Our planet was formed more than 4.5 billion years ago, and basically remained a barren rock for about 50 million years before the earliest forms of life came into existence and began to populate the Earth. Over all that time, the Earth has essentially given life to millions of different plant and animal species, with human beings being one of those species. And with over 7.4 billion of us, we serve as the most dominant species on the planet. We may stand above all other living organisms in terms of intelligence and ingenuity, but like all living things, our lives eventually come to an end, usually because of old age, an illness, or some fluke accident, but human beings can also see their lives end as a result of other animals.
Ever since the human race came into being, we have had to learn how to coexist and survive in a world filled with dangerous animals. Many of which had, and continue to have, no problem hunting and eating us. Obviously, as time went by, our intelligence allowed us to develop new survival methods. Because of these methods, we were able to stop living out in the wild, and started living in massive cities, which greatly reduced the number of humans being killed by animals. However, despite all of our intellectual advances, there are still over 1 million humans who die each and every year as a result of coming into contact with animals. This article will identify the 15 animals who claim the most human lives every year, some of which will surprise you.
15. Sharks: 10
Even before the time of the dinosaurs, our world’s oceans have been the home of a multitude of different aquatic lifeforms. And like any ecosystem, the oceans are filled with both preys and predators. Sharks have been around for more than 420 million years, and are now without a doubt the apex predators of the sea, which is a title they have earned after having outlived some pretty big and tough competition. Over the millennia, sharks have greatly shrunk in size, and have diversified into over 500 different species. They genuinely avoid coming into contact with humans unless they are in the middle of hunting and a human swims into their path. Yes, shark attacks do happen, and people do sometimes lose their lives as a result. But unlike movies like Jaws and Shark Night, which have labeled sharks as monsters with an insatiable taste for human flesh, sharks only kill an average of 10 people every year.
14. Wolves: 10
Much like sharks, people have also given wolves a bad name owing to the fact that early settlers in North America had to deal with wolves eating their farm animals; also, because of the occasional wolf attack that would usually occur deep inside forests. Wolves are probably the best pack hunters in the world, as a small group will coordinate with each other in order to take down a prey that are much larger and stronger than they are. Aside from being very good hunters, wolves also happen to be very territorial. They will vehemently defend their territory to the extent of chasing a perceived threat over long distances. Most of the time, when wolves and humans cross paths, the wolves will almost always become aggressive to make them leave. But if they are hungry, you better hope you can outrun them, because they will try to eat you for their own survival. Wolves actually try their best to avoid coming into contact with humans. But all that avoidance does not stop them from killing about 10 people each year.
13. Lions: 100
Africa is home to many of the most well-known and recognizable animals in the world. Among all those animals, no predator is more well-known than the lion, which is still considered to be the king of the jungle. Lions are the biggest cats in Africa, and they live in prides consisting of multiple females who do all of the hunting, a couple of young males, and one dominant male whose sole job is to defend the pride from other males and mates with the females. Anyone who has been to Central and Southern Africa will agree that there are still a lot of people who live in very close proximity to the indigenous wildlife. It is because of this proximity that they sometimes run into a lion or an entire pride. Plus, the area gets a lot of tourists and hunters, which brings even more people into lion territory. When you take that into consideration, along with the fact that there are also lions located in India, which is incredibly crowded, then you can see why lions can kill about 100 people each year.
12. Elephants: 100
The lion may be the most recognizable carnivore in Africa, but the elephant may in fact be the continent’s most recognizable herbivore. No one in the world has ever seen an elephant and mistook it for another animal, right? Elephants are the largest land mammals in the world and are known for their big ears and long trunks. However, they are also known for their ivory tusks. In fact, it is because of those tusks that they have been hunted to the point that they have now become endangered. There are currently three different elephant species alive today, two of which are native to Africa, and one that can be found throughout Southeast Asia. As gentle as these animals may seem, they can get very violent. Elephants cannot co-exist with humans, especially in agricultural areas, because of how big the animals are and how much food they need. This is why they often trample crops and get into altercations with people. And when you combine that with how protective females are of their young and how territorial males are, it is no wonder that elephants annually kill about 100 people.
11. Hippos: 500
From this point on, you will begin to see a drastic increase in the number of human fatalities. So it is at this point that you will want to really take note of which animals to avoid. The first in line? Hippopotamus. The hippo can be found throughout most of Africa, and can grow to weigh more than 3,000 pounds. Despite having very short and odd-looking legs, they are capable of running up to 19 mph over a short distance. Hippos spend the majority of their lives in water, which is where most of their interactions with humans occur, as fishermen and other people in boats often travel through hippo-occupied waters. Because hippos are incredibly aggressive and territorial, they often charge those boats. This causes the people on-board to fall into the water where they either drown or get killed by the hippos, which is how these animals usually kill around 500 people every year.
10. Crocodiles: 1,000
Over 65 million years ago, our world was ruled by the dinosaurs. But that all changed once an asteroid crashed into the planet and wiped out almost all life. But despite that, there are still some animals around today who remind us about our giant reptilian predecessors. Crocodiles have been around for more than 55 million years, and aside from getting much smaller in size, these animals have barely changed at all over time. Because they are ambush predators, every species of their kind is incredibly dangerous to humans. All crocodiles hunt in basically the same way, by waiting at the edge of a body of water for another animal to come get a drink. Well, as you know, humans need water too. When a crocodile strikes, they do so with such speed that most of the time, the human brain cannot react in time, which is why every year they kill and/or eat nearly 1,000 people.
9. Tapeworms: 2,000
It is a pretty safe bet to assume that most people in North America do not know anyone who has ever dealt with a tapeworm. That makes us very lucky because in countries that are far less developed, tapeworms are a real problem. Tapeworms are a parasitic type of flatworm that live in the digestive tracts of other living organisms. After these wriggling things attach themselves to the intestinal wall, they absorb the nutrients of the food being digested around them through their skin. Humans can easily contract a tapeworm by eating any kind of undercooked/raw beef, pork, or fish. People are also prone to contracting a tapeworm if they eat food that are prepared in places with poor hygiene. It is the poor hygiene aspect that affects many people in the underdeveloped world. If left untreated, these tapeworms will reproduce within the host’s body, until the host is no longer able to gain any nutrients that its body needs to live. Because so many people with tapeworms are left untreated, at least 2,000 people are killed by this parasite each year.
8. Ascaris Roundworms: 2,500
Here we have another type of parasitic worm known as the Ascaris Roundworm. Although this parasite is much smaller than a tapeworm, it is actually much deadlier when it comes to humans. Like other members of the roundworm family, these guys lay their eggs in feces and soil, eggs which attach themselves to whatever plants grow out of that soil. When animals eats those plants, they ingest the eggs which hatch in their digestive tract. These roundworms compromise the nutritional status of their host, and can alter the way in which their host processes information. The worst part about them is the fact that they mess with the host’s immune system and can cause fatal intestinal obstructions. It is because of all these negative effects that almost all roundworm hosts end up dead if the parasites are not removed. Because many of the people with these roundworms are unable to get proper treatment, they annually cause around 2,500 human fatalities.
7. Freshwater Snails: 10,000
If you were to make a list of all the animals that you believed killed the most people every year, most of you would most likely not include snails on that list. But in truth, snails actually kill thousands of people every year. Freshwater snails, in particular, are just like any other snail as they are slow, slimy mollusks with shells on their backs. Although unlike other snails, they have gills which allow them to live in lakes, springs, and rivers. These snails claim about 10,000 human lives a year, and the reason for this is quite simple—people choose to actually eat these guys. Don’t get me wrong. If you’re into exotic delicacies, that’s totally fine but then, you have to eat at your own risk because mind you, these snails carry with them a very deadly parasite that causes Schistosomiasis. This disease causes abdominal pain, fever, bloody vomit, and if left untreated, can cause liver failure, kidney failure, and bladder cancer.
6. Assassin Bugs: 10,000
Next up, we have an insect whose name actually fits this list perfectly, as it rather stealthily causes the deaths of almost 10,000 people every year. Although it is sometimes referred to as the kissing bug, it is more commonly known as the assassin bug. These bugs can actually be found in most places around the world, including the United States and Australia. They often come into contact with people as they are easily attracted to the lights emitted by homes. While inside someone’s home, these bugs will go on to bite the residents inside, and although you might not feel it, the bite is very dangerous to humans primarily because these bugs often carry a deadly parasite which gets transmitted through their bites. The parasite in question carries what is known as Chagas disease, which is extremely deadly as it can cause several major organs to fail and shutdown.
5. Tsetse Flies: 10,000
Anytime a fly buzzes around us while we are outside, we swat it away immediately. If one finds its way into our homes, we go out of our way to kill it, partly because they are annoying but mostly because we do not want their “dirty” bodies landing on our food. Most flies do not pose any kind of real threat to humans. Even horse flies with their painful bites are not dangerous. However, there are some flies out there that are extremely deadly, and the tsetse fly of Africa is the deadliest of them all. These flies can be found all over the continent, and each year, they cause the deaths of about 10,000 people because of a parasite they carry. These parasites carry what is known as the sleeping sickness disease. This disease usually affects people living in very rural areas in the sub-Saharan region, as well as their livestock. It also causes multiple symptoms including fever, joint pain, confusion, sleep deprivation, numbness, anemia, and kidney failure.
4. Dogs: 25,000
Of all the animals in the world, there is only one that has truly developed a kinship with humans. That animal would be the dog, who for well over 100 years has been viewed as man’s best friend. There may be a seemingly endless number of dog breeds out there, but no matter the breed, one thing’s for certain—dogs genuinely become attached to their owners and will even try to defend them if they perceive them to be in some kind of danger. Dogs may get along really well with humans, but as it turns out, they are responsible for killing roughly 25,000 people every year. Despite what you might think, only a small portion of those fatalities are the direct result of a violent dog mauling someone. In truth, most of these deaths occur as a result of people getting bitten by a stray or wild dog infected with rabies.
3. Snakes: 50,000
Aside from lizards, snakes are probably the most common and recognizable reptiles on the planet, which makes sense considering that they have been slithering on the ground for more than 94 million years. There are literally hundreds of different snake species out there, all of whom are carnivorous in nature. Snakes vary in their hunting techniques as some species constrict their prey while some use deadly venom. On an average, snakes claim the lives of about 50,000 people every year, and part of that number comes from giant snakes like pythons and anacondas who have the ability to constrict and eat a full grown person. The vast majority of these deaths, though, are the result of people being bitten by venomous snakes. Some snakes have such potent venom, that a full grown person can die within minutes of being bitten. With many venomous bites unreported, the number of victims may actually be slightly higher.
2. Humans: 475,000
You may not want to believe it, but a human being is just another animal, with the only real differences being that a human can walk upright and is relatively far more intelligent than nearly every other animal in existence. Our species is filled with good-natured individuals who just want to live a safe and peaceful life. But truth be told, we are one of the most violent lifeforms the Earth has ever seen, as we have literally been killing each other since the very beginning. We happen to be the only animal that kills other members of its own species with pre-calculated methods and intent, whether it be by terrorism, murder, or through some kind of military conflict. When you add up all those numbers, you will see that humans are responsible for taking the lives of at least 475,000 people each year, which is a human body count that is more than 4 times higher than all of the previously mentioned animals on this list combined.
1. Mosquitoes: 725,000
The world may be filled with some very large and powerful animals, animals who possess very sharp claws and teeth, as well as parasitic and venomous creatures, but when it comes to killing humans, their body counts pale in comparison to that of the mosquito. We may consider mosquitoes as incredibly annoying nuisances that just want to drink our blood, which is why we go out of our way to avoid or kill them if they get close to us. However, we should instead try to avoid them because they tend to kill an average of 725,000 people every year. These insects carry all kinds of diseases including West Nile, Yellow Fever, Zika, Dengue Fever, and Malaria, all of which are fatal to humans if left untreated. In many underdeveloped regions, where these diseases run rampant, people do in fact go untreated either because of the lack of medicine or money.