In Australia, the dangers of snakes, spiders, and other venomous creatures may be far overblown in the popular imagination, as the BBC recently highlighted. The most dangerous animal in the country, in fact, is a more unassuming creature: the horse.
Research published in the Internal Medicine Journal examined 42,000 hospital admissions for venomous stings and bites over the course of 13 years (2000–2013). Bees were the most dangerous, comprising 31 percent of hospital visits, while spider bites made up 30 percent and snake bites made up 15 percent.
And yet, as the BBC reports, none of the animals the researchers specifically studied was as deadly as the unassuming horse. Study author Ronelle Welton found during the research that horse-related injuries over the same period led to 74 deaths—more than all the animals in the study combined.
The study’s authors found that 64 people were killed by venomous stings or bites, the majority because of the subsequent allergic reaction. Despite the smaller number of snake bite hospitalizations, they were pretty deadly: Snake bites caused 27 of these deaths, the same as did bees and wasps. There were no deaths from spider bites.
Surprisingly, most of the fatalities occurred in cities, not while people were out in the wilderness. Most happened at home. It’s possible that people don’t seek medical care as urgently where healthcare options are plentiful, and can die very quickly from anaphylaxis. And people can develop bee allergies even if they didn’t develop a reaction to a previous sting. Only in 44 percent of fatalities from an allergic reaction related to an insect sting did the person get to the hospital before they died.
The lessons we can take from this are: Be extra careful around bees, and even more careful around the stable.