Would you like to have breakfast with a bear? How about a playdate with a snake? Or play pool with a chimp?
If you’ve been watching our videos, you’ll know that the best answer is: none of them. Having a wild animal as a pet might make you interesting, but it could also make you (VO: pause) die.
This might shock you. But wild animals should be in the wild. And it doesn’t matter if you’re the ultimate animal lover. When it comes to some species, you will never be completely safe.
Still, every day, people around the world risk being bitten, mauled, poisoned or trampled to death by their uncommon pets. Today, we’ll see a list of the ten most dangerous pets in the world. Some of them might surprise you, and others, not so much.
Which pet could kill you in your sleep? Which is the world’s deadliest mammal, besides humans? And how could this bird kill you in a matter of minutes?
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, in 2016, more than 13% of U.S. households owned a specialty or exotic pet. Sometimes the animals had been rescued. But sadly, they’re often collected as status symbols or for the novelty of the animal. And when it comes to deadly species, it is not their size that matters.
Number 10: Venomous Spiders
Spiders are a more common pet than you might expect. And some species, like tarantulas, are safe and often make great pets. But others, like Australian funnel-web spiders, can be deadly. They are known for killing humans in just 15 minutes.
Since they are nocturnal, they’ll be wandering around when you turn the lights off. And during the day, they might hide in your shoe to avoid sunlight. So check twice before putting on your footwear.
Also, many spiders like to burrow and hide. So check under the covers before going to bed. A spider might be hidden and ready to bite you. If you have a venomous spider, at least find where the closest place to get antivenom is, and keep your dangerous pet in a safe enclosure.
Number 9: Camels
While camels can be docile and domesticated, they are also heavy animals with tough hooves. You can usually find them in North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and even Australia.
But in 2015, in Texas, one camel showed how deadly it could be by trampling two people to death. The camel was in heat, and that makes them especially dangerous and unpredictable.
Number 8: Hippos
Every year, across Africa, hippos kill an estimated 500 people. That makes them the world’s deadliest mammal after humans.
However, many hippo attacks and deaths result from humans entering their territories, hunting them and otherwise bothering them. These strong, fast, big beasts can easily take on a human and severely injure or kill it.
They also tend to be territorial and aggressive. So even if you think a hippo is your loyal pet, it could still kill you. They’re also an invasive species, and they can have a huge negative impact if released into a new habitat. That happened in Colombia with the hippos that Pablo Escobar imported illegally in the 1980s.
Number 7: Wolves and Coyotes
While wolves and coyotes might look like our domesticated dogs, they’re different. They can carry diseases that can pass to you when they bite you. Wolves are known to attack and kill people for food and while being fed by humans. Also, they may attack and kill other pets in your house and your neighborhood. And be especially careful around wolf-dog mixes. They might seem friendly, but they still have a killer instinct and have attacked their owners in packs.
Number 6: Venomous Snakes
The black mamba snake is one of many popular venomous snakes some people keep as pets, but that’s generally a terrible idea. Black mambas are very aggressive when they feel threatened, and they can attack you at high speed.
If you do get bitten, try to stay calm and call 911 immediately. You’ll need to get medical attention quickly. And control your breathing so your pulse stays low and the venom doesn’t spread too quickly. But if you keep a venomous snake where the snake is not native, your local hospital is unlikely to have antivenom available to administer right away. And that can cost you your life.
Number 5. Cassowaries
Cassowaries are enormous, flightless birds from Australia. They are the closest living relatives to dinosaurs, and cassowaries have a very unique look with black feathers, a red and blue neck and a dark keratin crest.
They can stand up to 2 m (6 ft 6 in) tall and weigh as much as 60 kg (132 lb). They have incredibly sharp nails that reach lengths of 12 cm (5 in). And although they are not normally aggressive, if you get between them and their food, one kick can easily give you such a deep gash that you’d bleed to death in minutes. In 2019, a cassowary killed a Florida man who kept it as a pet at his exotic bird farm.
Number 4: Alligators and Crocodiles
These reptiles lunge at prey when they’re eating. So don’t get too close when you feed them, or they will lunge at you. They have piercing teeth and can tear your arm off. They are also great at camouflaging themselves, so keep your eyes peeled to see an attack coming. And try to stay in shape. If they chase after you, these fierce reptiles can charge at 18 km/h (11 mph).
Number 3: Bears
While these creatures might look cute and cuddly, they’re not teddy bears. They can and will kill you if they want to. They have sharp claws, weigh hundreds of pounds and can charge at you quickly.
According to one study from Montana State University, a bear is 2.5 to 5 times as strong as a human.
If you decide to get a pet bear, you’d better remember the bear poem. If it’s brown, lay down. If it’s black, fight back, and if it’s white, good night. In 2009, in Pennsylvania, U.S., Kelly Ann Walz was cleaning her pet black bear’s cage when “”Teddy”” attacked and mauled her to death. Her neighbor shot and killed the bear while it was atop Walz, but it was too late to save her.
Number 2: Primates
Our great ape cousins, along with monkeys, might seem like the perfect companion to live your life with and to simulate the Curious George books. However, in reality, we tend to underestimate the intelligence and aggression of other great apes.
If you don’t like cleaning up your pet’s feces, imagine having one that throws them at you. And when they finish playing, they might choose to slam a rock onto your head, bite your hand off, and potentially kill you.
Number 1: Big Cats
Every owner dreams about having an extra-large version of their house cats. But be careful what you wish for. Even if you think a tiger is tame, it can turn on you at any moment out of instinct or aggressiveness. And the big cats can kill you.
These animals are quick, and they can kill you with a single bite to your neck. Even roughhousing or trying to feed them can end with you dying. In Ontario, Canada, it is legal to own a tiger and many other exotic animals. And in 2010, in Toronto, 66-year-old Norman Buwalda was mauled to death by his 300 kg (650 lb) pet tiger. He was found dead in the tiger’s pen after he went to feed his pet.
So remember, even if owning a certain foreign species is legal in your area, that doesn’t make it a good idea. Keeping an unconventional animal as a pet is dangerous for its human owners and the animals too. They can have a hard time adapting to the new environment. And your local veterinarians may not be able to treat an exotic animal if it gets sick.
- “World’s Deadliest Spider: The Funnel-Web”. 2017. Australian Geographic.
- “Pablo Escobar’s Hippos Have Invaded Colombia’s Waterways And Need To Be Culled, Study Says”. 2021. NBC News.