The world is a fascinating place, but it’s also filled with some pretty frightening creatures. And in some cases, some of them are actually considerably more threatening than you might expect. So from the great white shark to the humble cow, let’s explore 40 of planet Earth’s most dangerous animals.
40. Wolf (Canis lupus)
Though wolves can pose a risk, they usually avoid human contact. But starvation, confrontation or even rabies can override their innate fear of humans. Furthermore, these canines are aggressive hunters – capable of exerting a bite force of up to 1,200 pounds if they feel under threat. And in terms of risks to us, experts estimate that wolves are responsible for ten human deaths a year on average.
39. Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)
Reaching lengths of more than 20 feet and weighing up to 2,200 pounds, saltwater crocodiles are deadly survivors from a prehistoric age and they aggressively prey on humans foolish enough to wander into in their patch. Hugely fast and powerful, there is only one way to avoid attack: stay away. Far away. We hear Norway’s nice at this time of year.
38. Africanized honeybee (Apis mellifera)
Cross-breeding African and European bees created what people have since affectionately nicknamed the “killer bee.” And they’ve worked hard to live up to their reputation. These stinging machines inject a venom which can lead to a number of ailments including diarrhea, vomiting and even renal failure. In addition, they have been known to chase victims nearly half a kilometre and have killed around 1,000 humans, according to the Smithsonian Institution.
37. Shocking pink dragon millipede (Desmoxytes purpurosea)
If you ever happen to visit Thailand, be on the look-out for this particular creepy crawler. Though it’s only an inch long, the shocking pink dragon millipede can certainly pack a punch. It has glands which emit an almond-like odor which actually contains potassium cyanide and can kill a human being.
36. Great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias)
With 300 serrated teeth and a mouth like the gateway to hell, the great white shark was made all the more infamous by the movie Jaws. But the real-life version almost lives up to its fictional portrayal. It’s the shark species responsible for attacking the most humans to date – with 272 recorded encounters by 2012.
35. Bulldog ant (Myrmecia pyriformis)
The bulldog ant is officially the most dangerous creature of its kind in the world, according to Guinness World Records. These ferocious little creatures sink their toothed jaws into their victims and then hold on – administering a venomous sting several times over. And their poison is powerful enough to kill a human being in only 15 minutes.
34. Brazilian wandering spider (Phoneutria fera)
Brazilian wandering spiders are actually found in several Latin American countries including Ecuador, Colombia and Peru. And they are an arachnophobe’s worse nightmare: a large and fiercely territorial creature with a Greek name meaning “murderer.” Indeed, experts consider them to be among the world’s most dangerous spiders owing to their fearless nature and neurotoxic bite. Victims may face excessive pain and respiratory problems followed by death in the absence of immediate medical treatment.
33. Cone snail
The cone snail is a slinking horror – creeping across the ocean floor with paralytic venom that is 1,000 times more powerful than morphine. Apparently, it hunts fish using a biological harpoon to inject its poison. Despite the relative rarity of cone snail poisoning, their toxin has claimed 27 human lives, according to Lewis Goldfrank’s book Goldfrank’s Toxicologic Emergencies.
32. Yellow-bellied sea snake (Hydrophis platurus)
Have you been bitten by something in the sea with no obvious side effects? Seek medical help quickly, since the yellow-bellied sea snake’s highly potent and slow-acting venom can turn into an organ-failing, muscle-destroying agent of paralysis that has been known to kill. Its bite actually contains multiple venom types – including a number of neurotoxins and isotoxins.
31. Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis)
When grizzly bears get into contact with humans, they can be a real and very dangerous threat. Growing up to nearly three meters long and weighing nearly 500 pounds on average, grizzlies are unstoppable mountains of muscle. Furthermore, their bite can be more powerful than that of a tiger and their jaws have apparently been strong enough to crush human skulls in the past.
30. Sydney funnel-web spider (Atrax robustus)
Spiders are nightmare-inducing for many people, but this one has fangs bigger than some snakes do and they are hard enough to pierce through shoes and toenails. The Sydney funnel-web spider is an eight-legged terror capable of bringing death through respiratory failure. Apparently, its neurotoxic bite has been known to have killed a child in 15 minutes.
29. Black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis)
Africa’s black mamba is apparently the second longest venomous snake species in the world. To begin with, its bite poisons victims every single time, and each attack injects around 120 milligrams of venom – when only up to 15 milligrams is needed to kill a human. And if you try to run, good luck – they are the fastest terrestrial snake in the world.
28. Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier)
Move aside Jaws, there’s a new game in town. Tiger sharks are not picky eaters and will take a bite out of anything – including humans. Although it’s reckoned that they have killed fewer people than the great white, they have also attacked less of them, too.
27. Common death adder (Acanthopis antarcticus)
With a name like this, it’s not going to be cuddly. The death adder lives up to its billing, with a paralytic bite that shuts down its victim’s breathing system if left untreated. And before the availability of a working anti-venom, around 50 percent of bite sufferers died. Oh, and it’s also the fastest-striking snake in the world.
26. Mulga snake (Pseudechis australis)
Unlike many other snakes, which don’t tend to attack unless deliberately or unwittingly provoked, the mulga snake has been known to bite victims while they sleep. Often, it doesn’t just bite, but has a good old chew in order to inject more nerve- and muscle-dissolving venom. And to make things even worse, the wound bleeds profusely, too.
25. Bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas)
With dagger-like teeth, a quick temper, and – most importantly – its preference for shallow water, the bull shark is considered more dangerous to humans than both the tiger and great white shark. Quick to bite swimmers partly due to its keenness at swimming in shallow waters, around 30 percent of its attacks are fatal.
24. Tiger (Panthera tigris)
Although lions are known as the king of the beasts, tigers are also a solid contender to the crown. They’re larger on average, just as deadly and their dwindling habitat again puts them into conflict with people. The Guinness World Records lists one Bengal tigress known as the Champawat Tiger as the deadliest of the species. This one animal was apparently responsible for approximately 436 fatalities before it was brought down in 1907.
23. Deathstalker scorpion (Leiurus quinquestriatus)
Scorpions have a particularly dangerous reputation, and it’s widely believed that these arachnidas are responsible for roughly 1,000 deaths each year in Mexico alone. Deathstalkers are among the most lethal of their breed – with a tiny sting which paralyzes its victims and can cause respiratory and heart failure.
22. Pufferfish (Tetraodontidae family)
They might look like amusing grumpy balloons, but the tetrodoxin venom produced by pufferfish is no laughing matter. Each one carries enough of the stuff to kill 30 people and it’s 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. Interestingly, pufferfish is actually a delicacy, but it can be a deadly one if it’s not properly prepared.
21. Blue-ringed octopus (Genus hapalochlaena)
One of the deadliest creatures in the world, if you were bitten by the blue-ringed octopus you might not even notice it until the blindness, complete paralysis and respiratory failure kick in. The venom administered by its often-painless bite is so powerful that it can kill in minutes – and there’s no known anti-venom.
20. Polar bears (Ursus maritimus)
It’s no secret that climate change is threatening the environment of polar bears. However, studies show it’s also adversely affecting their behavior as well. The melting of the Arctic sea ice is increasingly putting these hungry beasts into contact with humans. And given that polar bears can weigh up to 1,500 pounds and potentially measure three meters, they aren’t to be scoffed at.
19. Lion (Panthera leo)
The king of the beasts is up to 500 pounds of predatory cat with teeth like daggers and eviscerating claws. To put that into perspective, they compete with crocodiles for prey – but that’s not all. They also have the occasional propensity for killing humans, and have deliberately targeted them in the past. Indeed, statistics published in Nature from Tanzania found that lions attacked 563 people over 15 years from 1990.
18. Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)
The portly hippopotamus may look cuddly, but leave your first impressions at the door. Hippos are believed to be the most dangerous land mammal in Africa, and are known to have a short fuse and a tendency to capsize boats. The animal’s combination of sheer power, unpredictability and aggression leads to an estimated 500 deaths a year, though some experts believe the number could be as high as 3000.
17. Box jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri)
Looking as beautiful as it does alien, the box jellyfish is the world’s most venomous creature. Incredibly, it is believed to cause up to 40 deaths annually in the Philippines alone, according to the U.S. National Science Foundation. The creature’s translucent body makes it almost invisible in the water and its stinging tentacles can inject enough venom to kill you in just two minutes.
16. Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta)
Spotted hyenas are known for their laughter-like call and their propensity for scavenging. But with jaws powerful enough to crush bone and stomachs strong enough to digest it, they’re also dangerous predators. They’ve even been known to take to urban environments to prey on the homeless in places such as the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa – where up to 1,000 of them live.
15. Elephants (Elephantidae)
Renowned for their intelligence and potential for empathy, elephants are beautiful creatures. But given that human habitation is overlapping with the elephants’ own and they are being increasingly poached, clashes are becoming more common. And according to National Geographic, these beasts kill around 500 people every year.
14. Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas)
Sailors used to fear giant squid, but the real terror of the sea is a fair bit smaller. Meet the Humboldt squid, aka the “red devil” on account of the sinister red color it flashes when it’s exited or angry. They attack prey – including humans – in packs of up to 1,200 individuals. The worst is their beak, which diver Scott Cassell told the Telegraph can “mechanically amputate your hand.”
13. Golden poison dart frog (Phyllobates terribilis)
Everything about the tiny golden poison dart frog screams “don’t touch me” – including its bright titular warning color. That’s good advice too, since the frog’s skin secretes a heart-restricting alkaloid toxin. In fact, its body contains enough of it to kill two African elephants, 10,000 mice or up to 20 humans.
12. Deer (Cervidae family)
Deer – yes, the frolicking animal popularized by Bambi – made the list of the world’s deadliest animals. But it’s not because of direct attacks or acts of aggression on their part. Instead, it is their presence near roads which leads to numerous road accidents annually. Apparently, there are some 200 deaths every year across America due to vehicle collisions with deer, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
11. Coastal taipan (Oxyuranus acutellatus)
One of the deadliest snakes worldwide – thank you Australia – the coastal taipan’s venom is highly toxic. In fact, without antivenom there’s been only one known survivor, and the toxin turned the victim’s blood temporarily black. Its neurotoxic poison attacks the nervous system and prevents the body from being able to clot blood – meaning someone who is stung can die in as little as half an hour.
10. Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes)
Chimps are our closest genetic relatives in the animal kingdom, but they are also much more powerful than us. They’re aggressive, smart and their different types of muscle tissues make them stronger than humans. But once more, habitat loss incites wild chimpanzees to turn on people, and a number of attacks on babies in particular have even been recorded.
9. Tiger snake (Notechis scutatus)
You know a snake is going to be a bad-ass when it’s named after a ferocious giant cat. Characterized by the striped patterns on its body, the tiger snake’s neurotoxin causes numbness, sweating, paralysis, and, if it’s untreated, the venom has a 40-60 percent chance of killing you.
8. Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia)
Asian giant hornets are fierce, ill-tempered and indiscriminate in their attacks. Their potent two-inch stingers inject a necrotising venom that can destroy cell tissue and even haemorrhage skin. Victims then face the threat of multiple organ failure. It’s no surprise, then, that Asian giant hornets kill 40 people a year, according to experts.
7. Cattle (Bos taurus)
No, you haven’t stumbled on a different list. Believe it or not, cattle are one of the deadliest creatures in the world. It’s not surprising when you think about it; a small cow breed can weigh as much as 1,000 pounds. Incredibly, they are the most dangerous animal in Britain and for the 15 years from 2000 they killed 74 people, according to the Health and Safety Executive.
6. Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)
There’s no doubt that dogs have earned their title of man’s best friend since their early domestication. They’re loyal and unconditionally loving companions to many of us, but everyone gets ill sometimes. And while aggressive encounters don’t often end fatally, dogs sick from rabies claim up to 35,000 lives annually through disease transference, according to Business Insider.
5. Tsetse fly (genus Glossina)
Incredibly, one of the most dangerous creatures in the world is no bigger than a common housefly. Africa’s tsetse fly is a blood-sucking insect that presents a real danger via the parasites which they carry. To be more specific, they transmit trypanosomes which cause a condition called sleeping sickness. This ailment attacks the brain along with the nervous system and can lead to lethargy and death if it goes untreated.
4. Tapeworm (Cestoda)
The idea of having another creature invade your body is terrifying – but that’s exactly what tapeworms do. These parasites can be found in meat that is either undercooked or prepared in a dirty environment. And the danger they pose is real; these parasitic worms cause the deaths of around 2,000 people per year, according to CNET.
3. Freshwater Snail (Gastropoda)
One of the most unassuming killers on this list, the common freshwater snail is host to a horrifying surprise. These gastropods spread disease by releasing parasites into fresh water and can cause a condition known as schistosomiasis. This can lead to infected intestines, pain in the abdomen and, if humans have been infected for a while, bladder cancer or kidney failure. Apparently, up to 200,000 people die from the illness each year.
2. Kissing bug (Rhodnius)
The kissing bug’s amorous name actually comes from its penchant of biting snoozing people on the lips. The potentially deadly result, a parasitic disease called Changas, kills 10,000 people annually and led to its other nickname: the assassin bug. Some victims experience mild symptoms, but others suffer heart failure up to 30 years after the initial infection.
1. Mosquito (Culicidae family)
Yes, the common mosquito is the world’s deadliest insect. The creature’s penchant for bloodsucking makes it a conduit for all kinds of illnesses. A particular threat is malaria, and the mosquito is apparently responsible for around one million deaths a year just through transmitting this one illness.