Here’s a morbid question for you: which animals kill the most humans every year?
Although Hollywood films suggest our greatest threats include sharks and rampaging apes, the deadliest creatures are often much smaller – and more likely to kill through disease rather than razor-sharp teeth.
But which creature is Earth’s number one killer? Find out the top 10 below.
10. Lions – kills 200 humans per year
While you may have guessed that the king of the jungle – that doesn’t live in the jungle – would be higher up on this list of the world’s most dangerous animals, the lion is still a ferocious predator that you wouldn’t want to mess with. Its 114dB roar should be warning enough.
Typically attacking in the night using sharp claws to inflict deep wounds and with a bite that can crack bones and your skull, the lion is a fearsome beast. These big cats stalk their prey in small groups, surrounding the unlucky individual before lunging in for the kill.
Get too close to a pride and they could charge you, too. Especially during courtship or when with cubs. These majestic big cats attack out of hunger and to protect their young.
9. Hippos – kills 500 humans a year
The hippopotamus could be seen as a surprise entry on this list due to being a herbivore, but thanks to its impressive set of chompers and aggressive nature it is one of the most dangerous animals on the planet.
Hippos use those long (up to half a metre) sharp canines for fighting and just one bite from the creature can cut a human body in half. Ouch. A hippopotamus bite comes with a force of 1,800 psi, nearly three times that of a lion.
Fiercely territorial, hippos can attack a human when one approaches its habitat and they are known to attack and tip over boats in defence, mistaking them for predators. The hippo has even been known to eat its own kind out of desperation.
8. Elephants – kills 600 humans per year
An elephant who never forgets… to kill!
The mighty elephant is one of the world’s most dangerous animals thanks to its sheer size and can attack humans in various ways.
Elephants typically kill humans by trampling. As the African elephant can weigh up to eight tonnes (Asian up to five-and-a-half tonnes), the force of being knocked back and stomped on by one would easily be enough to kill.
An elephant can also use its trunk to pick up and throw humans and smash them into the ground. It has been known, too, for elephants to gore people using their tusks.
7. Crocodiles – kills 1,000 humans per year
The crocodile is a famously ferocious animal that causes up to 1,000 reported fatalities a year. Just one look at those teeth should tell you why these reptiles are so dangerous.
The Nile crocodile has a bite force of up to 5,000 psi, the strongest of any animal in the world, with the saltwater croc having a paltry biting force of just 3,700 psi in comparison (just the second-most-powerful animal bite).
Saltwater crocodiles chomp down on their prey and can perform a death roll to help add even more pain to the experience. Lovely. Nile crocodiles, on the other hand, use their ridiculously powerful bite to simply crush their prey before often swallowing it down whole.
Crocodiles are aggressive and tremendously territorial and will attack anything that enters their habitat, often ambushing prey in the water.
6. Scorpions – kills 3,300 humans per year
These ancient and aggressive creepy crawlies sting with their tail and inject venom into their prey. With over 2,600 species of the arachnid, only around 25 carry a powerful enough toxin to kill humans.
One of the most dangerous is the deathstalker (clue’s in the name). These yellow death bringers can be found across the dry and arid landscapes and deserts of North Africa and the Middle East. They are not to be trifled with.
The venom carried by a deathstalker is enough to kill the young, elderly, and those with lingering medical problems including heart conditions. Healthy adult humans can be killed by a deathstalker’s sting too, mind, it’s just less likely.
5. Assassin Bugs (Chagas disease) – kills 10,000 humans per year
Assassin bugs are a primary spreader of the deadly Chagas disease. These blood-sucking predator insects are a real threat in Central and South America thanks to this.
The Chagas disease is potentially fatal and is transmitted through an assassin bug bite or by consumption of cold food or drink that has been infected by the insect and/or its faeces, which carries the protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi (T.cruzi).
A terrible disease that attacks the heart, digestive system, and nervous system according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Worse still, the disease can be transmitted from mother to baby through the placenta during pregnancy.
4. Dogs (rabies) – kills 59,000 per year
Man’s best friend can be man’s worst enemy when it comes to rabies. Any postman could tell you about dog attacks or close calls, too.
Dogs like to guard their owners against possible intruders and will attack by biting. While deaths from dog attacks are uncommon, human deaths from rabies transmitted by dog bites are not unheard of, primarily taking place in poorer parts of the world including Africa and Asia.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “dogs are the main source of human rabies deaths, contributing up to 99 per cent of all rabies transmissions to humans.” It is transmitted by saliva via bites, scratches, and direct contact with infected areas on the dog.
3. Snakes – kills 138,000 humans per year
Why did it have to be snakes? Indiana Jones has good reason to be deathly afraid of these venomous reptiles. Dangerous snakes can be found the world over and can kill humans in various different and brutal ways.
The black mamba, for example, can kill a human with just two drops of venom from a bite whereas pythons can swallow a fully grown adult whole.
Pythons attack by wrapping their long bodies around and constricting their prey, suffocating them and breaking their bones. They then use their stretchy jaws to swallow their kill whole. Yes, they do grow large enough to swallow an entire person, with pythons known to grow up to 10 metres long.
The most common human deaths from snakes occur from venomous bites, however, with the lucky left dealing with amputations and “other permanent disabilities” according to the WHO.
2. Humans (homicides only) – kills 400,000 humans per year
Yeah, we know, this one’s a bit of a cheat, but humans are technically the second-most dangerous animals on the planet when it comes to human deaths. That is just when you count homicides, anyway.
According to ourworldindata, “globally, 0.7 per cent deaths in 2019 were the result of homicide.” In Latin America, homicide rates are higher than other parts of the world, with homicides accounting for “more than 7 per cent of deaths in El Salvador.”
Humans aren’t alone in killing their own kind. It happens all across the animal kingdom. When we get true crime podcasts about lions or chimpanzees is another thing entirely.
1. Mosquitoes – kills 725,000 per year
Mosquitoes are the world’s most deadly animal in the world, killing 725,000 humans per year through spreading diseases such as malaria. Only female mosquitos bite, making them the most dangerous.
Through their high capacity for killing, this tiny little flying insect has steered the course of human history on multiple occasions, essential to American independence and the rise and fall of Rome.
Malaria infection is particularly bad in Africa, with the region accounting for 95 per cent of cases and 96 per cent of deaths worldwide.
It’s best to avoid mosquitos as much as possible by purchasing and installing a mosquito net if you’re planning on travelling into areas where the insect is an issue.