In contrast to the popular stereotype and research tradition of the ‘oafish’ bully lacking in social skills and understanding, the bully may be a cold, manipulative expert in social situations, organizing gangs and using subtle, indirect methods. Performance on a set of stories designed to assess understanding of cognitions and emotions was investigated in 193 7-10-year-olds in relation to role in bullying. Ringleader bullies scored higher than ‘follower’ bullies (those who helped or supported the bully), victims and defenders of the victim. Results are discussed in terms of the need for further research into cognitive skills and emotion understanding in children who bully, the possible developmental pathway of social cognition in bullying and important implications for intervention strategies.