Brown Bullhead
Photo by M. Sabaj
Adult from Minnow Slough (Sugar Cr.-Wabash River Dr), 2 mi NE Palestine, Co. road 1150N, Crawford Co., IL
115 mm SL, Collected 30-October 1999, INHS 53343

Ameiurus nebulosus (Lesueur 1819)

Identification: The Brown Bullhead usually has 5-8 large sawlike teeth on the rear edge of the pectoral spine and is mottled with brown or black spots on the side of the body, although individuals without spots or mottling are common in some areas of the species’ range. The color on the back and upper side varies from dark olive to yellow-brown. The body below is bright yellow to white, the fins are dusky to black, and the chin barbels are dusky or black. There is no dark blotch at the base of the dorsal fin. The anal fin is relatively short with 19-23 rays. The edge of the caudal fin is slightly notched in the middle. To 21 in. (50 cm) total length.

Range: The native range of the Brown Bullhead includes the Atlantic and Gulf Slope drainages from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to Mobile Bay, Alabama, and the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, and Mississippi River basins from Quebec west to southeast Saskatchewan and south to Louisiana. The species has been introduced outside its native range. It is considered common in the northeastern parts of the range and in Atlantic and Gulf Slope drainages.

Habitat: The Brown Bullhead lives in pools, backwaters and sluggish runs over soft substrates in creeks and small to large rivers, and in impoundments, lakes, and ponds.

Similar species: The Black Bullhead, A. melas lacks dark mottling and spots on the side of the body and has no large sawlike teeth on the rear edge of the pectoral spine. It has 15-21 rakers on the first gill arch, and the anal and caudal fins have strongly contrasting rays (pale) and membranes (black). The Yellow Bullhead, A. natalis, lacks mottling or dark spots on the side of the body, has white or yellow chin barbels and more anal rays (24-27).

Brown Bullhead map
Distribution Map