In defining bull-dance, wordnik.com states it is a dance performed by men only. But I couldn’t find it in any dictionary, and I cannot find a supporting reference for this definition.

Nor could I find any evidence for this definition. I also asked one of my American friends about the meaning of the word, and he told me, “I have never heard it.”

Encyclopedia Britannica says it is a Native American dance.

This term is likely American and was in common use in 19th century American English.

If the term is indeed of Native American provenance then what is the significance of the bull-dance? If not then where does this word come from?

  • 3
    What’s the problem with the article from Britannica?
    – user 66974
    Oct 24, 2019 at 8:05
  • the Urban Dictionary definition is probably the best for modern times.
    – lbf
    Oct 24, 2019 at 8:52

2 Answers 2


The phrase appears to be mid 19th century slang referring to a generic men-only dance, rather than a specific one. Likewise, the etymology is most likely using bull as a generic male animal, similar to stag in stag party. E.g.

Bull-dance. A dance in which only men take part: cf. Stag-dance, Gander-party, Hen-party, etc. — A dictionary of slang and colloquial English, 1905 (also lists ram-reel as another synonym).


Stag. Adjectival meaning "pertaining to or composed of males only" (as in stag party) is American English slang from 1848. Compare bull-dance, slang for one performed by men only (1845); gander (n.) also was used in the same sense. — Online Etymology Dictionary

It's also worth noting that historically the best known literal Bull Dance is probably Minoan Bull Leaping (ταυροκαθάψια), a form of non-violent bull fighting that survives in Spain as recortes.


Urban Dictionary can probably be ignored.

This definition (i.e., the definition provided by Urban Dictionary (!)) is a reference to a line spoken by Kevin Nealon in the 1996 film Happy Gilmore.

The movie is a comedy featuring a hockey player turned golfer with a superhuman swing.

See for yourself: bull dance clip

The protagonist (and title character—played by Adam Sandler) apparently drives the ball in a satisfactory fashion. Then in exultation he rides his golf club around in a circle. The way this is performed gives the impression he is pantomiming a bull rider at a rodeo. Whereupon Nealon’s character remarks that he is “... doing the bull dance... feeling the flow...”.

This is most likely a nonce unintentionally colliding with the historical term.

It should be clear that this is related to none of the three legitimate possibilities mentioned above.

  • I read this word in a text which was written before 1996. In fact it was written in 19th century. So your comment doesn't help at all. Nov 25, 2019 at 8:55
  • Did you read my answer? If so please re-read. Urban Dictionary’s content is unrelated. That is the point. I explained the red herring. @Uri Granta already explained everything else. Nov 26, 2019 at 3:31
  • I reread. It is clear now. Thanks. Nov 26, 2019 at 7:50

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