From the jungles of Yunnan to the Inner Mongolian steppe, China’s wild landscapes are home to diverse species of animals. Many of which could potentially kill you. Although several charismatic species are quite dangerous if confronted (think, Asian elephants and Yangtze alligators) these animals rarely come in contact with humans. Even Siberian tigers are only an occasional threat to livestock. After a little digging, here’s our list of animals you should fear in the Middle Kingdom.
1. Chinese Cobra 中华眼镜蛇 (zhōnghuá yǎnjìngshé)
More venomous than the famous King Cobra, the Chinese Cobra can be found all across Southeastern China, from Hubei as far west as Sichuan. The Chinese Cobra is infamously adaptable and lives in forests and mangroves, but also in more heavily populated areas. Although it’s not typically aggressive, it frequently comes into contact with humans, especially due to its propensity to hide out in rice fields. If you’re unlucky enough to be bitten by one, an anti-venom is widely available.
2. Bird Spider虎紋捕鳥蛛 (hǔ wén bǔ nǐao zhū)
There are two species of bird spider in China, and they have a few terrifying things in common: they’re all around seven inches long, lethally venomous, and highly aggressive. Folks in South China, beware; the bird spider is found in Guangxi and Yunnan provinces, as well as a subspecies found in Hainan. One reason for the high number of injuries caused by these spiders is that they’re frequently kept as pets, although they have a reputation for being difficult to care for.
3. Asian Black Bear亞洲黑熊(yàzhōu hēixióng)
While many fierce-looking animals are actually quite wary of humans, Asian black bears have a reputation for being unusually hostile. In 2013, black bears killed eight people in the Indian state Orissa. Asian black bears finally give Northern Chinese something to worry about – black bears can be found in Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces, but also as far west as Tibet. Biologists have speculated that Asian black bears get their belligerent attitude from competing with tigers for ecological niches. Despite their dangerous reputations, black bears are far more threatened by humans than we are by them.
4. Asian Giant Hornet大虎頭蜂 (dà hǔ tóu fēng)
The ‘yak killer hornet’ isn’t just the world’s largest hornet – the stings are highly painful, and even a few stings can be enough to kill a healthy adult. In 2013, 42 people were killed by giant hornets in Shaanxi province in just three months. The hornets’ potent venom contains a toxin that destroys red blood cells. They’re attracted to human sweat, alcohol and sweet flavors and smells, and chillingly, are most attracted when people run away.
5. Domestic Dogs狗 (gǒu)
After all these exotic creatures, it turns out that the animals most likely to hurt or kill you in China are actually domestic dogs. China has the second-highest number of rabies cases in the world, with over 2,000 reported deaths every year for over ten years. As tempting as it is to pet the cute stray dogs you see on the street, it’s actually statistically more risky than hiking in a Sichuan forest with cobras. The government has taken great pains to crack down on feral dogs in cities, but the threat is still very real.
For more fascinating animal facts, check out the Top Five Weirdest Chinese Animals and the story of the endangered river porpoise.