Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Bulls Make Money, Bears Make Money, Pigs Get Slaughtered

This old Wall Street saying warns against excessive greed. Here's what it means for you.

By Nicholas Rossolillo – Updated Jul 7, 2022 at 3:59PM
A digital board displaying stock prices in green and red.
Image source: Getty Images.

"Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered" is an old investment industry saying that warns against being excessively greedy. Since pigs typically eat a lot, the term "pigs get slaughtered" is a metaphor that describes those who assume too much risk in an attempt to quickly generate large short-term returns.

The bulls and bears in this expression take views on the market's outlook but not excessive risk. If the stock market is trending up, it's considered a bull market. If the market is trending down, it's considered a bear market.

Keep reading to learn more about bulls, bears, and pigs -- as they pertain to the stock market anyway.

Bulls

A bull market is occurring when stock prices are generally trending upward. These periods are marked by investor optimism and confidence. During bull markets, the economy is usually healthy, unemployment is low or trending lower, consumer spending is rising, and average enterprise sales and profits are rising. Bullish investors believe the upward trend will persist for the foreseeable future and thus tend to keep purchasing more stocks. The combination of a healthy economy, business growth, and investor confidence creates a cycle in which stocks gain value over time -- sometimes for many years.

The bull as a symbol is derived from the manner in which the animal attacks. A bull tends to charge with its horns thrusting upward into the air.

Bears

A bear market is one in which pessimism and low investor confidence reigns. Bear markets tend to coincide with economic recessions, high unemployment, low or declining consumer spending, and weak corporate sales and profits. Holding a pessimistic outlook on the economy, bearish investors are likely to sell stocks, causing stock prices to fall. Investing during a bear market can be profitable but also challenging because it's hard to determine which businesses will perform better than their peers. When a bear market ends is hard to predict.

The bear is symbolically derived from the manner in which bears attack. Bears tend to swipe their paws in a downward motion.

Related investing topics

Pigs

Pigs are investors who assume high degrees of risk, or overlook risk entirely, with a singular focus on short-term profit. They make rash investment decisions or buy stocks without conducting enough or any research. As a result, pigs tend to lose money and potentially a lot of it -- hence the adage they get "slaughtered."

Bulls and bears have opposite investing styles, but each type of investor can make money over the long-term by investing according to their stated investment goals and strategy. Pigs, by contrast, eschew the buy-and-hold strategy and approach investing inconsistently.

The phrase, "Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered," is also the title of a 2002 book by Anthony M. Gallea containing general investing tips and advice.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Nearly 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
413%
 
S&P 500 Returns
121%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 02/06/2023.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.