Have you ever dreamed of owning an exotic pet? Some people have lived that fantasy, keeping wild animals as companions. We’ve already told you some uncomfortably odd stories involving some of the strangest pets on the planet.
But the weird and wacky can give way to nightmares in the waking world. Unfortunately for you, if you have ever dreamed of riding around on the back of an unusual creature, this list reveals 10 times when those cherished companions have turned deadly.
The world’s most dangerous bird is the cassowary, edging out both the emu and the ostrich for the win. Although a cassowary is as tall as a person, the real threat is closer to the ground.
The bird has 10-centimeter (4 in) swords for claws on the end of its ridiculously powerful legs. A kick from a cassowary can kill you both by blunt force trauma and blood loss. So naturally, they are sometimes sought out by exotic animal collectors as pets.
In Florida, a 75-year-old man was a breeder of these birds until one of them attacked him in 2019. According to officials, he fell to the ground by accident and then the bird struck. The man was probably doomed from the moment he hit the ground as a cassowary can run up to 50 kilometers per hour (31 mph) and jump 2.1 meters (7 ft) into the air despite being flightless.
This isn’t the first time that a cassowary attack has made headlines. In 2012, a man was chased by a cassowary and cornered on a cliff above a pool of water in Australia. The bird then kicked him in the back, sending him rolling down the embankment into the water below.
He survived but with bruises and a ripped shirt. He hadn’t done anything to upset the cassowary other than being nearby, but it decided to attack anyway.
On his farm in Australia, Paul McDonald was killed by a hybrid of a red deer and an elk (aka a wapiti). His family had kept the normally docile animal for years before it attacked Paul in 2019.
The deciding factor in the sudden mood shift appeared to be mating season. The animal’s hormones were acting up. Red deer stags live as social animals for 10 months of the year, but for two months, they enter a period of “rutting” in which they display more aggression and other sexual behaviors.
According to research on wild populations of deer, violence is connected to changes in testosterone. So, both castration and social isolation are useful in preventing dangerous outbursts in the animals during mating season. Unfortunately, this animal became unexpectedly violent despite its relative isolation from other deer.
One morning, Paul had gone to feed the hybrid breakfast when his wife and son heard a commotion coming from the animal’s area as the beast attacked. His wife attempted to intervene, but she was injured by the animal.
Their son went to get help. After paramedics and police arrived, they treated the injuries and shot the hybrid. Paul died from his injuries, but his wife survived. She was moved to a hospital where she eventually recovered after several operations.
In 2011, headlines were made when a South African man named Marius Els was killed by his pet hippopotamus, which he called Humphrey. The death was notable because Els and Humphrey had appeared in media and videos together demonstrating their seemingly friendly bond.
A video called “My Pet Hippo: I Love Humphrey” was uploaded to YouTube earlier in the year that Els was killed. He had rescued Humphrey as a calf from a flood. Around six years later, Humphrey killed Els by repeatedly biting and gouging him.
It was not the first time that Humphrey, the 1,179-kilogram (2,600 lb) mammal, had killed. He had previously destroyed multiple cows that had been owned by a business partner of Els.
Friends of Els reportedly knew that it was only a matter of time before the deadliest animal in Africa would off a person. Hippos kill more people each year than several more dangerous-sounding species combined, including elephants, lions, leopards, and rhinos.
Els was known for performing dangerous stunts with Humphrey, especially posing for photographs while riding on the animal’s back. At one point before Els’s death, Humphrey had attacked two canoers who passed too close to him on the river, forcing them to climb a tree for safety and remain there for hours.
Monkeys may not sound like the most dangerous animals in the world. We often associate them with funny behaviors like eating bananas and throwing feces. But the bites of monkeys can be deadly—especially in this case from Malaysia in 2019 when the monkey bit through a major artery.
A 72-year-old man and his son were both attacked by their pet monkey as they were attempting to get it to climb trees and retrieve fruit. It was the older man who died, although the son received an injury to his neck.
The monkey had been trained to gather coconuts from palm trees by going to something called a monkey school. In Malaysia, monkey schools teach a species called the southern pig-tailed macaque to retrieve these fruits to assist the local economy.
The monkeys have been trained this way for at least 100 years, and each one is typically taught at a school for 2–3 weeks before getting a job as a coconut picker. The training begins by creating an interest in coconuts by encouraging the monkey to play with them. Then it proceeds in stages during which the monkey is taught movements and command words.
The murdering monkey in question was older than the ideal age for these animals to begin their training, which may be why the schooling did not turn out so well for this monkey. The son discovered that his father was lying in their coconut grove and so went to investigate when he was attacked by the monkey as well.
A neighbor heard the screaming, and the son was rescued. But it was too late for the father. It is unknown whether the monkey mistook their heads for coconuts in need of harvest or if it was in a neck-biting mood for some other reason.
In 2009, a pet black bear named Teddy killed one of its owners. Despite the animal’s soft-sounding name, this was not a particularly cuddly murder. Kelly Ann and Michael Walz lived in Pennsylvania, and Michael had previously held a license as an exotic pet dealer. That license had expired by the time that his bear killed his wife.
Earlier, the Walzes had kept various animals in cages on their property. These included a lion, a tiger, a jaguar, a leopard, some relatively small savanna cats called servals, and the bear.
But even though Michael had received the animal permit, it was Kelly Ann who was cleaning the black bear cage one Sunday night when the accident occurred. To keep the bear occupied, she tossed a shovelful of dog food to one side of the cage while she cleaned the other side. The bear attacked her while she was cleaning.
Kelly Ann had been raising the bear for nine years—ever since it was a cub. Bear cubs are relatively easy to handle. But according to experts, any relationships that may be formed with a cub are destroyed when the bear reaches about four years old and reveals violent outbursts of behavior.
Bears have never been successfully domesticated despite attempts (especially in Russia). They are considered wild and unpredictable animals even if they have lived among humans for long periods of time.
Hypothetically, what would you give your wife for her 60th birthday? Jewelry? Flowers? How about a baby camel?
That was the birthday present that Pam Weaver’s husband gave her in 2007. Living in Australia, Weaver was an animal lover who had previously raised goats, kangaroos, emus, and rabbits.
Having a camel in Australia is not as strange as it may sound. Many wild camels have lived on the continent since they were brought there in the 1800s as pack animals. In fact, there are well over a million feral single-humped camels roaming the wilds of Australia as an unusual invasive species. They cause millions in damages to property each year and are a general nuisance.
The pet camel is believed to have knocked Pam Weaver to the ground and then straddled her body, killing her. Pam had raised the camel almost from birth, and it was just 10 months old when the tragedy happened. Reportedly, the camel had displayed erratic behavior before—such as straddling Weaver’s pet goat.
One expert stated that the strange behaviors were undoubtedly sexual in nature and that the young camel was attempting to engage in some type of mating behavior. Of course, the headlines wasted no time with their insensitive puns, declaring that the woman had been humped to death.
In January 2019, an Indonesian woman fell into an outdoor enclosure containing an illegally kept crocodile named Merry. The woman’s name was Deasy Tuwo, and she was the head of a pearl farm laboratory that produced beauty products. It was unknown what a crocodile was doing on the laboratory property because these creatures are not known for their beauty. But apparently, it was being fed like a pet.
It is believed that Tuwo fell into the enclosure by accident or the crocodile was able to leap far enough up the 2.4-meter (8 ft) concrete wall of the enclosure to snatch her. Crocodiles make powerful leaps using their tails to propel them almost entirely out of the water in which they are swimming.
In some places, taunting crocodiles by holding meat above the water and forcing them to jump to grab it is a popular tourist attraction called a “jumping crocodile cruise.”
By the time that Tuwo’s body was found, Merry had eaten one of her hands and most of her abdomen. To remove the dangerous and illegal reptile from the property, the police, the army, and conservation officials all pitched in.
It took dozens of people to organize and complete the three-hour operation to evict Merry the crocodile. She was then strapped to a flatbed truck and driven away to a wildlife rescue center.
A man named Ram Lakhan Verma was a politician affiliated with a political party in India called the Bahujan Samaj Party. The official symbol of the party is the elephant. As a gimmick of sorts, Verma kept an elephant as a pet that he would use during political campaigns.
In 2003, the elephant began behaving wildly. So Verma brought him to the outskirts of the village and tried to calm him down. At first, it seemed to be working, but then the elephant became enraged again.
At that point, Verma lashed out and tried to strike the animal on the forehead with a sharp iron rod. Eyewitnesses reported that the weapon ended up lodged in the elephant’s ear. Verma then lost his balance and fell to the ground.
The panicked elephant crushed him to death and then ran back toward the village. Unfortunately for the skittish animal, the villagers were ready. They opened fire on the elephant with their guns and shot him over 200 times in total.
Did the massacre of their mascot hurt the chances of the political party?
Not so much. In the next countrywide election held in India after the death of the elephant and its owner, the Bahujan Samaj Party won the state assembly election with a non-coalition majority, the likes of which had not been seen in well over a decade.
The gnu, a species of African antelope often called a wildebeest, weighs hundreds of pounds, and both the males and females grow large and intimidating horns. This did not deter one man in Indiana from keeping three wildebeests as pets: an adult male, an adult female, and a calf born to the adults.
In 2004, Klaus “Dick” Radandt was trampled to death by one of his wildebeests behind his home. The animal had been made safer to handle by cutting off most of its horns, but that turned out not to matter in the end. The coroner declared that the wildebeest had inflicted blunt force trauma to its owner’s head and chest, probably first by ramming him and then by trampling him.
What most likely set the wildebeest off on its murderous rampage? It was the beginning of the mating season. He may have been extra aggressive to prevent Radandt from being around his mate. Radandt and his wife also kept emus, reindeer, and other exotic animals on the farm where he was killed.
His wife discovered Radandt’s body after realizing that he had not come back from the barnyard for quite some time. Presumably, she did not react well when she discovered his body among their implausibility of gnus. Yes, a herd of gnus is called an implausibility. At least you got that fun fact out of this sad story!
In Putnam, New York, a couple was keeping around 75 snakes, including a black mamba, in their home. The black mamba is considered the second-deadliest snake in the world based on its venom’s neurotoxin power.
The snakes were not just roaming free among the cabinets and furniture, of course. They were contained in various glass aquariums and acrylic snake pens. Unfortunately, the locks on the black mamba’s enclosure were mysteriously open one day.
In 2011, the 1.5-meter (5 ft) venomous reptile bit owner Aleta Stacey on her forearm. The snake is known for its venom because nearly 100 percent of bite victims will die within 20 minutes if not treated.
Stacey died from the bite, and it appeared that she had not tried to call for help of any kind. There was some discussion that the death may have been intentional, but proof of this was not found. Her boyfriend discovered her body and then found that the snake’s cage was unlocked.
The possession of some of the snakes was illegal, especially because over half of them had venom known to be harmful to people (such as the cobra they also owned). In the end, the pile of snakes, including the black mamba, were turned over to the Bronx Zoo.
Alexander R. Toftness runs a science and history channel at https://www.youtube.com/artexplains and can be found on Twitter @ARTexplains for more strange facts.