What is the Most Dangerous Animal in Australia?

Australia is well known for having more than its fair share of dangerous animals. When it comes to most dangerous animal, what would you pick? Let’s consider the options but before we do, a promise. There are no photos of venomous snakes, hairy spiders, or menacing crocodile eyes anywhere in this post. I looked at all of the nightmare-inducing images while doing my research so that you wouldn’t have to. You are welcome.

Australia’s Most Dangerous Animals

Lists of Australia’s most dangerous animals abound. There’s a top 10 list, top 21, top 30. I’ve just chosen six. If we define most dangerous as resulting in human death, do you think the award goes to one of these creatures or to something else? Note that you shouldn’t give ‘humans’ as an answer. It’s an unfortunate truth that we are the most dangerous animals of all, whether to ourselves (drowning, car accidents etcetera) or to others. But in this post, we’re not including ourselves, just other animals.

Snakes

There are more deadly snakes in Australia than in any other country in the world. The worst is the inland taipan whose bite contains enough venom to kill several people. Good news is that the inland taipan is located in a remote desert in southwestern Queensland and, even there, is difficult to find. There have been no known deaths of humans from this snake. But before you breathe a sigh of relief, the eastern brown snake is no fun either. It is found wherever there are mice, meaning in populated areas. Until an antivenom was developed, more than 80% of people poisoned by the eastern brown snake died, often within an hour.

Crocodiles

The saltwater crocodile has the most powerful bite of any species on earth, ten times more powerful than that of the great white shark. They are also fast – up to 18 miles or 27 kms. per hour. Oh, and aggressive.

Great White Sharks

The danger from these creatures is overrated. Great white sharks are responsible for an average of one death a year, worldwide. As one naturalist joked, “You’re more likely to be eaten by a domestic cat.” Bull sharks? That’s another story. Don’t let your dog go swimming.

Stinging Stonefish

The pain caused by the sting of a stinging stonefish can kill you. This description from venom researcher Bryan Fry makes me shudder –“It produces such mind-blowing agony that the body goes into shock and the person dies.”water, mountain, rock and sky in Australia

Box Jellyfish

This jellyfish can kill you in a matter of minutes. Its many almost invisible tentacles entangle you, and its harpoons inject a lot of venom at one time.

Spiders

One of the worst spiders is the Sydney funnel-web. Its fangs are so powerful they can pierce through shoe leather and toenails. Its venom is reportedly twice as strong as cyanide. Fortunately, there have been no deaths from this spider since an anti-venom was developed in 1981. If you are bitten, hope it was by a female. Only male Sydney funnel-webs deliver deadly bites.

And the Winner of Australia’s Most Dangerous Animal is…

Australia’s most dangerous animal is the horse. More people died being thrown from or trampled by a horse than from bites or stings.
Infographic: Horses Are Deadlier Than Snakes In Australia | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista side view head and shoulders of brown horse

The lesson here is not that we should be afraid of horses. Nor is it that sharks, spiders, snakes and jellyfish aren’t dangerous. Rather, it’s about perception. We think that deaths from venomous animals and animals with powerful jaws occur more frequently than they do because such deaths are well covered in the media. They are sensational, dramatic, and unusual.

So when you visit Australia, keep an eye out for the spiders, snakes and crocodiles. And, perhaps more important, make sure your horseback riding is done at a reputable stable!

Were you surprised? What did you think would take top honours as Australia’s most dangerous animal? Please leave your comment below. 

9 comments

  1. I thought it would have been snakes or spiders. I don’t like either one of them as they are small and close to the surface, hard to see. The surprise is enough to cause a heart attack.

  2. I agree, Gerri. Spiders don’t bother me too much but snakes make me shudder. My biggest fear though has always been crocodiles. They are so menacing, so prehistoric. I’ve heard them referred to as “living fossils.”

  3. Great post! I totally agree with Gerri. It is usually the small , hard to see, ‘close to the surface’ critters of which I am most afraid. A horse isn’t likely to be hiding in my kitchen cupboards, but mice or spiders or snakes…. I agree the shock of these creatures being somewhere that I don’t expect them to be is enough to do me in!

  4. I was amazed to hear the deadliest animal was the horse! I really don’t like spiders but I have killed my fair share so far. That being said I think the variety found in Austrailia are particularly nasty and would not go near one of them. The snakes were my guess for what caused the most deaths. I am glad to hear they developed antivenom but still thinking about being bitten by one makes me shudder.

    I echo everyone else’s sentiments that at least a horse is big enough I can easily steer clear of them. LOL 🙂 Great article, Karen, once again and I DO thank you for not including creepy nightmare inducing pictures to go with your words. That was extremely thoughtful. 😉

    1. You are most welcome, Susan. Since you’ve mentioned that your favourite author is Stephen King, I’m guessing you’re already good at visualizing all the nightmare inducing scenes anyone could want!

  5. I’ve been to Australia, and after reading many books before going, I became aware that while there you are rarely more than 6 feet from a spider. I am terrified of spiders, so needless to say I spent my time there wondering if there was an eight-legged horror lurking anywhere near by – I did not see even one the entire time. I am surprised that horses are so dangerous; to echo all the other responders, they can’t “lurk” around your house or garden. Most of the Aussies we met assured us that ‘roos (kangeroos) were mean tempered creatures who would as soon kick you with their powerful back legs causing great bodily harm and we should stay far away from them – but they don’t lurk either. Great post Karen; I don’t think I’ll go back to Australia any time soon though and if I do, I won’t ride a horse……

    1. Not to go all Stephen King on you, Anna, but I’ve heard the stat about spiders too. So although you didn’t see one, they were there (cue spooky music).
      Interestingly, kangaroos don’t even make the top 30 most dangerous in Australia lists. Maybe that’s because Australians are so good at warning tourists away from them!

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