15 of the World’s Most Ill-Tempered Animals!

World’s Most Ill-Tempered Animals

15. Least weasel (Mustela nivalis)

Despite being the smallest member of the Carnivora order, the least weasel (aka common weasel or little weasel) is a ferocious adversary. Measuring around 9 inches (22.5 cm) and weighing less than 10 ounces (280 grams), they can slaughter rabbits 10 times as heavy as themselves.

They start early – killing behavior is established by just eight weeks of age – and are brutal: prey is killed with a bite that pierces the skull or severs the spinal cord. Consuming around one-third of their body weight every day, when food is abundant, the least weasel enjoys feasting on only the brain of their victim and disdainfully leaves the rest of the carcass for others.

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14. Wolverine (Gulo gulo)

An adult wolverine is similar in size to a medium dog and the largest land-dwelling family member that includes the least weasels. Possessing a special tooth that enables them to eat frozen solid food, they aren’t always patient enough to wait until they find it.

When the mood takes them, they will attack, kill and eat much larger animals, including bison, moose, and deer. The wolverine’s formidable jaws, sharp claws, and deceptive strength equip them to defend themselves well against any wolf or bear thinking of making a meal of them.

13. Great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias)

Also known as the white shark, white pointer, or great white, this macro predatory fish patrols the coastal waters of all the major oceans terrorizing all it comes across. The size of these killing machines varies between 13 and 20 ft (4 – 6 meters), and their weight can reach 5,000 lb (2,200 kg).

The Jaws novel and film franchise are misrepresented by great whites who don’t target humans as prey. Still, they are nonetheless responsible for a greater number of fatal attacks than any other shark species. People who get bitten by sharks are more likely to die of blood loss than of being eaten – great whites don’t enjoy the taste of humans, probably because we are far bonier than seals.

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12. Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)

This red-eyed raptor was given a Latin name meaning ‘noble hawk’ because only the European aristocracy was permitted to own them for falconry in the Middle Ages. Their proportionally larger beak and talons combined with a fearless persistence give them a predatory advantage over most other birds of prey.

Their perch-hunting style of sitting, waiting, swooping, and grabbing means pursuits are often over in the blink of an eye. Intensely territorial, goshawks are apt to engage in mid-air wrestles that can turn fatal as they use their talons to tear at one another without restraint.

11. Gray wolf (Canis lupus)

The Gray wolf (aka Grey wolf or wolf) is the largest member of the dog-like Canidae family. Contrary to popular belief, they hunt in mating pairs more frequently than large packs. Collaborative and relentless, they are capable of running at 40 mph (64km/h) for extended periods until their prey succumbs to exhaustion.

Wolves are at least as intelligent as domestic dogs, and when hunting, use foresight and planning and gaze rather than vocalization. They are ruthless hunters, killing prey by either breaking open skulls, severing the carotid artery with a bite to the throat, or tearing lumps of flesh out of hindquarters. Hence, escape becomes impossible, and their prey bleeds to death.

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10. Polar bear (Ursus maritimus)

Contrary to reputation and number of attacks, it is polar bears (aka ice bear or Nanook), not brown bears (aka grizzly bears) or black bears that are the most ferocious. They are not only the largest bear species but the largest terrestrial carnivore.

Adult males can reach 1,500 lb (700 k) and 9 ft 10 in (3 meters) in length. Polar bears’ excellent sense of smell allows them to detect prey 1 mile (1.6 km) away even when it is buried under 3 ft (1 m) of snow. Their long-distance vision and hearing are at least as good as that of people, and they can run at 25 mph (40 km/h) – as fast as the best human sprinters.

This is worrying because polar bears are more likely than brown or black bears to attack people for food and not merely defend themselves or their young!

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9. Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia)

The Asian giant hornet, not to be confused with the Asian hornet (Vespa velutina), is the largest hornet on the planet. At 1 3/4 inches (4.5 cm) long and with a wingspan of some 3 inches (7.5 cm), they can fly at 25 mph (40 km/h) and will often cover 60 miles (100 km) in a day.

These fearsome predators feed mostly on mantids and bees but have fatally attacked humans and other large animals. The swarming and remorseless nature of their onslaughts.

Coupled with the ability to both inject and spray potent cardiotoxic venom means they can injure or kill through skin hemorrhage, necrosis, kidney failure, or cardiac arrest.

8. Honey badger (Mellivora capensis)

The honey badger (aka ratel), much more similar to a large weasel than a badger, is known for its strength, ferocity, toughness…and anal pouch with a foul smell used to pacify bees when raiding beehives! Usually feeding on insects, rodents, and tortoises, they occasionally treat themselves to snakes or take on goats.

There are even cases of them digging up human corpses. Fiercely protective of their young, honey badgers will repel much larger animals that approach their burrow, including lions, buffalo, or horses.

7. Australian funnel-web spider (three genera: Atrax, Hadronyche, and Illawarra)

An arachnophobe’s worst nightmare, Australian funnel-web spiders can grow as large as 2 inches (5 cm) 1 to 5 cm. Although extremely toxic to humans and other primates, their venom is largely ineffective on many other animals.

For humans, not only is the bite of a funnel-web spider very painful and likely to leave puncture marks and cause bleeding, but if sufficient venom has been injected, symptoms can occur within minutes. The venom can induce severe reactions, including elevated blood pressure, vomiting, confusion, loss of consciousness, and death.

Funnel-web spiders are aggressive, appearing to believe an attack is always the best tactic, no matter who their adversary.

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6. Bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas)

Bull Shark
Bull Shark

The bull shark (aka Zambezi shark or Lake Nicaragua shark) can grow to 11 ft (3.5 m) in length and weigh as much as 290 lb (130 kg). At 5,900 newtons, it has the greatest bite force of all shark species and is the most likely to attack humans, in part due to its fearless nature and in part because it can adapt to freshwater systems, including rivers.

Bull sharks are more disposed than either great white or tiger sharks to attack without provocation, meaning they present a danger to a broader range of animals than their usual diet of turtles, birds, dolphins, and even land mammals.

5. Black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis)

The black mamba, so named for the color of the inside of its mouth, is one of the most venomous snakes on the planet. This tenacious serpent can grow to become as long as 14 ft 9 inches (4.5 m) and has the capacity to lift itself to as high as 7 ft (2 m) off the ground, allowing it to bite humans in the upper body.

Despite their deserved reputation for ferocity in combat, they will not usually attack humans unless threatened. Their venom is neurotoxic, and symptoms can manifest within 10 minutes. Without rapid administering of anti-venom, a range of increasingly serious effects precedes collapse, respiratory failure, cardiovascular malfunction, and death.

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4. Wild boar (Sus scrofa)

Wild boar
Wild boar

The wild boar (aka wild swine or wild pig) is a stocky relative of the pig with a head so large it comprises one-third of the animal’s body length. Found in many regions, their size varies according to local conditions, but it is not uncommon for them to reach 290 lb (130 kg).

Inspired with a confidence that may derive from their immunity to snake venom, well-developed tusks, and fast running speed of 25 mph (40 km/h), these omnivores will charge animals larger than themselves with little provocation in rutting season. Their mode of attack is not dissimilar to that of a bull. If an initial run fails to immobilize the target, the boar will repeat the attack until it perceives the threat to its safety has been incapacitated.

3. Africanized honey bee (a hybrid of three species of Apis mellifera)

The Africanized honey bee (aka killer bee) is a disproportionately feared hybrid due to hyperbolic media reports. They do not actively search for and attack humans, but they are more dangerous than other bee species because they are more easily provoked and attacked in greater numbers.

They are particularly aggressive in defending their colonies and will chase perceived threats as far as a quarter of a mile (400 m). So, although the human death toll of around two people per year is lower than the mythology would imply, the fact they can deliver up to 10 times as many stings as European honey bees mean it’s plausible they will continue to be greatly feared.

2. Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)

The saltwater crocodile (aka the saltie or estuarine, Indo-Pacific, marine, or sea crocodile) is an apex predator that can grow to 20 ft (6 m) and 2,900 lb (1,300 kg). It has the world’s most powerful bite at 16,414 newtons and is prepared to attack almost any animal, humans included, for predatory or territorial reasons.

The animal’s extreme aggression, lack of predators and mean that it is not uncommon for them to live lives comparable in longevity to those of people, with many living as old as 70. The remarkable success of the saltwater crocodile is borne out because it has been around as a species for at least 5 million years.

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1. Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)

Despite being overwhelmingly herbivorous, the extremely irascible and aggressive nature of the hippopotamus (aka hippo) means that it tops our list of the most ill-tempered animals. Not only do hippos kill more humans than crocodiles, but they manage to kill crocodiles too!

The third-largest land animal (after elephants and rhinoceroses), these living tanks can reach a weight of 4,410 lb (2,000 kg) and a top speed of 19 mph (30 km/h), making them a formidable foe when their ire is raised, and they have a score to settle. Hippos can and do capsize boats regularly, leading to the deaths of dozens of people.

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Adrian Volenik

I've lived around animals my whole life and I hold a Diploma in Animal Physiology. When I'm not reading or writing about wild animals, health and fitness, and technology, you can find me playing with my son and two cats. My pastimes include running, playing video games, and solving the NY Times crossword.