This story is over 5 years old.

Australia Today

Cows and Horses are Australia’s Number One Killers

In the past decade they've caused more deaths than snakes, sharks, and crocodiles combined.
Gavin Butler
Melbourne, AU
Image via Wikimedia

Australia is the land of deadly animals. We’ve got the highest population of venomous snakes in the world, a toxic jellyfish that makes you trip so hard you want to die, spiders, sharks, crocs, octopus, jellyfish, and mosquitoes. But these aren’t the creatures you really need to be looking out for. The real killers—the ones most likely to kick you off of this mortal coil—have been living right under our noses this whole time.


It’s cows, you guys. Cows and fucking horses.

Turns out it’s relatively unlikely to be killed by an animal in Australia, according to the ABC. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicates that, in the years between 2008 and 2017, just 17 people were killed by crocodiles; 23 were killed by snakes and lizards; and 26 were killed by sharks and other creatures of the deep. Cows and horses, on the other hand, were responsible for 77 deaths: more than crocs, snakes, and sharks combined.

So what’s the go? How are cows, the village idiots of the animal kingdom, managing to take down so many humans? All kinds of ways, apparently. Australian Geographic reported that, in the years between 2000 and 2010, bovine inflicted death upon a total of 33 people: many of them by way of crushing and piercing. Sixteen were caused by cow-related motor vehicle accidents, while others were mysteriously listed as a result of “unknown” causes.

The deadliness of horses, on the other hand, is slightly less mysterious. People love riding horses, but unfortunately a lot of those people end up falling off horses. Over the same time period of 2000 to 2010, most of the 77 horse-related fatalities had something to do with a fall. The catchall term “horse”, in these cases, also included ponies and donkeys.

All these things considered, the idea of bovine and equine being cud-chewing death machines isn’t quite as ridiculous as it sounds. The National Farmers’ Federation estimates that Australia has a “national herd” of 26.6 million beef cattle—meaning that the nation’s bovine vastly outweigh all the crocs, snakes, and sharks on population figures alone. The fact that no one ever suspects the humble cow or the pompous horse, however, also boils down to our own self-generated perception of risk and how dangerous we interpret particular situations to be.

“Our perceptions of the probability of an event has been shown to depend on its availability—how easily we are able to bring such events to mind,” Professor John Dunn, from the University of Adelaide’s School of Psychology, explained to Australian Geographic. “Events appear on the news and/or are talked about because they are noteworthy, unusual, or dramatic. As a result, these kinds of events are more available and hence we overestimate their probability of occurrence.”

We don’t think of livestock as being lethal, in other words, because they’re too commonplace and boring to ever make the news—even when they're the ones doing the slaying. So consider this a word of warning: Australia's number one killers live among us. We've spent centuries treating them as our slaves, and we're paying the price in blood.

Cows and horses are this country's deadliest animals.

Follow Gavin on Twitter or Instagram