A man-eater is a colloquial term for an animal that adds humans to its diet. Although human beings can be attacked by many kinds of animals, man-eaters are those that have incorporated human flesh into their usual diet. Most reported cases of man-eaters have involved wolves, tigers, leopards, lions, crocodiles and sharks. However, they are by no means the only predators that will attack humans if given the chance; a wide variety of species have also been known to take humans as prey, including the brown bear, black bear, polar bear, sloth bear, large constricting snakes (especially the Reticulated python and green anaconda), Komodo dragon, spotted and striped hyenas, dingoes, leopard seals, jaguars, cougars, some species of bony fish and the African army ant.


The prevalence of man-eaters is rare and usually occurs in special circumstances. Human beings are susceptible to attack by animals that seek to defend themselves, their young or their territory, but are not usually preyed upon. An animal may become a man-eater if its natural prey or habitat become unavailable or inaccessible and may take to preying upon humans if it discovers that humans are animals that can be killed and consumed. Predators that suffer injuries or disabilities that make their natural prey more difficult to pursue may take to hunting human beings in order to avoid starvation and survive. The loss of teeth or claws, a gunshot wound or any injury that may impede the animal's ability to run, bite or chew its food or induce great debilitating pain have been noted in most cases of man-eaters. However, some studies have shown that perfectly healthy animals may also become man-eaters if provided an opportunity to consume human flesh in the absence of their natural diet. Animals with scavenging tendencies, such as leopards, have been known to learn to feed upon the carcasses of human beings disposed in the open. The young of man-eating animals do not necessarily become man-eaters; while the young will eat what is provided by the parent, maturity and independent existence will normally revert the animal to its natural diet and conditions. Essentially, however, it must be noted that all large predators can be potential man eaters, and people must be aware that to a carnivore, man is often no more than another prey item. The frequency of attacks on human beings for food may depend on the availability of natural food, especially if the animal is providing for its young or the nature of the injury that forced the animal to become a man-eater.

List of man-eaters

Big cats


Tigers are recorded to have killed more people than any other big cat. Unlike leopards and lions, man-eating tigers rarely enter human habitations in order to acquire prey. The majority of victims are reportedly in the tiger's territory when the attack takes place. Plus, tiger attacks mostly occur during daylight hours, unlike those committed by leopards and lions. The Sundarbans are home to approximately 600 Royal Bengal Tigers that are well-known for the substantial number of people they kill; estimates range from 100-250 people per year. They are the only man-eating tigers left in the world, though they are not the only tigers who live in close proximity to humans. A theory promoted to explain this suggests that since tigers drink fresh water, the salinity of the area waters serve as a destabilizing factor in the diet and life of tigers of Sundarbans, keeping them in constant discomfort and making them extremely aggressive. Other theories include the sharing of their habitat with human beings and the consumption of human corpses during floods.


Man-eating lions are reportedly bolder and more aggressive than tigers, having been recorded to actively enter human villages at night to acquire prey. This greater assertiveness usually makes man-eating lions easier to dispatch than tigers. Lions typically become man-eaters for the same reasons as tigers; starvation, old age and illness, though as with tigers, some man-eaters, including the Tsavo lions, were reportedly in perfect health. The lion's proclivity for man-eating has been systematically examined. American and Tanzanian scientists report that man-eating behavior in rural areas of Tanzania increased greatly from 1990 to 2005. At least 563 villagers were attacked and many eaten over this period—a number far exceeding the more famed "Tsavo" incidents of a century earlier. The incidents occurred near Selous National Park in Rufiji District and in Lindi Province near the Mozambican border. While the expansion of villagers into bush country is one concern, the authors argue that conservation policy must mitigate the danger because, in this case, conservation contributes directly to human deaths. Cases in Lindi have been documented where lions seize humans from the center of substantial villages.


Jim Corbett was noted to have stated that unlike tigers which usually became man-eaters because of infirmity, leopards more commonly did so after scavenging on human corpses. In Asia, man-eating leopards usually attack at night, and have been reported to break down doors and thatched roofs in order to reach human prey. Attacks in Africa are reported less, though there have been occasions where attacks occurred at daylight.

Wild dogs


Compared to other carnivorous mammals known to attack humans for food, the frequency with which wolves have been recorded to kill people is rather low, indicating that though potentially dangerous, wolves are among the least threatening for their size and predatory potential. In the rare cases in which man-eating wolf attacks occur, the majority of victims are children. Habituation is a known factor contributing to some man-eating wolf attacks which results from living in close proximity to human habitations, causing wolves to lose their fear of humans and consequently approach too closely, much like urban coyotes. Habituation can also happen when people intentionally encourage wolves to approach them, usually by offering them food, or unintentionally, when people do not sufficiently intimidate them. This is corroborated by accounts demonstrating that wolves in protected areas are more likely to show boldness toward humans than ones in areas where they are actively hunted.

Other man-eaters

Perception of man-eaters

Attacks on human beings for food have caused the demonizing of the predatory animals in question. The fear caused by the prospect of an attack has encouraged the hunting of tigers, leopards and lions for sport and the extermination or driving out predatory animals from territories close to human settlement; the harassment and hunting of such animals has been coupled with the destruction of their natural habitats. Fear of attacks on humans has inspired folklore, superstition, legends and tales characterizing predatory animals as evil. The impact of the Jersey shore shark attacks was the use of sharks as symbols of evils and enemies in political cartoons and caricatures of all kinds of negative developments and occurrences.


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