Most large predatory animals can, and will, see humans as suitable prey, under the right circumstances; however, true “man eaters”, that is, individual animals that prefer human flesh over any other food, are very rare. This list is a selection of some of the worst cases of man eaters recorded in history.
10 The lions of Njombe
We start this list with the worst case of man-eating lions in History. It was not a single man eater, but an entire pride that preferred human flesh over any other kind of food. It happened in 1932, in Tanzania near the town of Njombe. A large pride of lions went into a particularly brutal killing spree. Legend has it that the lions were being controlled by the witch doctor of a local tribe, named Matamula Mangera, who sent them into rampage as revenge against his own people after being deposed of his post. The tribesmen were so terrified of the man-eating lions that they wouldn’t even dare speaking of them, believing that a simple mention would cause them to appear. They begged to the tribe chief to restore the witch doctor to his post, but he refused. The lions kept attacking and, eventually, took over 1,500 human lives (some say over 2000); the worst lion attack in History, and one of the worst cases of animal attacks ever recorded. Eventually, George Rushby, a famed hunter, decided to put an end to the attacks. He killed 15 lions, and the rest of the pride eventually abandoned the area, finally ending the nightmare. But, of course, the locals were convinced that the lions left only because the tribe’s chief finally agreed to restore Matamula Mangera to his old job.
9 Two Toed Tom
Two Toed Tom is a rather obscure man-eater, and today it is hard to know which parts of his story are real, and which ones are myth. This huge male American alligator was said to roam the swamps in the border of Alabama and Florida during the 20s. He had lost all but two of the toes in his left “hand”, and left very recognizable tracks on the mud, so he was nicknamed “Two Toed Tom” by the local people. He was said to have lost his toes in an iron trap.
He measured four and a half meters long, and people claimed he was no normal gator, but a demon sent from Hell to terrorize them. Tom made himself infamous by devouring scores of cows, mules and, of course, humans, particularly women (snatched as they washed clothes in the water). Due to his frequent attacks, many farmers tried to kill Tom, but bullets were said to have little effect on him and all attempts on his life failed. One farmer even tried to kill him using dynamite; the farmer had been chasing Tom for twenty years, unsuccessfully, so he decided to throw fifteen dynamite-filled buckets into the pond were Tom was supposed to live, and finally get rid of the problem once and for all.
The explosion killed everything in the pond, but not Tom. Moments after the explosion, the farmer and his son heard a horrible scream and splashing sounds coming from a nearby pond. They rushed to the place and saw Tom’s bright eyes for a moment before he disappeared under the surface. The screams were later explained when the half eaten remains of the farmer’s young daughter appeared in the shore. It is impossible to know whether this particular story was true or simply a folk tale, but everything seems to indicate that Two Toed Tom was real, and that he continued to roam the swamps of Florida for many years. People would constantly report seeing a huge male gator basking in lake shores, and hearing his roars every morning. They identified him as Tom by the two toed tracks he left in the sand and the mud. The most amazing part of the story is that, although he was most famous during the 20s, Tom was seemingly still alive during the 80s, when a huge gator lacking two of his toes was reported in the same swamps where he had roamed his entire life. Many hunts for the living legend were organized, but Two Toed Tom was never captured.
As I have mentioned in a previous list, the most dangerous wild animal in Japan is usually considered to be the Japanese Giant Hornet, which kills 40 people a year, on average. However, the largest, most powerful land predator in Japan is the Brown Bear, and, perhaps the most brutal bear attack in history took place in the village of Sankebetsu, Hokkaido, in 1915. At the time, Sankebetsu was a pioneer village, with very few people living in a largely wild area. The area was inhabited by brown bears, including a gigantic male known as Kesagake. Kesagake used to visit Sankebetsu to feed on harvested corn; having became a nuisance, he was shot by two villagers and fled to the mountains, injured. The villagers believed that, after being shot, the bear would learn to fear humans and stay away from the crops. They were wrong.
On December 9 of 1915, Kesagake showed up again. He entered the house of the Ota family, where the farmer’s wife was alone with a baby she was caring for. The bear attacked the baby, killing him, then went for the woman. She tried to defend herself by throwing firewood at the beast, but was eventually dragged to the forest by the bear. When people arrived to the, now empty, house, they found the floor and walls covered on blood. Thirty men went to the forest, determined to kill the bear and recover the unfortunate woman’s remains. They found Kesagake and shot him again, but failed to kill him. The animal fled and they found the woman’s partially eaten body buried under the snow, where the bear had stored it for later consumption.
The bear later returned to the Ota family’s farm, and armed guards were sent after him. But this left another village house unprotected, and Kesagake took advantage of this, attacking the Miyoke family’s home and mauling everyone inside. Although some of the people managed to escape, two children were killed and so was a pregnant woman, who, according to surviving witnesses, begged for her unborn baby’s life as the huge bear advanced. Of course, it was all in vain; Kesagake killed her, too. When the guards realized their mistake and returned to the Miyoke house, they found the bodies of the two children, the woman and her unborn fetus all lying in the blood covered floor. In only two days, Kesagake had killed six people. The villagers were terrified and most of the guards abandoned their posts out of fear.
A famed bear hunter was informed of the incidents, and he identified the bear as being Kesagake and informed that the bear had actually killed before the Sankebetsu attacks. At first he refused to participate in the hunt but eventually he joined the group and on December 14, he was the one to finally kill Kesagake. The bear was almost three meters tall and weighed 380 kgs. Human remains were found in his stomach. The horrible incidents didn’t end there; some of the people who had survived the attacks died of their wounds. One of the survivors drowned in a river. The region was soon abandoned by villagers and became a ghost town. Even today, the Sankebetsu incident remains the worst animal attack in the history of Japan, and one of the most brutal of recorded history.