Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Yankee Doodling

The world’s deadliest animal

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 15 May 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g3258
  1. Douglas Kamerow, senior scholar, Robert Graham Center for policy studies in primary care, and associate editor, BMJ
  1. dkamerow{at}

Lions or tigers or bears? Oh, no

What is the most dangerous animal in the world? In the United States we seem to be obsessed with the great white shark, so much so that one television network has an annual “shark week” dedicated to nothing but stories about this fabled killer. The reality, though, is that sharks kill only about 10 or 20 people a year worldwide.

Africa has many really dangerous big animals. Take your pick from lions, elephants, cape buffalos, crocodiles, or hippos. None actually stalks people, but each of these species is responsible for up to a few hundred human deaths a year.

What about the poisonous creatures? Yes, there are all kinds of deadly exotic species, ranging from the box jellyfish, with enough toxin in each of its 60 tentacles to kill 60 people, to the poison dart frog, whose slimy neurotoxin has the power to kill 10 men. They don’t get around much, though, and are responsible for only a scattering of human deaths.

The animal that comes closest to fulfilling our nightmare expectations is the …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription