Which Animal has Preyed on Humans the most?

Riffing on this thread: Which animal has killed the most humans? - Factual Questions - Straight Dope Message Board

My question is more specific: which species of animal has hunted and killed the most people?

I’m excluding the micropredators (like mosquitos) and parasites (like tapeworms) or other disease-causing aminals. I’m talking nature red in tooth and claw, chowing down on humans-as-chow.

My guess would be one of the big cats, like the tiger.

I’m smelling a setup to link to the “A dingo ate my baby” thread.

My guess would be big cats. I recall learning about early humans beginning to stand/walk upright in response to potential predation by lions and leopards - it’s easier to see the enemy. Not sure how much of that is true, but it would seem big cats would consider humans as a food source until we developed weapons and learned to cooperate as a defense against them. In modern times, perhaps the answer is the same?

Big cats, perhaps lions because I think there were more many more of them than tigers in the past, but I’m not sure. Possibly wolves in the past even though they aren’t a major predator now. But wolves are pretty smart and would go after easier prey than humans if they could. So it’s a guess, but over time I think it was lions.

If you go back far enough in time I think it will be a raptor dinosaur. They are reputed to have killed and eaten every human they ever saw.

If you’ll agree a mosquito is an animal, then those pesky little buggers gets my vote. IIRC, insects fall into the Kingdom: Animalia, making them animals.
On second thought, maybe fleas, due to the deadly diseases they have spread.

Mosquitos are definitely animals, but they are expressly excuded from consideration here. No mosquitoes, no leeches, no lice, no fleas, no tapeworms …

If fleas are disqualified, how about the rats that carried them?

Read the OP again. The humans have to be killed by the animal actually chowing down on them.


How about crocodiles, or are they too geographically limited to be in contention?

I bet that crocodiles are probably serious contenders for the most dangerous predator of humans. However, they have a limited range.

Eta: ninjaed!

I would say crocodiles first, tigers second, I believe hippos kill more people than tigers but they don’t hunt them.

Well, the OP didn’t exclude it, so the correct answer is clearly: HUMANS have preyed on humans the most.


That…might be right, really. Over the whole course of human history cannibalism may have claimed the most victims, but you have to try to figure where to separate ritual cannibalism from actual huntin’ for meat cannibalism, which I imagine was less common.

After us, the various crocodiles taken as a whole or Nile Crocodiles in particular is probably a good guess. Lions and tigers both had huge historical ranges, but I’d make a very wild guess at tigers being slightly more prone to kill people than lions just due to habitat if nothing else ( as a generality lions seem to prefer slightly more open country ). Certainly in historical times tigers seem to have killed far more people, probably at least partly a function of their historical ubiquity in densely populated India ( lions were and are in India, but in far more restricted regions ).

Probably none of it. The most accepted hypothesis is that upright walking evolved as either a heat regulating mechanism or a walking efficiency mechanism (or maybe some combo of them both). The “man stood up to see over the grasses” hypothesis was thrown around a bit 40 years ago or more, but not much since then.

Agreed. I too believe it would be the Bengal tiger. I 've been hearing about these attacks in India my entire life.

Cats and snakes. Isn’t that why so many of us are afraid of them?

I think snakes were a bigger threat to our tree bound primate ancestors than homo sapiens. Evenso, that inbuilt fear is passed onto us.

The problem with snakes (I saw a graphic on IFLS recently that showed snakes in 3rd place, after mosquitos and humans, at least in he modern age) is that most of them do not actually eat the humans they kill.

In human history, we will count wolves, tigers, crocodiles, sharks, piranhas. The biggest loses during a specific period were:

  1. Lions 1,500 - 2,000 1932 in Tanzania
  2. Sharks > 600 USS Indianapolis
  3. Crocodiles - 350 to 900, Ramree Island
  4. Lone Champawat tiger 436 19th century, India
  5. Lone croc Gustav 300
  6. Lone wolf 113 1764 in France

At present, a lone tiger is blamed for 10 deaths and is being hunted. Gustav is still a large.

The correct answer is probably one of the big cats or crocodiles, but I’m surprised no one else has even mentioned bears. Granted very few deaths occur due to bears in modern times, but that’s mainly because nearly every bear population has been decimated, a large portion of the genus has recently gone extinct, and bears have adapted over the years to humans by switching from a primarily-meat to primarily-plant diet. But they could easily hunt and kill humans and exist on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. They stay away from us now because we usually kill them, when people were less able to defend themselves I could see bears taking advantage.