From sharks and jellyfish to bears and cougars to mosquitoes and ticks, there are many creatures that pose a threat to humans. One of the deadliest animals may come as a surprise, however.

It turns out that for humans, cows can be more dangerous than dogs, wolves, and even sharks. How many people are killed by cows each year? On average, cows kill 22 people a year in the United States.

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How Do Cows Kill Humans?

An Abondance Cow

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 22 people are killed by cows each year. Of those attacks, 75% were intentional and one-third of these attacks were from cows that showed previous aggressive behaviors.

Bulls are known as aggressive animals and are responsible for 10 of the 22 deaths. Cows, as in female cattle, are responsible for six deaths. Five cases were a result of humans being killed by multiple cows. When cows are feeling threatened, they often huddle together facing out, then stomp or trample victims.

Most deaths from cows are deliberate attacks, leading to kicking or trampling that causes trauma. Other incidents are secondary, such as humans being crushed between a cow and a wall or fence. In rare cases, cows have killed humans by falling from cliffs into traffic and causing car accidents.

If people survive cow attacks, they typically have serious injuries. In 2014, a cyclist was attacked by a group of cows while riding through a field. He suffered rib fractures, a shoulder fracture, and a fracture to part of his spine. In the same year, a woman suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung from a cow attack.

Most cows attack by kicking and trampling, but in rare cases, cows can flip a human into the air and let them fall to the ground.

The Summer of the Cow

A herd of white cows charging towards the camera
Image Credit: Ane_Hinds, Pixabay

The events that inspired Jaws took place in the summer of 1916. Over a 12-day period, five people in New Jersey were attacked by sharks and four of them died. This became known as the “summer of the shark.”

2009 should be the “summer of the cow,” based on the attacks that took place in the United Kingdom. Over an 8-week period, cows injured and killed as many people as the sharks did in 1916. Some of these casualties included dog walkers and a farmer.

How to Stay Safe from Cow Attacks

Two Cow
Image Credit: PhotoMIX-Company, Pixabay

Though cow attacks are scary, it’s important to remember that the majority of attacks occur in areas with large cattle populations and with people who work closely with cows.

Still, cow attacks can happen to pedestrians and cyclists. So how can you protect yourself from cow attacks?

  • Keep your distance from cows with newborn calves.
  • Dogs can be a nuisance to farm animals and agitate cows. Keep your dog on a leash when walking in rural areas around cows.
  • Pay attention to body language. Cows often show early signs of aggression or defensiveness, such as circling together, lowering their heads, and stomping the ground.
  • If you encounter a wary or aggressive cow or bull, move away carefully and quietly.
  • If a cow tries to attack your dog, it’s better to let your dog go than try to get between it and the cow. Your dog can run free and you can find it later.
  • Avoid making loud noises or sudden movements. Stay calm, and the cows may move on.
  • If you see a field with calves, take another route to avoid crossing the field.
  • Heed “bull crossing” or bull warning signs and don’t enter or cross a field with a bull.
  • Close gates if you cross through a cow field.

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Final Thoughts

Though regarded as docile creatures, cows are responsible for more deaths than some fearsome animals like wolves and sharks. The average person is unlikely to be attacked or killed by a cow, however, since most attacks are on people who farm cattle or walkers and cyclists who spend time near cow fields.

Featured Image Credit: Andhoj, Pixabay