When animals attack, they’re usually not the ones you’d expect, a new study shows. Farm animals – including cows, horses and pigs – lead the pack in bites, kicks and other fatal attacks. They’re followed by insects like hornets, wasps and bees, and dog attacks are in third place.
The researchers, led by Dr. Jared A. Forrester of Stanford University, analyzed U.S. fatalities from 2008 to 2015 that were caused by animals.
“There were 1610 animal-related fatalities, with the majority from non-venomous animals (2.8 deaths per 10 million persons),” researchers wrote in the study, which has been published in the journal Wilderness & Environmental Medicine. “The largest proportion of animal-related fatalities was due to ‘other mammals,’ largely composed of horses and cattle.”
Cats and raccoons are also included in the “other mammals” umbrella.
The researchers also found that many of the deaths were preventable, and death rates due to animal causes didn’t decrease over the seven-year period.
They used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s WONDER database to collect demographic information about animal-related fatalities and the victims involved.
The findings show that it’s not necessarily bears and wolves most humans need to fear, but domestic animals.
“Importantly, most deaths are not actually due to wild animals like mountain lions, wolves, bears, sharks, etc., but are a result of deadly encounters with farm animals, anaphylaxis from bees, wasps, or hornet stings, and dog attacks,” Forrester said.
Dog attacks were most likely to be fatal among children 4 and under, the researchers found.
The study also underlined how important it is for anyone with an allergy to bee, wasp or hornet venom carry and know how to use an epinephrine delivery device like an EpiPen. This is especially true in the U.S. Southwest, where “Africanized” honey bees live. The bees are known to swarm aggressively when provoked, and their attacks can be fatal.
Preventing more animal attacks could save the U.S. billions of dollars in emergency room visits and other medical costs each year.
The study was a follow-up to a previous project Forrester and his colleagues undertook to catalogue fatal attacks and other animal-related deaths from 1999 to 2007.