The mechanical properties of bone tissue are reflected in its micro- and nanostructure as well as in its composition. Numerous studies have compared the elastic mechanical properties of cortical and trabecular bone tissue and concluded that cortical bone tissue is stiffer than trabecular bone tissue. This study compared the progression of microdamage leading to fracture and the related local strains during this process in trabecular and cortical bone tissue. Unmachined single bovine trabeculae and similarly-sized cortical bovine bone samples were mechanically tested in three-point bending and concomitantly imaged to assess local strains using a digital image correlation technique. The bone whitening effect was used to detect microdamage formation and propagation. This study found that cortical bone tissue exhibits significantly lower maximum strains (trabecular 36.6% ± 14% vs. cortical 22.9% ± 7.4%) and less accumulated damage (trabecular 16100 ± 8800 pix/mm2 vs. cortical 8000 ± 3400 pix/mm2) at failure. However, no difference was detected for the maximum local strain at whitening onset (trabecular 5.8% ± 2.6% vs. cortical 7.2% ± 3.1%). The differences in elastic modulus and mineral distribution in the two tissues were investigated, using nanoindentation and micro-Raman imaging, to explain the different mechanical properties found. While cortical bone was found to be overall stiffer and more highly mineralized, no apparent differences were noted in the distribution of modulus values or mineral density along the specimen diameter. Therefore, differences in the mechanical behavior of trabecular and cortical bone tissue are likely to be in large part due to microstructural (i.e. orientation and distribution of cement lines) and collagen related compositional differences.