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Man-eater is a colloquial term for an animal that preys upon humans. This does not include scavenging. Although human beings can be attacked by many kinds of animals, man-eaters are those that have incorporated human flesh into their usual diet. Most reported cases of man-eaters have involved tigers, leopards,[1][additional citation needed] lions and crocodilians. However, they are by no means the only predators that will attack humans if given the chance; a wide variety of species have also been known to take humans as prey, including bears, Komodo dragons, hyenas, cougars, and sharks.[citation needed]


Signage in Addo Elephant National Park reminding humans as to their status of prey


Tigers are recorded to have killed more people than any other big cat, and tigers have been responsible for more human deaths through direct attack than any other wild mammal.[2] About 1,000 people were reportedly killed each year in India during the early 1900s, with one individual tiger killing 430 people in India.[2] Tigers killed 129 people in the Sundarbans mangrove forest from 1969–71.[2] Unlike leopards and lions, man-eating tigers rarely enter human habitations in order to acquire prey. The majority of victims are reportedly in the tiger's territory when the attack takes place.[3] Additionally, tiger attacks mostly occur during daylight hours, unlike those committed by leopards and lions.[3] The Sundarbans are home to approximately 600 royal Bengal tigers[4] who before modern times used to "regularly kill fifty or sixty people a year".[4] In 2008, a loss of habitat due to the Cyclone Sidr led to an increase in the number of attacks on humans in the Indian side of the Sunderbans, as tigers were crossing over to the Indian side from Bangladesh.[5]

A theory promoted to explain this suggests that since tigers drink fresh water, the salinity of the area waters serve as a destabilizing factor in the diet and life of tigers of Sundarbans, keeping them in constant discomfort and making them extremely aggressive. Other theories include the sharing of their habitat with human beings and the consumption of human corpses during floods.[4]


Man-eating lions have been recorded to actively enter human villages at night as well as during the day to acquire prey. This greater assertiveness usually makes man-eating lions easier to dispatch than tigers. Lions typically become man-eaters for the same reasons as tigers: starvation, old age and illness, though as with tigers, some man-eaters were reportedly in perfect health.[3] The lion's proclivity for man-eating has been systematically examined. American and Tanzanian scientists report that man-eating behavior in rural areas of Tanzania increased greatly from 1990 to 2005. At least 563 villagers were attacked and many eaten over this period—a number far exceeding the more famed "Tsavo" incidents of a century earlier. The incidents occurred near Selous National Park in Rufiji District and in Lindi Province near the Mozambican border. While the expansion of villagers into bush country is one concern, the authors argue that conservation policy must mitigate the danger because, in this case, conservation contributes directly to human deaths. Cases in Lindi have been documented where lions seize humans from the centre of substantial villages. It is estimated that over 250 people are killed by lions every year.[6]


Man-eating leopards are a small percentage of all leopards, but have undeniably been a menace in some areas;[7] one leopard in India killed over 200 people.[7] Jim Corbett was noted to have stated that unlike tigers, which usually became man-eaters because of infirmity, leopards more commonly did so after scavenging on human corpses. In the area that Corbett knew well, dead people are usually cremated completely, but when there is a bad disease epidemic, the death rate outruns the supply of cremation pyre wood and people burn the body a little and throw it over the edge of the burning ghat.[8] In Asia, man-eating leopards usually attack at night, and have been reported to break down doors and thatched roofs in order to reach human prey. Attacks in Africa are reported less often, though there have been occasions where attacks occurred in daylight. Both Corbett and Kenneth Anderson have written that hunting the man eating panther presented more challenges than any other animal.


Jaguar attacks are rare on humans, though it had been recorded, but not as man-eaters.[9]


Due to the expanding human population, cougar ranges increasingly overlap with areas inhabited by humans. Attacks on humans are very rare, as cougar prey recognition is a learned behavior and they do not generally recognize humans as prey. Attacks on people, livestock, and pets may occur when a puma habituates to humans or is in a condition of severe starvation. Attacks are most frequent during late spring and summer, when juvenile cougars leave their mothers and search for new territory.


The only documented man-eaters among the great apes are humans themselves and common chimpanzees.[10]



Two of the Wolves of Périgord, responsible for the deaths of 18 people in February 1766, on display at the chateau of Razac in Thiviers.

Contrasted to other carnivorous mammals known to attack humans for food, the frequency with which wolves have been recorded to kill people is rather low, indicating that, though potentially dangerous, wolves are among the least threatening for their size and predatory potential, except for the dog which poses lethal hazards for reasons other than predation. In the rare cases in which man-eating wolf attacks occur, the majority of victims are children.[11] Habituation is a known factor contributing to some man-eating wolf attacks which results from living close to human habitations, causing wolves to lose their fear of humans and consequently approach too closely, much like urban coyotes. Habituation can also happen when people intentionally encourage wolves to approach them, usually by offering them food, or unintentionally, when people do not sufficiently intimidate them.[11] This is corroborated by accounts demonstrating that wolves in protected areas are more likely to show boldness toward humans than ones in areas where they are actively hunted.[12]


Attacks on humans by dingoes are rare, with only 3 recorded fatalities in Australia, all of which involved young children. Dingoes are normally shy of humans and avoid encounters with them. The most famous record of a dingo attack was the disappearance of nine-week-old Azaria Chamberlain. Her parents reported that they both saw a dingo taking Azaria out of their tent when she and her family were out on a camping trip to Ayers Rock.

Domestic dogs

Much like other large land carnivores, domestic dogs have the power, strength, speed, agility, voraciousness, intelligence, cunning, and bite force of mammalian species generally understood as man-eaters. Add to this the sort of organization that one associates with lions, hyenas, and wolves, and even a pack of small dogs is potentially as lethal as a single large predator. Predatory attacks by dogs (like wolves) on livestock and wildlife larger than humans demonstrate the potential of a dog as a man-eater. A large dog or a pack of dogs of adequate number depending on size of the dogs has the capacity to kill a human even without predatory intent, and most fatal dog attacks do not result from hunger. Self-extrication from a dog attack is extremely difficult. By far the best-behaved of all large predatory land animals except for humans, the dog is the large predatory animal least likely to kill humans as prey. Pet dogs are ordinarily too well fed to contemplate humans as food, and even strays are likely to find food through scavenging or begging.

Predatory acts by dogs upon humans have occurred, but many such incidents were the result of human misconduct. Guards such as Irma Grese often set dogs upon live prisoners in Nazi concentration camps with the dog killing the victim and partially devouring the corpse.[13] Perpetrators of this method of murder were often executed as war criminals.


Almost all known predatory coyote attacks on humans have failed. To date, other than the Kelly Keen coyote attack and the Taylor Mitchell coyote attack, all known victims have survived by fighting, fleeing, or being rescued, and only in the later case was the victim partially eaten, although that case occurred in Nova Scotia where the local animals are eastern coyotes (coywolves).


Polar bears, being almost completely unused to the presence of humans and therefore having no ingrained fear of them, will actively hunt people for food, though with the right precautions, both are easily deterred. Although bears rarely attack humans, bear attacks are often fatal due to their size and immense strength. As with dogs, predatory intent is not necessary; territorial disputes and protection of cubs can result in death by bear attack. Truly man-eating bear attacks are uncommon, but are known to occur when the animals are diseased or natural prey is scarce, often leading them to attack and eat anything they are able to kill. In July 2008, dozens of starving bears killed two geologists working at a salmon hatchery in Kamchatka.[14] After the partially eaten remains of the two workers were discovered, authorities responded by dispatching hunters to cull or disperse the bears.[15]

Lone, predatory black bears are responsible for most human attacks in the United States and Canada, according to a study from 2011. Unlike female bears, motivated to attack humans to protect cubs, male black bears actually prey on humans, viewing them as a potential food source.;[16][17]

Though usually shy and cautious animals, Asian black bears are more aggressive toward humans than the brown bears of Eurasia.[18] Brown bears seldom attack humans on sight, and usually avoid people. They are, however, unpredictable in temperament, and will attack if they are surprised or feel threatened.[19] In some areas of India and Burma, sloth bears are more feared than tigers, due to their unpredictable temperament.[20]


Although hyenas readily feed upon human corpses, they are generally very wary of humans and much less dangerous than the big cats whose territory overlaps with theirs. Nonetheless, both the spotted hyena and the smaller striped hyena are powerful predators quite capable of killing an adult human, and are known to attack people when food is scarce. Like most predators, hyena attacks tend to target women, children, and infirm men, though both species can and do attack healthy adult males on occasion. The spotted hyena is the more dangerous of the two species, being larger, more predatory, and more aggressive than the striped hyena. The brown hyena and aardwolf are not known to prey on humans.[citation needed]



Although not true carnivores, pigs are competent predators and can kill and eat helpless humans unable to escape them.[21][unreliable source?] Numerous animal trials in the Middle Ages involved pigs accused of eating children.[22]



Despite small individual size (usually much smaller than dogs, possibly the smallest animals that can singly kill a person in a predatory attack), rats in large numbers can kill helpless people by eating humans alive.[23] Although the bite of one rat is unlikely to kill a person except through rabies, the collective damage of dozens of rats can cause death by shock and damage to vital organs. Although not true carnivores, rats are unfussy eaters and social predators should the opportunity arise.

Rat torture has been used upon political prisoners, and not only in such fiction as Nineteen Eighty-Four.


A Nile crocodile is one of the species involved in the most unprovoked fatal attacks on humans.


Crocodile attacks on people are common in places where crocodiles are native. The saltwater and Nile crocodiles are responsible for more attacks and more deaths than any other wild predator that attacks humans for food. Each year, hundreds of deadly attacks are attributed to the Nile crocodile within sub-Saharan Africa. Because many relatively healthy populations of Nile crocodiles occur in East Africa, their proximity to people living in poverty and/or without infrastructure has made it likely that the Nile crocodile is responsible for more attacks on humans than all other species combined.[citation needed]


Despite their manifest ability to kill prey similar to or larger than humans in size and their commonness in an area of dense human settlement (the southeastern United States of America, especially Florida), American alligators rarely make predatory attacks upon humans despite the opportunity. Unlike the far-more dangerous saltwater and Nile crocodiles, almost all alligators seem to avoid contact with humans if possible, especially if they have been hunted. Incidents have happened,[24] and they may not all have been predatory in nature.


Only very few species of snakes are physically capable of swallowing an adult human. Although quite a few claims have been made about giant snakes swallowing adult humans, convincing proof has been absent. However, large constricting snakes may sometimes constrict and kill prey that are too large to swallow. Also, multiple cases are documented of medium-sized (3 m (9.8 ft) to 4 m (13 ft)) captive Burmese pythons constricting and killing humans, including several nonintoxicated, healthy adult men, one of whom was a "student" zookeeper.[25][26][27][28] In the zookeeper case, the python was attempting to swallow the zookeeper's head when other keepers intervened.[28] In addition, at least one Burmese python as small as 2.7 m (8.9 ft) constricted and killed an intoxicated adult man.[29]

A large constricting snake may constrict or swallow an infant or a small child, a threat that is legitimate and empirically proven. Cases of python attacks on children have been recorded for the green anaconda, the African rock python,[30] the Burmese python,[31] and possibly the Australian scrub or amethystine python.[32]

In the Philippines, more than a quarter of Aeta men (a modern forest-dwelling hunter-gatherer group) have reported surviving reticulated python predation attempts.[33] Pythons are nonvenomous, ambush predators, and both the Aeta and pythons hunt deer, wild pigs, and monkeys, making them competitors and prey.[33]

The only group of snakes able to eat an adult human being are the largest constrictors (pythons and anacondas, all nonvenomous), which include the largest snakes in the world:


Large Komodo dragons are the only known lizard species to occasionally attack and consume humans. Because they live on remote islands, attacks are infrequent and may go unreported. Despite their large size, attacks on people are often unsuccessful and the victims manage to escape (although severe wounds are usually sustained).[34] In most instances, humans consumed by Komodos are corpses dug from shallow graves by the lizards.



Sign warning bathers of the danger of shark attacks

Contrary to popular belief, only a few sharks are dangerous to humans. Of more than 568 shark species, only four have been involved in a significant number of fatal unprovoked attacks on humans: the great white shark, tiger shark, bull shark,[35] and the oceanic whitetip shark.[36] These sharks, being large, powerful predators, may sometimes attack and kill humans; however, they have all been filmed in open water by unprotected divers.[37][38]


Due to its small size, no individual piranha could ever kill a human even if it can take a painful bite of flesh. The ability of a shoal of piranhas to overwhelm and devour a capybara similar in size to human demonstrates the potential of piranhas as man-eaters.

Attacks resulting in deaths have occurred in the Amazon basin. In 2011, a drunk 18-year-old man was attacked and killed in Rosario del Yata, Bolivia.[39] In 2012, a five-year-old Brazilian girl was attacked and killed by a shoal of P. nattereri.[40] Some Brazilian rivers have warning signs about lethal piranhas.[41]


Reports have been made of goonch catfish eating humans in the Kali River in India.[42] As seen on River Monsters, the wels catfish, piraíba, and the candiru-acu have also been known to potentially attack, kill, and eat people.



Some evidence supports the contention that the African crowned eagle occasionally views human children as prey, with a witness account of one attack (in which the victim, a seven-year-old boy, survived and the eagle was killed),[44] and the discovery of part of a human child skull in a nest. This would make it the only living bird known to prey on humans.

Some fossil evidence indicates large birds of prey occasionally preyed on prehistoric hominids. The Taung Child, an early human found in Africa, is believed to have been killed by an eagle-like bird similar to the crowned eagle. The extinct Haast's eagle may have preyed on humans in New Zealand, and this conclusion would be consistent with Maori folklore.

Death tolls

Individual notable man-eating animals' death tolls:

See also


  1. Corbett, Jim (1944). Man-eaters of Kumaon. Oxford University Press. pp. viii–xiii.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Nowak, Ronald M; and Paradiso, John L. Walker's Mammals of the World. 4th ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1983. p1088
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 John Seidensticker and Susan Lumpkin (1991). Great Cats. p. 240. ISBN 0-87857-965-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Maneaters: The Sundarbans". lairweb. Retrieved 11 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Tiger attacks on rise in Indian Sundarbans". DNA India. Indo-Asian News Service. 30 July 2008. Retrieved 11 March 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Top 10 deadliest animals on the planet, The Daily Telegraph, April 14, 2009
  7. 7.0 7.1 Nowak, Ronald M; and Paradiso, John L. Walker's Mammals of the World. 4th ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1983. p1090
  8. books by Jim Corbett
  9. "Latin American Herald Tribune - Jaguar Kills Fisherman on Colombia's Caribbean Coast". Retrieved 2016-03-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Online Extra: Frodo @ National Geographic Magazine". 2002-05-15. Retrieved 2016-03-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 "The Fear of Wolves: A Review of Wolf Attacks on Humans" (PDF). Norsk Institutt for Naturforskning. Retrieved 26 June 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. L. David Mech & Luigi Boitani (2001). Wolves: Behaviour, Ecology and Conservation. p. 448. ISBN 0-226-51696-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Irma Grese". Retrieved 2016-03-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  19. Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance by Stephen Herrero, Hurtig Publishers Ltd./ Edmonton 1985
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  27. Animal Attack Files Archives. "Owner Killed by Snake had been Warned in '98". Retrieved 2016-03-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  30. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 1 October 2014. Missing or empty |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours. "Officials capture 9-foot Burmese python that strangled 2-year-old Sumter County girl | Tampa Bay Times". Retrieved 2016-03-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  33. 33.0 33.1 Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
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  35. ISAF Statistics on Attacking Species of Shark
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  37. Hawaiian newspaper article
  38. The 1992 Cageless shark-diving expedition by Ron and Valerie Taylor.
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  42. Mutant fish develops a taste for human flesh in India
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