Discover the Deadliest Animals on Earth

Think deadly animal. Did bears or sharks come to mind? If so, you wouldn't be alone in thinking these predators are some of the deadliest animals Earth has to offer. . .

Bears

But just because most people think these animals are some of the deadliest to humansdoesn't mean it's true!

Of course, with thick fur, big claws, and powerful jaws, bears are fearsome predators. Fortunately, deadly bear attacks aren't all that common. From 1992 to 2017, there were 71 recorded deadly bear attacks in North America, averaging out to a little less than 3 a year.

Okay, so bear attacks, while tragic, are pretty uncommon on this continent. But what about sharks? They attack and kill people all the time, right?. . .

Sharks

Underwater shot looking up at the underbelly of a long shark.

Well, not exactly. The truth is that shark attacks on humans are rarely lethal. In 2018, 66 people were victims of unprovoked shark attacks. Only 4 were deadly, according to the International Shark Attack Files.

Obviously, still pay attention when you visit the ocean. Just know that you are much more likely to die from several other animals besides than sharks. One such critter is lurking in the waterspout. . .

Spiders

Arachnophobia is one of the most common phobias out there. Though spiders may look scary, most are actually harmless to humans. The spiders that can cause harm to us are few and far between. In fact, one study showed that over a 10-year period, 66 people were killed by fatal spider bites in the United States, which is less than 7 people a year.

So, which spider is the most dangerous? . . .

Most Dangerous Spider in the U.S.: Brown Recluse

These spiders are normally shy, and that's a good thing, because a bite from one of these arachnids can turn very ugly very quickly. Blisters, pain, dying tissue, fever, nausea, and more are all symptoms of a brown recluse bite.

Who's deadlier than this not-so itsy-bitsy spider? The answer may just be lurking at the farm. . .

Cows

A close-up shot of a brown cow looking suspiciously at the camera.

Old MacDonald's is home to a stone cold killer. One CDC study shows that nearly 22 people a year die from cow-related incidents in the United States. Considering only one person every year or so dies from sharks in the U.S., cows are over 20 times as deadly as sharks in this country alone!

The next entry is far, far smaller than this murderous farm animal, and with a higher kill count to boot. . .

Ants

Ants prove that small doesn’t mean harmless. Estimates vary, but these tiny-but-mighty insects probably kill about 30 or so people every year. How does this happen? Stings and bites, sometimes from a swarm of ants.

Of course, these aren't the only swarming insects deadlier than both sharks and bears combined. . .

Wasps, Hornets, and Bees

Getting stung by one of these insects is virtually guaranteed if you spend any amount of time outdoors in warm weather. Most of the time, these stings are a nuisance. But for people with allergies, complications from a sting can become serious. In a few rare cases, they can even be fatal. According to one study, about 60 people die from bee/wasp/hornet stings in the United States annually.

But as lethal as these insects are, they don't lay down the sting quite like our next contender. . .

Jellyfish

Please don’t attempt to recreate the jellyfish scene from Finding Nemo. Jellyfish can cause serious harm and even death to humans. While most species won’t really do anything to people, the box jellyfish is one species that definitely can. In Australia, there have been a bit over 60 recorded box jellyfish deaths since the 1880s. In other places, though, that count can be much higher. In the Philippines, for example, 20 to 30 people are the victims of fatal box jellyfish encounters every year.

Jellyfish are some deceptively safe-looking animals. Our next entry is probably much closer to what many people think of when they hear maneater. . .

Lions

When we say lions are big cats, we mean big. Male lions can grow up to 550 pounds and 8 feet long, although they often average 420 pounds and 5 ½ feet in length. This iconic creature is another animal often described as a maneater, and it isn’t exactly an unwarranted label. In Tanzania alone, these large felines kill about 100 people a year.

Buckle up; our next entry is the Disney-starring killer most people would never expect to make this list. . .

Deer

Bambi is deadlier than Jaws. With millions of deer and cars on the road, deer-vehicle collisions are an unavoidable part of modern life. Every year, these collisions cause about 130 human deaths in the United States.

But the deer isn't the only surprising Disney-starring animal that's capable of killing humans. . .

Elephants

One of the most recognizable animals in the world, elephants have a long and complicated history with humans that doesn’t always end well for either party. According to the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), elephants kill about 100 people annually in India alone. In Kenya, over 200 have been killed by these large animals in recent years. Elephants have also suffered heavy casualties from human activities.

Africa is home to some extreme animals, and our next deadly animal also calls this continent home. . .

Cape Buffaloes

The African buffalo is one big boy; this animal can grow to be over 2,000 pounds. It is well-known for being a dangerous animal, and some estimates claim the buffalo kills about 200 people a year!

But this isn't even the deadliest animal in Africa. . .

Hippos

A small baby hippopotamus walking.

That cute, cuddly looking hippopotamus you see at the zoo? It's actually an extremely aggressive animal that you should leave alone. You see, the hippopotamus is responsible for about 500 human deaths annually.

Hippo attacks are hard to miss. Our next entry is the silent killer you may never see coming—and it could be hiding inside of you!. . .

Tapeworms

Image credit: CDC.

Eating for two takes on a whole new meaning when you’re the host of a tapeworm. These parasites can live in human intestines, and being a tapeworm host means you can catch diseases like cysticercosis. One study said this disease killed roughly 700 people in 2013 alone.

Our next entry won't set up shop in your intestines, but it has been known to take a bite out people from time to time. . .

Alligators

American alligators have one of the strongest recorded bites of any living animal on the planet: 2,125 psi. Compare that to the average human bite of 150 psi.

Cousins of the crocodile, alligators are toothy reptiles that can pose a risk to humans if they feel threatened. Unlike crocodiles, though, alligators are much less likely to kill people. In the United States from 1973 to 2018, 32 people were the victims of a fatal alligator attack.

So, how deadly are their crocodile cousins?. . .

Crocodiles

Killer Croc isn’t just a DC villain: Crocodiles on average kill about 1,000 people worldwide in any given year, far outscaling their alligator cousins.

Trust us: Death by crocodile is not a pleasant way to go. . .

Deadliest Crocs: Saltwater and Nile Crocodile

Of the 15 types of true crocodiles, the two largest species, the Nile and saltwater crocodile, are responsible for more human deaths every year than any other species.

Death by crocodile is probably one of the most unpleasant ways to go. Saltwater crocodiles are known to engage in “death rolls,” where they grab onto their prey tightly and spin underwater to tear it apart. . . all to make everything easier to eat.

But even a death roll can't make stomachs turn quite like our upcoming contender. . .

Roundworms

Image credit: Department of Pathology, Calicut Medical College on Wikimedia Commons.

Bigger doesn't always mean deadlier. Just take a look at the roundworm. This devastating parasite causes thousands of deaths every single year. Specifically, the Ascaris lumbricoides variety causes the most infections. How many does this disease kill? An estimated 1.2 billion billion people annually are infected and kill more than 60,000! The roundworm itself is estimated to be responsible for roughly 2,500 deaths annually.

Nobody enjoys parasites, but even roundworms don't make people feel the sting quite like our next pick. . .

Scorpions

Fortunately, most of the nearly 1,750 species of scorpions can’t kill you. Just watch out if you run into one of the species that can, because over 1 million people are victims of scorpion stings a year. Of these, about 3,250 are deadly.

Grab a fly swatter—you're going to need it. . .

Tsetse Flies

IMAGE CREDIT: INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY ON WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.

Tsetse flies, or tik-tik flies, call much of the African continent their home. Fast-breeding, these flies can transmit sleeping sickness to humans and non-human animals alike. West African sleeping sickness kills anywhere from 7,000 to 10,000 people a year.

Our next contender kills more people every year than these flies and has the title to match. . .

Assassin Bugs

Image credit: Etotalora on Wikimedia Commons.

This family of insects is appropriately named, responsible for many deaths each year by transmitting diseases to humans.

A subfamily of assassin bugs, kissing bugs, are responsible for infecting thousands of people each year with the potentially life-threatening Chagas disease (itself transmitted through Trypanosoma cruzi parasites). You see, kissing bugs’ fecal matter is a great way to transmit these parasites to humans. Chagas disease kills about 12,000 people annually.

The next contender on our list doesn't kill nearly as many people annually as these critters, but that hasn't stopped it from becoming one of the most recognizable animals on the planet. . .

Wolves

Like sharks, wolves have a misleading reputation as a man-killer. To be sure, wolves can and do attacks humans—and sometimes kill them—and that’s reason enough to leave these animals be in their natural habitat. But these animals don’t kill as many people a year as most probably think. According to some sources, worldwide human deaths by wolves average out to 10 a year.

You’re MUCH more likely to be attacked by (and die from) the following beloved canine. . .

Dogs

Just when you thought you knew someone. It turns out man’s best friend is responsible for roughly 25,000 to 35,000 deaths annually. Many of these deaths are from bites from rabid dogs.

Think these numbers are high? Our next animal might have a kill count more than 5 times higher than dogs!. . .

Snakes

Check your boots for snakes, because these slithery reptiles rack up a death count ranging from 81,000 to 138,000 a year, according to World Health Organization. If that wasn’t bad enough, WHO estimates that a further 400,000 people are permanently affected from venomous snakebites.

To be clear, not all snakes are venomous. So, which ones should you look out for? . . .

Most Venomous Snake: Western Taipan

The inland taipan, or western taipan, is a species of venomous snake native to Australia (of course); it is thought to have the most lethal venom of any other snake species on Earth. Just how powerful is it? Well, the venom is reportedly so strong that it could kill up to 100 fully grown men.

As for the deadliest snake?. . .

Deadliest Snake: Saw-scaled Viper

Image credit: Dr. Raju Kasambe on Wikimedia Commons.

The saw-scaled viper reportedly causes the highest number of human deaths out of all snake species. How many people does this single species kill each year? Probably at least 5,000.

Unlike this swift snake, our next entry is the slow-moving killer that you'll (probably) never see starring in a Sci-Fi original movie. . .

Freshwater Snails

Photo of an unidentified freshwater snail from the family Planorbidae.
Image credit: Alan R. Walker on Wikimedia Commons.

The freshwater snail is the slow-moving killer you never saw coming. Some species are great carriers for Schistosoma parasitic larvae. These parasites can cause schistosomiasis, a potentially lethal disease. WHO reports that about 200,000 around the world died from schistosomiasis in 2000. Fortunately, WHO estimates that this number is probably lower now, perhaps down to 10,000. We can thank large-scale preventative treatment campaigns in vulnerable areas for this improvement.

(Don't worry, escargot-lovers. That delicacy is made with land snails.)

Freshwater snails as the #3 killer in the world? It only gets weirder from here. . .

Humans

A man in a suit holds a banana like a gun.

Ouch. Human beings are one of the deadliest animals on Earth. In fact, only one other animal kills more people than other human beings. According to WHO, roughly 470,000 people around the world were homicide victims in 2015.

So, just who is the deadliest animal on the planet? . . .

Mosquitoes

A mosquito drinks blood from a human.

Grab your DEET and say YEET to mosquitoes. These tiny little insects are much more than annoying pests in the warmer months. According to WHO, mosquitoes transmit enough diseases every year to kill anywhere from 725,000 to 1 million people! That's right, everyone. Mosquitoes are the deadliest animal on the planet.

What Animals Kill the Most People?

There you have it: Snails, mosquitoes, and even other people are some of the deadliest animals on Earth.

Of course, we couldn't talk about potentially dangerous animals without at least mentioning the following. . .

Fleas

Image credit: CDC/Dr. Pratt.

Fleas are more than the itchy insects that love setting up shop on your furry pet. These little guys are ~amazing~ at carrying diseases. The annual worldwide deaths today caused by fleas are low. However, the fact that they killed about 25 million people when the bubonic plague hit Europe hundreds of years ago means that these pests have earned a spot on our list of deadly animals.

Our next entry is definitely cuter than the flea. . .

Poison Dart Frog

Poison dart frogs don’t cause human deaths on a regular basis, but that’s not because they aren’t able to. The largest species of poison dart frog, the golden poison frog, is actually one of the most poisonous animals on Earth. The toxin it produces is enough to potentially kill anywhere from 10 to 20 people!

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