With the ever-increasing number of homo sapiens on the planet, it’s going to happen that a person crossing paths with an animal having a bad day or simply defending its territory will end with somebody getting killed. Often, this is the human.
Although not usually associated with killing people, elephants can be Mother Nature’s equivalent of a military tank when they want to be. Considering the elephant has evolved to protect itself from animals like lions and tigers, it’s to be expected that its tusks and sheer size can out-match any unarmed individual.
In countries like India where elephant migration corridors are constantly being infringed upon by human expansion, it is estimated that one person is killed daily by an elephant – often by being trampled. In one extreme case, an elephant killed 15 people over several incidents after being separated from its herd and wandering into villages.
Those folks that believe in karma might be smiling just a little bit knowing that South Africa’s Theunis Botha, a seasoned big game hunter of 28 years who has been photographed holding elephant tusks while standing over the animals’ corpses, was killed when he was crushed by the falling body of an elephant shot by a member of a hunting expedition he was leading.
These doe-eyed cuties are what give the the phrase doe-eyed. It’s hard to imagine any deer going homicidal, but the truth is even the pretty animals have deadly defences. Those antlers are not just for decoration, and can easily give a human being a fatal puncture.
Yet as interesting as it is to imagine deer ninja sneaking into people’s homes to gore them and steal the herbs from their fridge, deer rack up the vast majority of their kills by accident.
Another phrase we get from these lovelies is “caught like a deer in headlights.” Most animals, when faced with the prospect of being hit by a few tons of fast-moving steel, will get the hell out of the way. But the thing about deer is that they’ve adapted themselves to function well in daylight or nighttime.
Specifically, deer are crepuscular creatures, meaning twilight is their best time so you’ll most often find them out and about an hour or two before and after dawn or dusk. But they also come out in the full darkness of night, and when they do, a deer’s pupils are fully dilated to capture as much light as possible.
So when Bambi’s crossing the road at night, and you’re barrelling towards him with your highbeams on, when those lights shine in Bambi’s eyes it takes a little while for his vision to adjust to being blinded by the light. All you see is the silhouette of a deer with giant silver eyes reflecting back at you. All he sees is white.
A blinded deer won’t run away. It will stand there until its eyes adjust. Unfortunately, it’s probably roadkill before that can happen. Now you, the driver, have two options: hit Bambi, or swerve out of the way. If you hit the deer you will wreck your car, and the deer, and maybe yourself. Maybe fatally for you. And for Bambi. And for your car, for that matter. If you swerve, you could save the deer, but there’s a good chance you might hit something else, like a tree or another car, and it could be fatal for you again.
This is how deer end up killing about a hundred people a year.
Sources: Why Do Deer Freeze in Headlights
If you treat them well, there’s no better friend than a pet dog. Always happy to see you, always eager to be your companion, a pet dog is the best.
Treat them poorly, and they can kill you.
It happens a few hundred times a year. In the US, there are about 30 deaths a year. Now, keep in mind, this is 30 deaths out of about four and a half million dog bites (meaning 1 out of every 72 people gets bitten), so odds are good you’ll survive it when Rover goes on a rampage. But you might not.
If you like statistics, you’ll like this: the odds of death by dog bite is 1 in 112,400. By comparison, your risk of dying from, say, choking on food is 1 in 3,461. So…death by real dog 1 in 112,400, death by hot dog 1 in 3,461.
Want to know what breeds are the bitiest? Well, what people call Pit Bulls cause the most deaths by far, with 64%. Next comes a whole amorphous collection of mixed breeds and unknowns, but for pure breeds the biggest culprits are the Rottweiler, American Bulldog, German Shepherd, Mastiff, and Husky. What these breeds have in common is an exceptional sense of loyalty combined with territoriality and size. This makes for a dangerous cocktail of traits when the wrong person comes around and starts acting like a jerk. Then Rover’s teeth get bared, and sometimes someone dies.
Now, this is just pet dogs we’re talking about. If we broaden it out to all dogs — because there are a whole lot more wilds and strays than there are pets — things look a lot grimmer. Because, you know, rabies.
The World Health Organization figures that over 25,000 people die from rabies every year, and 99% of infections come from rabid dogs. A third of those happen in India, where there are a whole lot of strays. Most of those killed are children.
Stay away from Cujo, kids.
Sources: Dog Attacks by Breed
8. Cape Buffalo
The Cape Buffalo is also called the African Buffalo. Guess where they live.
Looking at them, you might not think they’re so bad. They lazily graze on grasses and other plants, like great big cows. Their fur is colonized by bugs, so there are usually birds perched on their backs having a snack. Adorable.
So why, then, are they called the Black Death? Why are they considered among the top 5 most difficult animals to hunt on foot?
Well, for starters these are big animals, standing 1.7 meters (5 ½ feet) high and 2.8 meters (9 feet) long They’re also heavy animals, weighing one and a half tons or so. That’s a lot of beast. And they’ve got horns. Big curved horns over a metre (4 feet) wide. Between these horns is a hard shield of horn material that covers the skull which is great for butting things really hard and is awesomely called the “boss.” And they are about 4 times as strong as an ox. So we’re talking about a pretty imposing physical specimen.
But that’s not what makes them so dangerous. It’s that these are mean, vengeful motherlovers.
They are surprisingly clever, and have awesome memories, and they don’t give up. They’re basically grass-munching herds of Jaws.
The African plains are filled with stories about Cape Buffaloes seeking revenge on hunters who injure them, even years after the initial incident. They’ve even been seen stalking, hiding on, then ambushing hunters. They don’t’ eat meat, but they will attack and kill lion cubs, because they know what lion cubs grow into.
They attack and gore about 250 people a year, because they are mean, vengeful motherlovers.
It makes sense that the biggest animal on land is responsible for a few deaths. But the elephant goes above and beyond, claiming around 500 people a year.
Back in the day, we used to do it on purpose. Execution by elephant was a popular thing in Southeast Asia, where animals were trained to do it right, by crushing or dismembering. They could do it quickly, or they could make the torment last.
There are a lot of ways an elephant can kill you. Not only do they have those big heavy feet to squish you with, but they can do a lot with their trunks. You could be mauled or squeezed or even tossed around a little. Or a lot. And don’t forget the tusks.
There are even stories about people literally drowning in elephant poop.
They’re fast, too, running upwards of 40 miles an hour.
Death by elephant is something you’d think should be happening less often, since the poor animals are getting more and more endangered every year as we encroach further and further into their habitat. But the truth is, people getting killed by elephants is growing more common because they’re losing their homes. With nowhere else to go, wild elephants are wandering into places where humans live, with predictable results.
Normally an elephant is a pretty passive creature, despite its size. But for some inexplicable reason, when people shoot at them, or stress them out, or harass them, they get all tramply.
Look, a crocodile is basically a dinosaur who didn’t have the good sense to go extinct when it had the chance. They’re big, and they’re dangerous. They’re well adapted to blending in with their surroundings, and are like the stealth fighters of shallow waters.
They can bite with 3,700 pounds per square inch of force, which if you’re keeping track is more than three-and-a-half times the bite of a lion and 25 times that of a human. Crocodile attacks are 100 times deadlier than shark attacks, and far more frequent.
Like most animals, they don’t go looking for a fight with humans. But give them an opening, and they’ll take it. In Africa alone there are hundreds of crocodile attacks on humans per year, between a third to half of which are fatal, depending on the species. Many take place in small communities and are not widely reported.
Their cousin, the alligator, isn’t as aggressive but can still be dangerous. They’re also not found in as many places, just the US and China.
The best advice is to avoid anything that looks like a dinosaur. Do not go poking it with sticks. Do not try to wrestle it. Do not be a knob, and you should survive.
Sources: How To Survive a Crocodile Attack
With all the ferocious animals in Africa, you wouldn’t think that the most dangerous of them all is the hippopotamus. And yet…2900 people a year can vouch for that. Well, they could, if they hadn’t been killed by hippos.
The closest living relative to the hippo is the whale. Around 55 million years ago the first hippo started thinking about crawling up onto the land, and now here we are. They can run about 20 miles an hour, and will start doing that straight towards you if you start threatening their territory.
The hippopotamus is not, despite what you may have been led to believe, a good thing to find under the tree on Christmas morning. They are massive, angry beasts with a huge mouth full of shockingly sharp 20 inch long teeth. If you find yourself in a hippos mouth, expect to get punctured a lot as it tosses you around like a doll. It may swallow you, which is about the best you can hope for in that situation.
Do not, whatever you do, find yourself underneath one. Your parents do not want to be told that their beloved child was squished by a hippo, and with 2750 kg (6000 pounds) bearing down on you, that’s the only possible outcome.
Around 340 million years ago, a sea bug decided to crawl up onto the land. Over time it grew a poisonous stinger in its tail and became a scorpion. Fast forward to today, and that bug’s descendants kill about 5000 people a year.
Around 1,500 species of scorpions exist in the world but only 25 of them have poison that is dangerous enough to kill humans. The trick is knowing which is which. As a general rule, if the bug has itty-bitty pincers, thin bodies, and fat tails, you want to keep far far away — those are the ones that’ll kill you. Remember: fat tail means death, so just imagine that fat tail full of poison.
The trouble is, if you did get stung by a scorpion, odds are you didn’t see it coming.
Scorpions like to hide and wait for prey to come along. But humans are not prey, and scorpions won’t go out of their way to hunt us. If you go poking around where they’re hiding, they will consider that a threat, however, and react accordingly. By stinging you.
You just need to hope it had a skinny tail.
Sources: Scorpion Envenomation
It turns out Indiana Jones was right to be afraid of snakes. They’re deadly animals.
The most venomous snake in the world is the Inland Taipan, also known as the Western Taipan. Its bite can kill a person about as fast as you can get a pizza delivered. Get bitten by one, and odds are 4 in 5 you won’t get to enjoy that pizza, you’ll be dead. But it is not the biggest killer, because it rarely bites humans.
Then there’s the saw-scaled viper, It doesn’t even rank in the top 10 for venom toxicity, and only 10% of its victims die. But it likes to live where people are, and it bites fast and it bites often, so it managed to kill about 5,000 people a year. That’s enough to win the prize for killing the most people of any species of snake.
In total, there are somewhere between 1 and 5 million snake bites a year. It’s hard to get a solid number, because so many go unreported. Only about a quarter of bites are by venomous species. It happens the most in India.
Even for the most poisonous bites, there is antivenom, but it’s not always readily available. And if it is, it might not be available to you; for most rural African families, a vial of antivenom costs the equivalent of several months’ income.
You might be wondering about constrictor snakes, and how many people they squeeze off this mortal coil every year. The simple answer is: a few, but not many. But generally speaking, it’s a far worse way to die, so be glad for small mercies.
Sources: Snakes Kill
2. Tsetse Flies
Sleeping sickness doesn’t sound so bad. Who doesn’t like a good sleep? Even if you hear that sleeping sickness if fatal in about 80% of cases, that’s still not so bad — wouldn’t we all prefer to die in our sleep over the more painful, scary alternatives?
The problem is that African Sleeping Sickness, or trypanosomiasis, does not cause sleep. It prevents it. It is a parasitic disease which causes fevers, headaches, and joint pain, followed by vomiting, swelling of the brain, and trouble sleeping. Then for 4 out of 5 cases, death.
Not as nice as it first sounded, eh?
And how does one get lucky enough to contract this unpleasant illness? Well, to begin with, you have blood. Blood which the tsetse fly wants to drink. Tse means “fly” in Setswana, to the tse tse is a fly fly. Calling it a tse tse fly is actually saying fly fly fly.
Anyway, this little bug, which looks a lot like a normal housefly, lands on you, pokes a hole in your skin with its big proboscis and sucks the blood out of you. No biggie, these things happen.
But the tse tse is not alone in all this. Coming along for the ride is the little parasitic Trypanosoma brucei protozoa, and some of these bastards will switch hosts as the tse tse drinks its fill, and go for a swim in your bloodstream.
It’s possible that all this happened to your mother before you were born, and you got the parasite through your umbilical, which is just really shitty luck.
The sickness starts with headaches and fever, which could be caused by anything. But then you start feeling achy and the lymph nodes behind the ears and above the base of the neck start to swell, and that’s a sign something just is not right. Over the course of weeks, or even years, it spreads from the bloodstream to the central nervous system, and things really start to change.
You start to change.
You get irritable. You have trouble concentrating and are confused a lot. Your speech gets slurred and your coordination goes all wonky. You get really tired, but you can’t sleep. Not until the coma sets in, and then you die.
Of course, you could’ve stopped it if you got treatment. But you live in Africa, where medical treatment is not easy to get, so…bye.
Sources: What is African Sleeping Sickness
Funny how the smallest things can also be the worst things. For all the deadly crocodiles and hippos and elephants, the deadliest creature to humans has to be the humble mosquito. Of course, the mosquitos themselves don’t kill you — I’d hate to see a mosquito big enough to have a proboscis that could kill — it’s the diseases they carry that will do you in.
Part of it’s sheer numbers. There are just so many mosquitos in the world — at peak breeding season they outnumber every other animal except ants and termites. It doesn’t help that they are also found in every part of the world, so nobody’s safe. Plus there are a number of different deadly illnesses they can carry, so your chances of running afoul of a deadly mosquito are that much better. Or is it worse? Either way, it sucks.
Let’s start with malaria. Over 200 million people get malaria every year, and it all comes from the Plasmodium parasite carried by mosquitos. Not everyone dies from it, but still we’re looking at an annual death toll of around 600,000 people from malaria alone.
There’s also dengue fever, which is a virus. It causes flu-like symptoms, and in some cases affects how blood moves through your body enough to cause internal bleeding, organ failure, and yes, death. Each year between 50 and 500 million people are infected and around 10,000 to 20,000 die.
Not into bleeding to death from the inside? Try yellow fever, then. It’s another virus carried by mosquitos and gets its name from the jaundice — yellowing of the skin and eyes — that happens when it attacks your liver. About 15% of the time it leads to organ failure, and half of those cases end in death.
Still not happy with your options? There are lots more to choose from, such as West Nile virus, chikungunya, flariasis, tularemia, dirofilariasis, Japanese encephalitis, Saint Louis encephalitis, Western equine encephalitis, Eastern equine encephalitis, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, Ross River fever, Barmah Forest fever, La Crosse encephalitis, and Zika fever.
Take your pick.
All told, nearly 700 million people get a mosquito borne illness each year resulting in over one million deaths .
Sources: Most Deadly Animal
Odds are the animals you were expecting weren’t on this list. Where do the famous man-killers rank on the list?
Sharks: 6 fatalities.
Wolves: 10 fatalities.
Lions: 22 fatalities.
Tapeworms: 700 fatalities
- What are the world’s deadliest animals?
- What Animals Kill The Most Humans Each Year?
- Marauding elephant could be shot after killing 15 people in India
- Elephants and tigers kill one human a day in India, as growing population squeezes habitat
- Man Who Dedicated Life to Killing Elephants Killed By Elephant