Sharks are kinda scary. In the water they're faster than us, can appear from what seems like out of nowhere in an instant, and pack a pretty solid bite. It's easy to get nervous when you're in the dark ocean and unsure of who is swimming by with a toothy grin. But sharks aren't the animals you should be most afraid of. Here are some that are much more likely to cause your demise.



655,000 people killed each year, primarily in Africa, through the little buggers spreading malaria left and right.


Hippo with mouth open

2,900 people are killed by these moody mammals annually in Africa. That roly-poly exterior is just to lure you in.


deer at night

130 people killed across the U.S. by deer, almost exclusively because drivers hit the deers with their cars. That saying "a deer in the headlights" came about for a reason.


close-up of bee

53 people die each year in the U.S. because of an allergic reaction from being stung.


snarling dog

30-35 people are killed each year in the U.S. Fido isn't always your best friend.


ant close-up

20-50 people are killed each year in Africa from ants. They may be small but dozens, hundreds, even thousands of stinging ants can really add up.



20-40 people per year die in the Philippines alone from the anaphylaxis caused by the stings.


placid cow

22 people are killed in the U.S. every year from these seemingly docile creatures. They're fun to pet, but getting kicked in the head by one ... not as fun.


bucking horse

20 people die each year thanks to our equine friends.


black widow spider

6.5 people die in the U.S. every year from spider bites.



5.5 people die from rattlesnake bites each year in the U.S., which isn't a whole lot considering how common they are in popular hiking and camping areas.


silhouetted sharks

<1 person is killed each year in the U.S. and fewer than six worldwide are killed by sharks. From 2006 to 2010, there were just three fatalities from shark attacks in the U.S.

Granted if you're swimming with bull sharks, you're more likely to die by shark attack at that moment than a cow. But most of us aren't in the water with sharks as often as we find ourselves next to a cow on a visit to a farm or at a petting zoo. And we certainly are around bees and ants a whole lot more often than sharks. But if you find yourself swimming in the ocean — or even some rivers — you're probably nearer to sharks than you realize. With millions upon millions of beach-goers and surfers taking to the water every day, only a small handful are ever bitten or killed by sharks. So if you find yourself harboring feelings of fear or even hatred of sharks, you might want to take a step back and gain a little perspective. They aren't nearly as deadly as you might think.

This story was originally written for Treehugger. Copyright 2012.

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Click for photo credits

Photo credits:

Mosquito: Gamma Man/Flickr

Hippo: bitznbitez ( was lucias_clay )/Flickr

Deer: T Hall/Flickr

Bee: Meert/Flickr

Dog: mytoenailcameoff/Flickr

Ant: Larah McElroy/Flickr

Jellyfish: gunnarpowers/Flickr

Cow: ecatoncheires/Flickr

Horse: Thowra_uk/Flickr

Spider: bbum/Flickr

Rattlesnake: Natalie McNear/Flickr

Sharks: de.laina/Flickr

Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.