first cell and headed down the run. ‘Hey, Bunk, you better go. That bull is an asshole.’.
[US]Other Side of the Wall: Prisoner’s Dict. July 🌐 Bull: Guard.

4. (US) a detective.

[Can] ‘Thieves’ Sl.’ Toronto Star 19 Jan. 2/5: DETECTIVE Bull, dick, Mr Richard.
[US]J. Callahan Man’s Grim Justice 65: I was determined to wreck a few ‘bulls’ (cops or detectives).
[US]E.H. Lavine Third Degree (1931) 177: Detectives and patrolmen usually hate each other, and only on rare occasions will the cop [...] offer any information or assistance to the ‘bull’ or ‘dick’.
[Aus]Sun. Mail (Brisbane) 13 Nov. 20/8: The watch house is the ‘can;’ detectives are ‘demons’ and plain-clothesmen are ‘bulls’.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 36/1: Bull. 1. A detective.
[US]C. Stroud Close Pursuit (1988) 173: She was looking for something in the detective’s face, some sign that he wasn’t a bad bull.
[US]J. Ellroy Widespread Panic 8: A robbery bull named Harry Fremont.

5. in comb., a certain kind of police officer, e.g. country bull, a local, small-town officer; narcotic bull, a Federal narcotic officer; motorcycle bull, motorcycle police officer; road bull, highway patrol officer.

[US]Wash. Post 11 Nov. Misc. 3/6: The ‘hoosier with bushes and a tin’ which is a running description of a ‘country bull’ or Constable.
[US]D. Maurer ‘Argot of the Und. Narcotic Addict’ Pt 2 AS XIII:3 188/1: narcotic-bulls. Federal narcotic officers.
[US]M.H. Boulware Jive and Sl. n.p.: motorcyle bull.
[US]Current Sl. V:3 n.p.: road bull.
[US](con. 1940s–60s) H. Huncke ‘Elsie John’ in Eve. Sun Turned Crimson (1998) 95: A friend of mine called John who was later shot to death by narcotics bulls while making a junk delivery.

In compounds

bull horrors (n.)

see separate entries.

bull lock (n.)

(US prison) a padlock used on a cell door.

[US](con. 1950-1960) R.A. Freeman Dict. Inmate Sl. (Walla Walla, WA) 20: Bull-lock – an individual padlock which is used on cell doors.
bull simple (adj.)

(US tramp) frightened of the police.

[US]Irwin Amer. Tramp and Und. Sl. 40: bull simple.–Afraid of the police.
[US]J. Conroy World to Win 347: ‘Joe’s bull-simple,’ he said to Robert. ‘You’ll learn what it is t’ be bull-simple. You get it from bein’ beat across the kidneys and havin’ a hose stuck in yer mouth, and sometimes yer pratt, and the water turned on full force.’.
[US]J. Steinbeck Grapes of Wrath (1951) 223: ‘I guess maybe he’s bull-simple.’ ‘What’s “bull-simple”?’ ‘I guess cops push ’im aroun’ so much he’s still spinning.’.
[US]Ragen & Finston World’s Toughest Prison 792: bull simple – Afraid of the police.
bull taxi (n.)

(US tramp) a police van used to transport prisoners, a Black Maria n. (1)

Morn. Tulsa Dly World 13 June 19/1: Bandwagon — Police patrol, known also as ‘Kelly wagon’ or ‘bull taxi’.
bull trap (n.) (also bully trap)

1. (US Und.) one who impersonates an official in order to extort money.

[UK]H.T. Potter New Dict. Cant (1795) n.p.: bully trapp a pretended constable, a thief catcher, a runner to a trading justice.
[UK]G. Andrewes Dict. Sl. and Cant n.p.: bullytraps pretended constables called in to frighten the unwary and extort money.
[UK]Flash Dict.
[UK]G. Kent Modern Flash Dict. [as cit. 1809].
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open [as cit. 1809].
[UK]Duncombe New and Improved Flash Dict.
[US]Matsell Vocabulum.
[US]J.D. McCabe Secrets of the Great City 359: The Detectives’ Manual gives a glossary of this language, from which we take the following specimens [...] Bull-traps. – Rogues who personate officials to extort money.
[UK]Barrère & Leland Dict. of Sl., Jargon and Cant.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.

2. (Aus.) a villain who impersonates a police officer and preys on couples in lover’s lanes, parks, etc., extorting money from those who should not, for whatever reason, be there.

[Aus]Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 13: Bull Traps, thieves or swindlers who personate policemen in the public parks for the purpose of extorting money.
[Aus] (ref. to 1890s) ‘Gloss. of Larrikin Terms’ in J. Murray Larrikins 202: bull traps: swindlers, or thieves pretending to be policemen in parks to extort money.
bullwagon (n.)

(Aus.) a vehicle carrying suspects or criminals to a police station or prison.

[Aus]D. Maitland Breaking Out 55: Dragged kicking and screaming through a wail of sirens and flash of rotating patrol car lights to the waiting bullwagon. [Ibid.] 187: Next thing, there’s police cars and bullwagons coming out of the bloody woodwork.