On average, cows cause 22 human deaths in the U.S. every year. There are many ways to die, and while people are killed by cars, illnesses, or an allergic reaction, and the black widow and snake bites, you’ve probably never imagined that humans can be killed by cows too!
Yip, cows are one of the deadliest animals. While cows don’t usually have a poisoned bite, they can pack a serious kick, and with their enormous weight, they can easily trample humans “under-hoof” and cause more human deaths.
Top 6 Most Spine-Tingling Stats
- In the US, Almost 20 to 22 People Are Killed by Cows Annually
- 5 Cases Have Been Observed Where Multiple Cows Killed Humans
- In UK, Approximately 8 People Got Killed by Accidents Involving Cattle Annually
- From 2015 to 2016, and 2019 to 2020, There Were 142 Reported Cow Incidents in the US
- Sharks Kill 5 People Annually, in Comparison to Cows Which Kill 22 People
- Stats Show Cows Kill People Either by Kicking or Trampling
How Many People Are Killed by Cows Each Year
Cows kill several people each year in the US alone, and the total number may be quite a bit higher in the rest of the world, where children suffer kicking by cows or die in deliberate attacks, making cows some of the deadliest animals in the US.
In the US, Almost 20 to 22 People Are Killed by Cows Each Year (CDC)
From 2003-2008, 20 to 22 people were killed by cows, as originally published by the CDC. The most frequent cause of death was blunt force trauma to the chest from being kicked or when a cow trampled someone.
Most of these victims were farmworkers who were fatally injured during their daily interactions with the farm animals. These people were killed by cows that attacked them, ramming them to the ground or goring them with horns.
What caught my attention is that these instances of cow attacks investigated by the CDC were only in four states of the US: Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska. So, how many people are killed by cows each year in the rest of the US?
Bulls Are Responsible for Killing 10 to 22 People Annually (CDC)
Of the attacks, 10 of the 21 cow attacks were by bulls. Previously, these bulls or most cows were aggressive before the attacks, indicating a natural tendency toward being violent.
Oddly, of the 22 attacks that resulted in death, one “attack” was by a cow when the farm worker accidentally injected himself with antibiotics instead of the cow.
Cows (Females) Are Responsible for 6 Deaths Each Year (Gizmodo)
The six deaths were reportedly deliberate attacks by cows that intentionally stormed at people who entered their pastures, such as cyclists and joggers.
Surprisingly, 5 Cases Have Been Observed Where Multiple Cows Killed Humans (Gizmodo)
Interestingly, cows can form a mob mentality, attacking people in groups. Cows may group together, and when they feel pressured or threatened, they may storm at the person in their pasture, trampling that person or rolling them on the ground.
Broken ribs from being stepped on and thrown in the air and a punctured lung are the most common injuries, but head trauma and blunt force trauma to the chest are also frequently found in human deaths caused by cattle attacks.
In UK, Approximately 8 People Got Killed by Accidents Involving Cattle in 2022/23 (HSE)
In the UK, 27 people are killed annually in farming communities due to the nature of their work and inadequate equipment or safety standards. (HSE)
Injured by an animal is the most common cause of death. The numbers may be higher because of poor reporting of such cow attack incidents.
In 2015 in Britain, Cows Were Officially Declared the Most Dangerous Large Animal (Independent)
An independent agricultural body has found that the most dangerous large animal in the UK is the cow. (Independent)
From 2000-2015, 74 people were killed by cows, while 70% of these deaths were by bulls and newly calved cows. So don’t mess with mommy or daddy cow.
Do Cows Attack People?
While dear old Daisy, your family milking cow, may have the heart of a saint, she may also hide a demon in her sleeve if she’s placed in the wrong place and wrong situation at the wrong time. Cows can attack people and intentionally kill them.
From 2015 to 2016 and 2019 to 2020, There Were 142 Reported Cow Incidents in the US (HSE)
During the five years from 2015 to 2020, the Health and Safety Executive investigated 142 cow attack-related incidents in the US. Most of these incidents involved farm workers and animal health specialists who were attacked in the course of their daily tasks.
4 People From General Public Died in These Attacks (HSE)
Yet, of the 142 cases investigated, four members of the general public died because of cow attacks. Most times, people chose to walk through pastures where bulls were kept or where cows had just calved and were in their most aggressive state.
65 Cow-Related Non-Fatal Incidents Were Also Reported From 2015 to 2016 and 2019 to 2020 (HSE)
The HSE also investigated 65 cow attacks that were non-fatal. While these victims were not killed, some suffered severe injuries from being trampled, kicked, and gored by cows. Those who escaped physical injury will suffer the horror of being chased by a determined cow for the rest of their lives – the stuff of nightmares.
75% of These Cow Attacks Are Intentional, and One-Third of the Attacks Attributed to Previous Aggressive Behavior (CDC)
The CDC reports that 16 of the 23 fatalities between 2003-2008, the cows attacked on purpose, striking the victim with the intent to harm (totaling about three-quarters of cow attacks). Another 5 deaths were caused by cows incidentally pushing the victims against gates or stationary objects, such as railings in factory farms.
Secondary Incidents May Include Human Beings Being Crushed Between Cow and a Fence (CDC)
Another 5 deaths were caused by cows accidentally pushing the victims against gates or stationary objects, such as railings in factory farms.
In UK, Farm Workers Are the Major Victims of Cow Attacks, and Pedestrians Are Victims of a Quarter (24%) of Attacks (Daily Mail)
While farm workers face cow attacks as part of their job, when you’re working through the countryside and a cow suddenly attacks and even kills you, it’s not normal!
The Daily Mail reports that 32 victims were pedestrians or the average person walking through the UK countryside when cows attacked them over the last five years (2018-2022).
How Do Cows Kill People?
I can’t help that my mind strikes a blank when I’m asked how cows kill people. There is so much out there about cows being slaughtered by people as part of the meat industry, but the idea that cows actually attack and kill people still overwhelms me.
So how do they do it? What is the cause of death on your death certificate—Death by a cow? I dug deeper to find out.
Stats Show Cows Kill People Either by Kicking or Trampling (Heifer International)
Cows are part of the reason why I’d never want to run a cattle farm. In fact, agricultural industries like factory farms, where cattle are reared and sent to slaughter, are some of the most dangerous places of work in the world. (Heifer International)
The Major Reason Behind Death by a Cow Attack Is Trauma Either To Head or Chest (CDC)
A cow packs one helluva kick, and sustaining a blow from their hooves can split your head like a melon, causing instant death or massive cranial trauma. Most of these blunt-force traumas result from cow aggression, making cattle some of the most dangerous animals on earth.
When I compare killings by cows versus sharks, interestingly, cows kill more people annually. In fact, sharks kill 5-20 people a year, while cows kill at least 20 people a year.
Circumstances Associated With Deaths by Cow Attacks:
Let’s face it; cows can be really dangerous. Working with cattle carries a massive risk, which is why the CDC conducted its investigation into cattle attack-related deaths in four US states from 2003-2008.
The aim of the report was to find ways to ensure better safety for stockmen and other workers in the cattle industry and prevent further deaths by cattle attacks.
There were some interesting findings in the research, which have contributed to better cattle management practices. Specifically, the CDC found that:
Working With Cattle in Enclosed Area: 33%
Ranchers often have family members helping with the management of cattle to do tasks like branding, vaccinating, and castrating the cows.
These activities often happen in enclosed areas like cattle chutes, pens, and barns where there is limited room to move out of the way when a cow kicks or runs at the workers in anger, causing more deaths.
The CDC reported on a sad incident where an 8-year-old boy was crushed in a cattle chute while helping his father castrate a bull. While not strictly speaking an attack by the cow, it did cause the boy’s death.
Moving or Herding Cattle: 24%
When moving farm animals from pasture to pasture, it may seem like a great adventure to go out and find cows. Sadly, this is also one of the most dangerous activities as cattle easily stampede as a herd, which turns several thousand pounds of flesh into a deadly missile, resulting in more deaths.
Research from the CDC reports that 9 deaths were related to bulls attacking herdsmen while they moved cows from one area to another.
When it’s time to take cattle to market, it involves another dangerous activity—loading the cows. The CDC reports on 2 deaths that happened while loading a bull into a trailer and also a death sustained while loading calves, where the steel gate fell onto the worker when the calves bunched against it.
Feeding cows also comes with risks, and while cows can be peaceful, they are highly territorial. Two deaths were of elderly farmers who were feeding cattle. One farmer was crushed against a barn wall while feeding cows, while another was attacked by a bull from behind.
Do Cows Kill More Than Sharks?
While you may think that shark attacks should be one of the top three animals that kill people in attacks, there are several animals that kill more people in unprovoked attacks than dear old Jaws.
On Average, Sharks Kill 5 People Annually, in Comparison to Cows, Which Kill 22 People (Discovery)
In Florida, you are 21 times more likely to die from a tornado than a shark attack (CNN). However, you are also more likely to get killed by an angry cow while out on a stroll.
Where sharks kill about five people annually, cows are known to kill as many as 22 people each year. But if you really want to tempt fate—visit Africa and travel by river.
Hippopotamus attacks are responsible for a total number of 3,000 deaths every year, while Africa’s killer bees kill many people due to an allergic reaction from stings. (Huff Post)
One of the Studies on Human Fatalities Conducted From 2008 to 2015 Revealed Cows and Horses Are Responsible for 90% of Fatal Farm Injuries (Wemjournal)
When working at farms, the animals you care for can also be the cause of your death. A shocking 90% of all farm animal-caused deaths of farm workers were attributed to cows and horses. This definitely takes being a farm worker off the plate for anyone who’s faint-hearted. (Wemjournal)
How to Protect Yourself from Cow Attacks
Working with cattle means you need to be responsible and aware of your surroundings. Most cow-related deaths were caused by cows that launched surprise attacks from behind, catching farm workers off guard and trampling or goring them to death.
Knowing how to protect yourself from cow attacks when you work in the agricultural sector is essential. Here’s what to do:
- Never crowd the enclosed spaces with more cattle than you and your fellow workers can handle. It’s a good idea to rope the cattle, even calves, so there is some way to control them.
- Have one worker on the lookout to shout a warning if a cow or bull decides to attack. The presence of cattle dogs and a rider on a horse with a bullwhip can help provide a distraction so you can get clear of an attack.
- Cruel factory farming practices endanger not only the animals but also the workers, so ensure there is enough space to move clear of an angry cow.
- Never enter a cow pen alone, even if there’s only one cow in there.
- Don’t allow uninformed or physically challenged people to work cattle, and this includes children.
But what about casual strollers who get attacked in the countryside? What can you do to avoid getting attacked or surviving an attack by a cow if you are out on foot or on your bicycle? Here are some tips:
- Keep clear of gates and stay safe by avoiding close proximity to cattle pastures or enclosures. Be aware: Cows aren’t photo opportunities.
- Don’t tease cattle through fences or shout at them. If cattle approach you, remain calm and avoid making sudden moves. Running usually provokes them more unless they are already attacking you—in which case, RUN!
- Never take a shortcut through agricultural land if you don’t know for sure there are no loose cows about. A female cow with her calf is very likely to attack you if you invade her space.
What Are the Chances of Getting Killed by a Cow?
Your chance of getting killed by a cow is 1 in 112 million, which may not sound like bad odds. In fact, you are more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a cow.
Yet, there is a significant increase in cattle attacks on pedestrians in the US and the UK in recent years, making cattle attacks a worry—especially if you consider how many cows are in the world!
What Animal Kills the Most Humans in the United States?
Are you afraid of being killed by an animal in the US, then fear death by mosquitoes more than death by shark attacks, cow attacks, or even dog attacks. That’s right; the tiny mosquito nuisance causes more deaths than any other animal in the US.
How Many Cows Are Killed Each Year?
While cows kill 22 people per year, people kill 36 million cows every year for slaughter and leather processing.
How Many Cows Are Slaughtered Each Year?
Cows are mostly slaughtered for their meat and leather, but the total is 36 million cows killed each year.
What Is the ‘Summer of the Cow’?
Cows are often let out to pasture in summer, which is when herding cattle herds are most often seen. In some areas, this is known as the summer of the cow.
Do Cows Bite?
While a cow is dangerous in some ways, you have nothing to fear from a cow bite, as this can’t happen. Cows don’t have teeth on their top jaws, making a bite impossible. However, if you stick your hand deep enough in their mouth, they can do serious damage with their rows of molars.
I am still amazed that so many cows attack and kill people each year, but I have to wonder about the circumstances surrounding each cow attack. Cows are mostly peaceful animals, but when stressed or forced into enclosures, they can and will protect themselves.