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 solid bite. It's easy to get nervous when you're in the dark ocean and unsure what's swimming by with a toothy grin. But sharks aren't the animals you should be most afraid of — in fact, when you compare the number of deaths from sharks to an array of other animals, it's clear there are many other animals more likely to cause your demise.

Mosquitoes

Mosquito silhouette on human skin at sunset Mosquitoes' saliva makes it easier for them to get to our blood and it makes us itch. (Photo: mycteria/Shutterstock)

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

Hippos

hippo in water with mouth open The hippo has an impressive set of teeth (Photo: bitznbitez ( was lucias_clay )/Flickr)

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

Deer

three deer by the side of the road When it's dark outside, deer can be harder to see than you might think. (Photo: Todd Hall/Flickr)

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.

Bees

bee on clover Bees have far more important work to do than to sting you. (Photo: Tambako the Jaguar/flickr)

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

Dogs

dog growling You might not want to pet every dog you meet. (Photo: Verkhovynets Taras/Shutterstock)

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

Ants

closeup of red ant on leaf Small but mighty, ants can pack a dangerous bite. (Photo: skynetphoto/Shutterstock)

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

Jellyfish

jellyfish Not all jellyfish are dangerous to humans, but some have incredibly potent venom. (Photo: Baishev/Shutterstock)

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

Cows

two cows You may just want to admire cows from the other side of the fence. (Photo: thka/Shutterstock)

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.

Horses

horse kicking Hanging out with a horse? Stay away from those back legs...and those teeth. (Photo: Rita Kochmarjova/Shutterstock)

20 people die each year thanks to our equine friends.

Spiders

black widow spider Spiders can be deadly, particularly the black widow spider. (Photo: Sari ONeal/Shutterstock)

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

Rattlesnakes

rattlesnake If you see a rattlesnake when hiking or camping, obviously leave it alone. (Photo: Brent Myers/flickr)

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

Sharks

shark swimming Sharks have a lethal reputation, but are responsible for fewer deaths than you think. (Photo: Allan Lee/flickr)

<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 in 2012.

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