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Cassowary Attacks: Are Cassowaries Dangerous to Humans?

Updated: September 25, 2022

© Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com

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key point:

  • Of the 221 cassowary attacks, 150 were on humans. Most are due to humans feeding the birds or birds protecting their young. Among them, there were 7 serious injury accidents and 1 fatal accident before 2019.
  • There have been two documented cases of cassowaries attacking humans. One happened in Australia in 1926 when 2 boys beat a cassowary with sticks. Another fatality in 2019 occurred in Florida when a 75-year-old man fell near the bird on his farm.
  • If you come across a cassowary, back away slowly. Do not lie on the ground. In both cases, the victim is on the ground within range of the cassowary's powerful claws.

The cassowary is one of the closest living relatives of dinosaurs, and it looks like it was part dinosaur. With prehistoric feet and claws up to five inches long, the cassowary is a majestic animal. But how dangerous are they? We'll delve into the cassowary's past attacks and determine if this bird lives up to its title of "World's Most Dangerous Bird!"

History of Cassowary Attacks

is a cassowary, a bird isolated on a white background
Cassowary isolated on white background

© Sanit Fuangnakhon/Shutterstock.com

In 2006, Christopher Kofron published the most comprehensive study of cassowary attacks in the Journal of Zoology .

The main findings are:

  • 221 cassowary attacks observed
  • 150 against humanity
  • 75% of cassowary attacks are caused by humans feeding birds
  • 71% of the time, the cassowary was charged. They only used dangerous claws in 15% of incidents
  • 22% of cases were cassowary self-defense or eggs, the remainder were the result of active human attempts to approach the birds
  • Seven cassowary attacks (3%) resulted in serious injuries and one attack resulted in death ( another cassowary fatality occurred in Florida after this study was completed)

This is the last point that has attracted so much attention. Between 81,000 and 138,000 people die each year from snakebites. Crocodiles kill 1000 people every year. Even hippos kill 500 people a year!

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But bird deaths are rare. In fact, ostriches, chickens, and cassowaries are the only birds in the world known to cause physical death to humans! Given that bird attacks resulting in death are very rare, let's look at two cases of cassowary attacks resulting in death.

Deadly cassowary attacks: Australia and Florida

Cassowary attack - isolated face
Cassowary involved in two deadly attacks

© Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com

The first known fatal cassowary attack occurred in 1926. Two Australian teenagers have attacked a cassowary with sticks. After one of the teenagers fell to the ground, the cassowary hit him in the neck with its massive five-inch claw. The wound was large and hit the teenager in the jugular vein, from which he could not survive.

The second fatal cassowary attack occurred in Florida in 2019. A 75-year-old man keeps a cassowary on his farm. He crashed near the fenced area where the cassowary was, but not far from it. The cassowary attacked him more than 12 times while he was lying on the ground, causing deep gashes across most of his upper body. The man was able to call 911 but did not survive the attack.

It is important to remember that cassowaries live in very remote areas. Most cassowary attacks in Australia have occurred around the city of Cairns, the largest city near cassowary habitat. In New Guinea, they often live in dense forests far from population centers. Local residents have reported a history of cassowary attacks, so their attacks on humans may be underestimated.

For this reason, the cassowary is quite possibly the most dangerous bird in the world.

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How to Survive a Cassowary Attack

It's important to remember two things about past cassowary attacks:

  • In one case, two teenagers were attacking a bird. In another case, an elderly man kept it as a pet. Both situations are completely avoidable.
  • 75% of cassowary attacks are birds' charges, most of which are the result of humans feeding them. Never mind the cassowaries, your chances of being attacked are pretty low.

If you encounter cassowaries, remember that they are easily startled and unpredictable. The best course of action is to back off slowly. Also, you don't want to be on the ground. Both cassowary deaths occurred after a person fell to the ground and was exposed to the cassowary's large paws.

Cassowaries prefer to simply ram and ram, which can be injurious but not fatal. However, if you're on the ground, then you'll suddenly come within range of their dagger-like claws. Its claws can easily slice through predators such as crocodiles, pythons and dingoes. And, unfortunately, humans can fall victim to cassowaries. alert!


Learn more about these mighty and fearsome birds!

  • Are ostriches dangerous? Be aggressive and quick to find out if an ostrich is a threat.
  • Are owls dangerous? If you have small pets in your backyard, you might want to read this article!
  • New cassowary study: Australia's most dangerous bird was once a prehistoric pet Mine, how pets have changed over the years!

More from AZ Animals

featured image

Cassowary attack - isolated face

© Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com

about the author

heather ross

Heather Ross is a middle school English teacher and mother of 2 people, 2 tuxedo cats and a golden doodle. In between taking the kids to soccer practice and grading homework, she loves reading and writing about all things animals!

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