The Story Behind Walnut Creek’s Enigmatic Bullman Sculpture

A peculiar cast bronze sculpture has been sparking curiosity and conversation among art enthusiasts and passersby alike since its unveiling in 2017 in Walnut Creek, California.

Gerald Heffernon’s whimsical “Bullman with Bulldog” raises questions about power dynamics and the relationship between humans and animals, all while demonstrating the artist’s quirky sense of humor.

Today, we explore the depths of this fascinating piece, the man behind it, and the story of how it came to Walnut Creek. I see this sculpture all the time in downtown Walnut Creek, and I always wondered what the story behind it might be.

The Sculpture: A Triangle of Competing Wills

“Bullman with Bulldog” is a thought-provoking artwork that encourages us to question which animal is truly in charge. The sculpture portrays a human body with a bull’s head, alongside a bulldog, a breed originally intended for controlling bulls.

The piece presents a conundrum: is the bull in control of the bulldog, or is the human body the one truly in charge? This artistic dilemma mirrors the familiar reversal in which dogs often seem to control their human owners.

Heffernon’s piece draws inspiration from ancient human-animal hybrid imagery found in Egyptian and Greek mythology, as well as the works of Picasso. These representations often symbolize humans’ desire to acquire the powers unique to animals, blending the qualities of both species to create a new, powerful entity.

The Artist: Gerald Heffernon, Conceptual Wildlife Artist

Gerald Heffernon, a Winters, California-based artist, defines himself as a “conceptual wildlife artist.” His intriguing sculptures feature human-animal hybrids that provoke curiosity, thought, and often laughter. Heffernon’s sculptures cleverly engage the viewer, sharing the same space and seemingly participating in similar activities.

The lifelike juxtaposition of man and animal in his work reflects his eccentric, droll sense of humor, according to a profile of the artist by Walnut Creek’s Bedford Gallery.

The sculpture is reportedly a popular place to take selfies. I’ve even seen dogs stop to check it out, curious about the lifelike bulldog that appears to be standing on a street corner.


Gerald Heffernon’s “Bullman with Bulldog” serves as a captivating reminder of the complex relationships between humans, animals, and the world around us.

The sculpture invites viewers to ponder the dynamics of power and control, while delighting in Heffernon’s unique, humorous artistic vision. Thanks to Brian Hirahara’s generous gift, the residents of Walnut Creek and its visitors can enjoy this remarkable piece of art for years to come.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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