10 Animal Serial Killers that Will Haunt Your Dreams

10 Animal Serial Killers that Will Haunt Your Dreams

Tim Flight - April 12, 2018

Animals, on the whole, are good sorts: when left undisturbed by people, they are happy to crack on with their lives, and most will actively avoid contact with the dominant species. As terrifying as the prospect of an enraged grizzly bear or shark might be, you are far more likely to be killed by an airborne champagne cork than either. History, however, is full of lurid stories of animals that have amassed heavy body counts. So what of those rogue animals with a taste for human flesh, forever to haunt the shadows of our imagination?

The thought of being slain or eaten by beasts is the stuff of nightmares and has haunted man for millennia: from the beasts that Hercules was tasked with killing, such as the Nemean Lion and the Stymphalian Birds, to the continuing popularity of animals killing people in the news today. For the Abrahamic religions, in which man has been given dominion over animals, man-killers are especially disturbing as their apparent rebellion against people also opposes God’s divine will. In this article, bearing in mind the well-behaved majority of creatures, we will look at the most terrifying man-killers of all time.

10 Animal Serial Killers that Will Haunt Your Dreams
The Man-eaters of Tsavo, displayed at the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL. Wikimedia Commons.

The Man-eaters of Tsavo

We start with perhaps the most famous of all man-eating animals, whose activities between March and December 1898 halted construction of the Kenya-Uganda Railway and were discussed in British Parliament. This pair of male lions feasted on railway workers, their favored mode of attack being to drag their victims kicking and screaming from their flimsy tents at night and devouring them. According to Colonel J.H. Patterson, the head railway engineer whose eventual success in killing them is detailed in a wonderful book, the lions would seize their victims by the throat, and shake them like a terrier shaking a rat.

What makes these lions particularly disturbing, beyond their killing of twenty-eight people, is their cunning. After the first victim, Ungan Singh, was dragged by the head from his tent, Patterson and his men erected thick thorn fences known as bomas around their camps and lit fires. Both measures, traditional African techniques for keeping out lions, failed miserably. The man-eaters simply leaped over the boma, and dragged victims through the smallest of gaps in the fence. They would also avoid attacking the same camp two nights in a row, instead of varying their routine to avoid detection.

As if the thought of hungry lions minutely examining their victims’ routine was not bad enough, we have yet to consider the human remains. Though a colonial overlord who reigned with an iron hand, Patterson’s account displays sympathy for his terrified workers – comprised of laborers from the Indian subcontinent and locals – and unmitigated horror at the man-eaters. Of one victim, he relates that the remains amounted to ‘the skull, the jaws, a few of the larger bones, and a portion of the palm with one or two fingers attached’. Patterson sent the surviving wedding ring to the man’s widow.

So scared were the workers that they fled. To modern minds, this may come as no surprise, but we must not forget the dire economic status of the unfortunate workers. Most were extremely poor, and undertaking the backbreaking work in the Kenyan bush to fend off starvation. Patterson reports unrest between groups divided by race and faith, and working conditions were appalling even without a pair of man-eating lions in the equation. That such desperate people were forced to down-tools and flee gives a sense of the unbearable fear that these lions inspired.

After many near-attempts to kill them, and the lions to kill him, Patterson eventually succeeded in destroying the man-eaters individually in December 1898. Both were shot by Patterson in the act of stalking him whilst he lay in wait up a tree and hunting platform barely a few metres in the air. The first was 9’8 long, and required eight men to carry it back to camp. The second took eight bullets over several hours to be slain. It was also huge, at 9’6 long, and both were sold to the Chicago Field Museum for $5,000 in 1924.

10 Animal Serial Killers that Will Haunt Your Dreams
An eighteenth-century French depiction of the beast. Wikimedia Commons.

The Beast of Gévaudan

Between 1764 and 1767, a single wolf reportedly attacked 210 people, killing 113, in southern France. The beast was said to be the size of a calf, with huge teeth, prick-ears, and fur russet-red in color with black streaks. Though its identity was maintained by both local peasants and learned men of the court alike to be a wolf, there are numerous other suggestions as to its true identity from modern scholars. What we do know is that its reign of terror was unusual for a pack of wolves, let alone an individual.

The beast’s bloody career began in June 1764, when a young woman tending cattle near Langogne was charged by an enormous wolf. Fortunately, her own cattle scared the beast away with merely a scrap of her gown in its prodigious jaws. This near-miss clearly encouraged the beast, however, as on the 3rd of July a fourteen-year-old girl was also attacked, and this time partially eaten, with further deaths swiftly following. The early victims of 1764 were children, despite often traveling in pairs for protection, but on the 6th of September that year, it progressed to an adult woman.

The beast’s mode of attack was the same in each instance: it would attack from the front, knocking its quarry down with the forepaws, before savagely biting the face to despatch the death blow and eating the victim if left unmolested. Although wolf attacks were not wholly unknown in the region, the remains of the beast’s victims were mangled so hideously that terror gripped the Gévaudan. News of the peasants’ plight reached the French court, perhaps less out of sympathy than the fact that many simply refused to work and fled the region, much to the chagrin of local aristocrats.

Despite the largest wolf-hunt in French history being organized, and the slaying of a huge wolf weighing 130lb and measuring 80cm in length with clothing in its belly by François Antoine, the Lieutenant of the Hunt, in September 1765, the killings continued. The beast’s overwhelming confidence was indicated by its willingness to attack even groups of adults in broad daylight. As time passed, it started killing on an almost daily basis, often decapitating its victims. The church’s response to claims of its being a werewolf or even Satan himself was to offer public prayers. Unsurprisingly, this failed spectacularly.

The beast’s reign of terror finally ended after a wolf was killed by Jean Chastel, a local hunter, on June 19th 1767. The wolf had a great muzzle, reddish-brown fur, and its stomach contained human remains. Although the specimen was sent to be stuffed for Louis XV, it decayed on its way to Paris and was discarded. Various suggestions have been made for the beast’s true identity: most sensibly as a coincidence of wolf attacks by several animals, an escaped lion, a fugitive hyena and, less plausibly by The History Channel, a serial killer disguised as a wolf.

10 Animal Serial Killers that Will Haunt Your Dreams
German woodcut of a wolf-hunt, Frankfurt, 1582. Retrieverman.net

The Wolves of Paris

By one estimate, France is the country with the most instances of wolves killing people. The country’s place on continental Europe meant that, unlike the British Isles, no matter how many wolves were exterminated, countless others were waiting to cross the border from the East. Exceptional in its horror even by French standards, however, is the pack that invaded Paris in winter 1450. These wolves entered the City of Love to devour those human inhabitants foolish enough to be going about their daily business. All in all, they are reputed to have killed several hundred Parisians that winter.

Before you imagine wolves promenading down the Champs-Élysées, it is important to consider the state of Paris in the mid-fifteenth century. France’s predominantly agricultural economy meant that urban centres were surrounded by open countryside and dense forests, where hungry beasts dwelt. Sheep, a frequent target for wolves, were grazed right up to the city walls of Paris amongst the woods harbouring their lupine foe. In 1450 France was at war with England, in a vicious conflict known as the Hundred Years’ War, and the land had suffered dearly. Wild animals were hunted to depletion, and agricultural stock was increasingly scarce.

That winter was also especially severe (part of the so-called ‘Little Ice Age’ in Europe), and so with neither livestock nor wild animals on which to prey, the wolves turned their attention to the dead and dying left in the wake of battle. Wolves are known for scavenging, happily digging up fresh graves in search of sustenance. With the plague also raging through France at the same time as a bloody war with England, there were great numbers of corpses waiting around to be scoffed. Having acquired a taste for human flesh, the wolves simply adapted their diet.

And where better to find a free-range meal than Paris? The densely-populated city, close to the wolves’ natural territory, was encircled by a thirteenth-century defensive wall which had fallen into disrepair during the conflict, and not been rectified. Thus as the wolves searched desperately for food through the countryside, they found no barrier to entering the French capital. Along the way, they surprised the odd traveler and dragged hapless shepherds from their huts, but their depredations only become noteworthy when they breached the ruined defenses of Paris.

The twenty-strong pack were led by a wolf known as Courtaud, meaning ‘bob-tail’, whose color was intriguingly reddish-brown, like The Beast of Gévaudan. In the first month of occupation alone, the wolves killed forty people, surprising and then overwhelming them with numbers. Their scourge only came to an end when a group of brave citizens enticed them into the Ile de la Cité, surrounded them, and a mob stoned and speared the pack to death outside Notre Dame. Wolves, by the way, are now a protected species and are once again seen around the outskirts of Paris…

10 Animal Serial Killers that Will Haunt Your Dreams
A photograph of the Leopard of Panar, photographed shortly after being shot in the Kumaon. lesaviezvous.net

The Leopard of Panar

The Leopard of Panar was responsible for the deaths of more than 400 people in the Kumaon, a district in northern India notorious for man-eaters (see the Champawat Tigress later in the list). That the long and bloody career of so cunning and ferocious an animal was ended by the most celebrated sportsman in India seems appropriate. It was shot in 1910 by Jim Corbett, the legendary big-game hunter who, it is worth noting, became an important figure in the history of conservation, setting up an eponymous national park in Uttarakhand and swapping the shotgun for a camera.

The Leopard of Panar’s man-eating career was aided by the geography of its home territory. Panar in the early-twentieth-century was remote, and firearms were extremely rare. Thus the brazen leopard would attack villagers returning home at dusk, or even enter their homes at night, and eat its victims at leisure, none being brave enough to confront it. The area also lacked in the once-ubiquitous big game hunters of India, leaving the leopard free to bring fear and destruction to the inhabitants until Corbett was summoned to Panar in 1910. The rest of India barely took notice, either.

The old big game hunters reckoned the leopard to be the most ferocious of adversaries, beside which even lions appeared positively cowardly. The leopard’s aggression and bravery coupled with its other key attributes – stealth, climbing ability, nocturnal habits – make this man-eater utterly nightmarish. Fearless of men, silent, and extremely aggressive, it is no wonder the locals refused to go near its kills in spite of their religious beliefs about cremating their dead. With its willingness to enter homes and villages, all life was subject to the whims of the Leopard of Panar while it lived.

Faced with a beast whose cunning was matched only by its aggression and strength, Corbett had to be extremely careful. Thus he tethered a goat as bait, and took his position in a nearby tree which he had clad with blackthorns. Upon arriving, the leopard showed no interest in the goat, but noisily attempted to dislodge the thorns from around the tree to get at Corbett. After eating hundreds of human victims, the leopard had no fear of man, and showed remarkable enthusiasm to take a tree-bound human over an easy meal of goat.

Finally giving up trying to climb the tree, the leopard reluctantly turned its attention to the goat, and Corbett pulled the trigger. The animal fled, wounded, and upon being traced the next day it was yet more savage: ‘I have seen a line of elephants that were staunch to tiger turn and stampede from a charging leopard’, shudders Corbett. Holding his nerve, Corbett unleashed a flurry of slugs into the onrushing man-eater’s chest. After catching his breath and wiping his brow, Corbett theorized that its taste for human flesh came from scavenging on the victims of a cholera outbreak.

10 Animal Serial Killers that Will Haunt Your Dreams
The USS Indianapolis, photographed on 27th September 1939. Wikimedia Commons.

The Sharks of the USS Indianapolis

In July 1945, the USS Indianapolis was returning from delivering uranium for the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 (‘Little Boy’), bound for the Leyte Gulf in the Philippines to prepare for the invasion of Japan. En route, it was hit by two torpedoes from the Japanese submarine I-58. It took only twelve minutes to sink, killing 296 sailors instantly. 900 survivors were left floating in the Pacific, awaiting rescue. But things would only get worse, for within the water were hundreds of hungry sharks.

With few lifeboats available, many survivors had to resort to plundering dead comrades for their life jackets or clinging onto those who had one. The night was cold, and the survivors had to pray that hypothermia would not set in. With the welcome arrival of dawn came the sharks. Attracted by the sound of explosions, the canny creatures began consuming the lifeless bodies of the brave sailors. When this supply of food was exhausted, they turned their attention to the survivors bobbing helplessly on the surface. All hell broke loose.

As more and more sharks arrived, frenzied by the scent of blood, the groups of survivors could only watch as the men next to them were attacked and consumed in a flurry of briny froth and blood. The chief suspect amongst shark species, the Oceanic whitetip, is known for attacking near the surface, and so there was no escape from the spectacle. Desperately trying to stay alive, some sailors opened a can of Spam from their salvaged rations, but this only attracted the sharks further, and they had no choice but to give their only food to their assailants.

Shockingly, the crew of the USS Indianapolis were stranded in the water for four days, during which there was no let-up from the frenzied sharks. Suffering from delirium, hunger, thirst, and the extremes of scorching days and freezing nights, some even committing suicide, the helpless survivors could only wait and pray for rescue. Finally, help arrived in the form of a navy plane, which radioed for help. Receiving the call, Lieutenant Adrian Marks had a panoramic view of the stranded sailors being picked off one-by-one by sharks, and disobeyed orders to land his plane and begin the rescue.

It is impossible to say how many of the nine-hundred men were eaten by sharks, as opposed to hypothermia, exposure to the sun, or thirst. The nebulous statistic we have is that only 317 survived four days adrift in the Pacific. Researchers have estimated that between a few dozen and 150 sailors were killed and eaten by the sharks. What we can be certain of, however, is that few can understand the horror of seeing their fellow men eaten by sharks or the great fear that they might be next. See also the Battle of Ramree Island below.

10 Animal Serial Killers that Will Haunt Your Dreams
Effigy of the Sankebetsu Brown Bear, helmet to scale, Rokusen-sawa, Japan. Wikimedia Commons.

Sankebetsu Brown Bear

Although the Sankebetsu Brown Bear cannot compete with others on this list for the numbers it killed, the appalling nature of its predation and cultural legacy make it a worthy addition. In total, the beast killed seven people between the 9th and 15th of December 1914, in what is still the worst bear attack in Japanese history. Awaking ravenous from hibernation, the huge brown bear proceeded to recently-settled areas where, true to its omnivorous nature, it targeted both crops and mammals. The bear, known as Kesagake (‘diagonal slash from the shoulder’), is commemorated in novels, a play, and manga.

The creature was an Ussuri brown bear, a subspecies of brown bear which rivals the famous Kodiak Bear in size. Its first appearances in mid-November 1915 at the home of the Ikeda family amounted to little more than worrying their horse. Eventually, armed with guns, the family shot the bear, but only succeeded in wounding it. Although they followed the trail of blood, a snowstorm forced them to give up the chase, and the Ikedas were convinced that the bear had learned its lesson. They were wrong, for its man-eating career would begin shortly thereafter.

Entering the Ōta family home in broad daylight, the bear killed a baby before overtaking a fleeing woman whom it killed and devoured in the forest. Attempts to recover the woman’s remains resulted in the bear sustaining another gunshot wound, but again surviving. Rightly expecting the brazen animal to return to the house again, a team of fifty guardsmen hid at the crime scene, but only one managed to fire a direct hit. Other men were guarding women and children hiding at the nearby Miyouke home, but left when they heard of the bear’s arrival at the Ōta house.

Taking advantage of this, the bear broke through the Miyoukes’ window and mauled seven people. Three were killed instantly, with two later dying of their injuries. One victim, a pregnant woman, was partially eaten. The alarm was raised and the bear was flushed out mid-meal but escaped unharmed due to confusion amongst the guardsmen crowded around the front door. With a rising number of deaths, the Hoboro police assembled a sixty-strong armed posse, which waited at the Miyouke home. Unfortunately, they did not encounter the bear, which instead opted to ransack the food stores of the Ōta family home.

Finally, on December 14th, the bear was tracked through a trail of blood and paw marks and killed whilst resting beneath a Japanese oak. It weighed an impressive 749lbs and stood at 8’85 tall. The ordeal of having a large, predatory animal enter their homes and devour people at will proved too much for residents of the town of Rokusen-sawa, where the incident took place, and the town was abandoned. The bear’s behavior has been attributed to its awaking prematurely from hibernation, which left it in urgent need of food during the cruel Japanese winter.

10 Animal Serial Killers that Will Haunt Your Dreams
Saltwater crocodile, Australia. Wikimedia Commons.

The Battle of Ramree Island

Here we have a comparable case to the USS Indianapolis. In 1945, the Japanese controlled Ramree Island, measuring 80km x 50km, which was deemed by the Allies to be vital for invading mainland Burma. In a long and bloody battle lasting over a month, Japanese and British forces fought across the island’s swamps, until a Japanese stronghold was outflanked and abandoned. The nine-hundred fleeing troops intended to join up with a larger battalion on the other side of the island and, threatened by their enemies from all sides, decided to travel there across 16km of a dense swamp. Big mistake.

The mangrove swamp that they crossed was home to many saltwater crocodiles, beasts that can grow up to 7 metres, and are fiendishly well-camouflaged. Powerful and fast-moving, they favor ambush attacks, which the roots and debris of the mangrove tree greatly aid. They are the most likely of all crocodilians to attack people, and few have survived an encounter with one. Saltwater crocodiles also have the strongest bite of any animal, exerting a peak bite force of 16, 414 newtons, nearly four times that of the second-placed spotted hyena (see the Mulanje Hyenas later in the list).

Pity, then, the poor retreating troops tasked with crossing the crocodiles’ stronghold on Ramree. They really were between the devil and the deep blue sea: surrounded by armed enemy troops, they had the choice of being shot or risking the crocodiles on home turf. The cloying mud of the swamp slowed their progress, the intense heat left them desperate for water, and they also had to deal with venomous spiders and snakes, to say nothing of the swarms of mosquitoes carrying deadly tropical diseases or the odd period of British artillery fire.

Allegedly, 500 Japanese soldiers ended up as dinner for the crocodiles, with another 480 succumbing to disease, exhaustion or venomous swamp-dwellers. Despite the naturalist Bruce Stanley Wright’s eyewitness testimony, the exact figures are disputed by modern historians. Wright claimed that there were ‘thousands’ of crocodiles, though the ecosystem of the mangrove swamp is far too small to support such a number. Perhaps it would be harsh to accuse Wright, who of course was fighting in the battle himself, of exaggeration, since the chaos and horror of war hardly provides a suitable platform for accurate observations of natural history.

Yet, even if we estimate but a handful were seized by the saurians, the ordeal of the Japanese soldiers is unspeakably awful. Word would surely spread through the beleaguered lines of soldiers, shouted above the artillery fire, that crocodiles were attacking. The thought of the primeval roar of the saltwater crocodile, mixed with the desperate agonized cries of their victims and the panicked yelling of witnesses, is enough to keep the bravest awake at night. In the words of Wright, the swamp was alive with ‘a cacophony of hell that has rarely been duplicated on earth’.

10 Animal Serial Killers that Will Haunt Your Dreams
Jim Corbett with the dreaded tigress, northern India, 1907. Wikimedia Commons.

The Champawat Tiger

Another man-eater shot and then immortalized in print by the great Jim Corbett, this female tiger was responsible for around 436 deaths in northern India. Its body count is recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the highest number of fatalities perpetrated by a single tiger, and amongst Indian cats is rivaled only by the Leopard of Panar (see above). Like the notorious leopard, the Champawat Tiger lived in the Kumaon, an area so rich in man-eaters that Corbett wrote a superb book on the subject, which the reader is urged to track down.

The tigress was notorious throughout India, and even parties of Gurkhas from nearby Nepal tried and failed to end its career. A sense of the tigress’s reputation can be gleaned from Corbett’s account of his first steps on the hunt. Arriving at the village of Pali five days after a woman had been killed by the tiger, Corbett found the entire population locked indoors and reluctant to greet even their would-be savior. They had remained in self-imposed incarceration ever since the woman’s death, as the tigress had been heard calling barely a hundred yards from the conurbation for several days.

The tigress’s custom was to surprise agricultural workers, maul one, and drag the sometimes-living victim to the thick jungle where it trusted its meal would be undisturbed. In one remarkable tale of bravery, the tiger surprised two sisters cutting grass near their hut. Seizing one and carrying her off, the tigress was pursued by the other sister begging it to take her instead. After a hundred yards’ pursuit, the tigress dropped its victim and chased the pursuer into a nearby village. Despite the wily scheme to get help, the discarded sister was already dead. The survivor never uttered another word.

Corbett was fortunate to catch up with the tiger after it had killed a teenage girl in a village near to the bungalow in which he was staying. Summoned moments after the tigress had seized her from a twelve-strong party collecting sticks, Corbett actually managed to surprise it at its kill, and was enabled to track the animal by its paw-prints and furious growls. After narrowly avoiding becoming its next victim by luck rather than judgment, Corbett organized a beat near to the unfinished meal, and succeeded in killing the notorious tigress in a rocky gorge.

The Champawat Tiger makes this list not merely for its world-record kills but for its uncannily-human use of fear. People working in large groups would usually deter predators, but this tigress realized that a sudden and loud attack would be sufficient to scare off large crowds, who would be too frightened to track it down. As is perversely characteristic of Corbett, his account of the tigress is sympathetic. Face-to-face with the enraged man-eater in the gorge, he noticed that two of its canines were broken by a gunshot wound, which left the tigress unable to hunt its natural prey.

10 Animal Serial Killers that Will Haunt Your Dreams
A pride of lions in Kenya. Wikimedia Commons.

The Lions of Njombe

This pride of fifteen lions in southern Tanzania killed around 1,500 people between 1932 and 1947. In terms of numbers, this makes them the greatest man-killers of all time, though the morbid may wish to work out whether the more-famous Man-eaters of Tsavo (see above) were more prolific in terms of their shorter career and fewer numbers. Like all career man-eaters on this list (as opposed to the opportunistic sharks and crocodiles of the Pacific War), the Lions of Njombe possessed preternatural cunning, evading capture or death by conventional means, and were driven to prey on people by exceptional circumstances.

Most lions hunt in pride at night, and can usually be found lounging in the sun close to the previous night’s kill. Not so the Lions of Njombe. The pride was so expert in man-eating that they would travel by night and strike by day, when lion-attacks are least feared. They would also avoid detection by splitting into smaller groups so as to perpetrate several attacks at the same time. When people grew weary and spent more time inside, the lions would jump on the huts’ roofs, claw at the thatching, and simply drop in to procure helpless victims.

The local Bena people, who traditionally lived in disparate, isolated villages, now crowded their homes around the main road for protection. The once-cultivated country fell into overgrowth as people were too terrified to stray far from home (as unsafe as that proved to be). Locals started to speak of the lions as were-lions, sorcerers who could take on leonine form, unsurprising in the light of the unusual behavior of the beasts. Many would not even call the beasts lions, instead referring to them as dudu ya porini (‘insects of the bush’) for fear of inviting their ire.

Attempts to hunt them proved futile. A brave pair of Italian Prisoners of War volunteered to shoot the man-eaters from a platform placed in a tree, but a large male lion climbed into it and spent the night clawing at the terrified men clinging precariously to the tiny branches at the top. Game Warden George Rushby, the man tasked with hunting them down, was also nearly killed several times by charging cats that showed neither fear nor respect. Rushby discovered that the lions lived exclusively off human flesh, eschewing vast herds of fat cattle for the feeble child herding them.

With no other choice but to track the lions on foot and risk being attacked himself, Rushby began picking the lions off a few at a time. After the death of two lionesses in 1947, the man-eating ceased, and life returned to normal in Tanzania. The accepted theory for why the Lions of Njombe turned to man-eating, as with the Wolves of Paris (see above), is that attempts to contain a rinderpest epidemic dramatically reduced prey animals, forcing the pride to look elsewhere for nutrition, resulting in a taste for human flesh that they could not resist.

10 Animal Serial Killers that Will Haunt Your Dreams
Spotted hyena with prey, Tanzania. Wikimedia Commons.

The Mulanje Hyenas

Between 1955 and 1962, a clan of spotted hyenas killed 36 people and injured countless others in the Mulanje area of Malawi. The details of this particular case are few, alas, and we have no detail of how the clan was tracked and shot, but the sheer horrific strength and nature of the hyena and the body count make it a worthy incident with which to end this list. Occasional attacks on people are known, and fossilized dung tells us that hyenas have been preying on people for at least 195,000 years, but this clan’s behavior remains unprecedented.

The spotted hyena is amongst the most powerful of all African mammals. They can reach one and a half metres in length, and their bite force is second only to the saltwater crocodile (see above) at 4,500 newtons. As an illustration, the naturalist and writer James Clarke record the damage inflicted by a single hyena bite: ‘[the man’s] face ended below the cheekbones: his nose, palate, upper teeth, tongue, and almost his entire lower jaw were gone’. In recent years clans of spotted hyenas have even been displacing lions as the apex predator in parts of Africa.

The clan of Mulanje were seasonal man-eaters. In summer, when local people were accustomed to sleeping outdoors on account of the heat, the clan would visit the villages to take the unsuspecting. Although the exclusively-human diet of the Lions of Njombe (see above) is an especially unsettling fact, the average of around five people a year taken by this clan is an equally insulting gesture to man’s status as dominant species. The hyenas’ seasonal incorporation of human flesh into their diet reckoned people as no different from the garbage and wild herbivores that make up their usual sustenance.

Little of their victims remained after a night’s feasting. A six-year-old girl was consumed almost entirely, with only the back of her head left, and a man described as ‘the village idiot’ was reduced to bloody scraps of clothes. On another occasion, the clan was surprised mid-attack and responded by ripping off a woman’s arm and fleeing with it into the bush. With such flagrant disrespect, their jubilant, mocking laughter, habit of digging up corpses, and opportunistic nature, it is not hard to see why the hyena is one of the most loathed, and most successful, African mammals.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

Angelici, Francesco M., ed. Problematic Wildlife: A Cross-Disciplinary Approach. Cham: Springer, 2016.

Arensen, John. “The Man-Eating Lions of Njombe”

Corbett, Jim. Man-eaters of Kumaon. London: Oxford University Press, 1946.

Gast, Phil. “New details: Sharks, secrets and the sinking of the USS Indianapolis”, CNN.

Grice, Gordon. The Book of Deadly Animals. Penguin Books, 2012.

Mannix P, Daniel. “The Wolves of Paris”. eNet Press. 1978.

John Henry Patterson, Frederick Courtney Selous. “The Man Eaters of Tsavo”. Cosimo Classics. 2010

Kincaid, Andrew. “Kesagake the Man-Eater”. Japan Powered.

MacCormick, Alex, ed. The Mammoth Book of Maneaters. London: Robinson, 2003.

McLynn, Frank. The Burma Campaign: Disaster into Triumph, 1942-45. Yale: Yale University Press, 2011.

Patterson, Col. J.H. The Man-eaters of Tsavo. London: Macmillan, 1927.

Pollard, James. Wolves and Werewolves. London: Robert Hale, 1964.