How to Castrate a Bull by Dave Hitz

Book: How to Castrate a Bull by Dave Hitz

Dave Hitz on the Ranch
Dave Hitz on the Ranch

“On Taking Risks”

Launching NetApp

Dave Hitz built a multi-billion dollar business in Silicon Valley that he and his partners named NetApp. They offer hybrid cloud data services for the management of applications and data across cloud and on-premises environments.

Before David would go on to assume his position amongst the tech industry’s legends, after having shared a dorm with Jeff Bezos at Princeton University, and with the knowledge as to how to castrate a bull, David met a crossroads in his life: to continue working for the promising start-up company Auspex or take the beaten path of his own venture.

Quitting His Job

He compared leaving his stable job to when his peers would take off work to get their MBA’s; figuring starting a business must be just as educational as an MBA. He explains:
“Castrating a bull is a metaphor for learning to take risks. Dropping out of high school, moving to San Francisco, switching majors, leaving MIPS – all were early experiments in risk-taking. Each taught something valuable about what I wanted (for example, a career in computer science), or what I didn’t (a career typing “osteoporosis” and “chlamydia” on index cards). You shouldn’t take risks so dangerous that they might kill you. Or if you must, get lessons first. But even when not deadly, risk should feel uncomfortable, should push you beyond the familiar and safe. An ex-girlfriend arranged a special Vietnamese meal for me: snake prepared seven ways. As the guest of honor, I knew I’d be the one to eat the raw heart. What I hadn’t realized was that it would still be beating when I swallowed it.”

Gotta love that last part about the snake, makes me wonder if that had anything to do with his girlfriend earning the prefix “ex.” Kidding! On a serious note, he’s using the experience to remind us even after we take risks, no matter how big or small, there will be unexpected hurdles…or…hurls in this case where he realizes the snake’s heart is still beating as he fights to get it down his throat.

Oh, and don’t worry, he actually does LITERALLY castrate bulls…not just “metaphorically.” He even tells us how later on in the article.


It’s important to note the motives behind each of the risks he highlights. He’s not doing them for money, fame, or notoriety (although all of those will surely come), he’s doing them because that’s what feels right in his heart of hearts. All his life, David stays true to that faint bacon we all have in each of us that guides the soul to what is certain destiny. Not sure how else to describe it. Wish there was a more measurable way to make sense of something like that. Then again, maybe there are no words to describe such beautiful harmony. He adds:

“The trick is figuring out which risks are worthwhile. Sometimes opportunities arise – but should you grab them? Was it really sensible to leave high school, quit a great job, or jump that fence into the bull’s pen with a dull pocket knife? Those choices all worked out pretty well for me. You obviously can’t accept every risk that comes your way – you shouldn’t – but when I look back at the really significant turning points in my life, they all involved risk.”

How to Castrate a Bull

Dave Hitz followed his gut instinct, left his reliable job at Auspex, and would go on to build a multi-billion dollar corporation. Oh and that girl who fed him the snake heart, that’s his wife now. Ladies, don’t get any ideas! Without further ado, here’s how to castrate a bull in his own words:

“When castrating a bull, the best thing for all involved is to act when it is still a bull calf. It is safer and easier for both you and the animal. Despite popular misconceptions, castration apparently does not hurt very much – dehorning and branding both cause much more bellowing.”

“The first step, after immobilizing the bull, is to grab the base of the scrotum tightly, making sure that the testicles are in the sack. They are hard to retrieve if they escape into the body cavity. Now cut off the bottom third of the scrotum, below the testicles. Bovine testicles look like two white cigars, each connected to the body by a long, thin cord. Grab them firmly with a palms-down grip, letting the cords thread through your fingers. Take a dull knife and fray the chords all the way through. Do not use a normal back-and-forth cutting motion, but a side-to-side scraping motion. Warning: Do not use a sharp knife no matter how much the bull begs. A sharp cut bleeds dangerously, but a dull fray creates more surface area to induce clotting. Leave the wound undressed and release the animal. Repeat until you’ve finished the herd. Then cross Castrate a Bull off your list of things to do before you die.”