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10 Australian Animals with Misplaced Reputations

by Alex Miller
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

Australia is often considered to be one of the scariest places to live when it comes to wildlife, somehow frequently overshadowing everything from the savannahs of Africa to South America’s jungles.

This reputation, like every one of the animals on this list, is quite misplaced, based far more on fiction than fact. Many of Australia’s “monsters” really pose no considerable threat at all. Yet some of its less discussed inhabitants may be the ones you should actually look out for.

So get ready to face your fears as we discover 10 Australian animals with misplaced reputations.

Related: Top 10 Most Horrifyingly Painful Venoms

10 Excessively Feared—Huntsman Spider

Huntsman spiders make Aussies scream but are they deadly? | REACTION

Large, hairy, fast, intimidating spiders are certainly a group of animals that many of us just don’t wish to deal with. The huntsman spider embodies that description fully and goes for extra credit, ranking among the largest and fastest spiders. And apparently, many assert they are among the most intimidating, too, given how people respond to them.

They are a stereotypical horror image of Australia, feared by foreigners across the globe, even though huntsman spiders are by no means exclusive to the continent. In addition, the fact is that they’re absolutely harmless.

They might scare you, sure, but with a disposition that’s more fond of fleeing than fighting. Now, we certainly agree their venom is unpleasant to have in your bloodstream. But as it’s really not a serious threat, you have no rational reasons to fear these gentle giants. If anything, their habit of getting rid of other, less benevolent creepy-crawlies makes them a better friend than foe.[1]

9 Not Feared Enough—Saltwater Crocodile

Crocodiles are feared, certainly, and this entry isn’t here to contradict that. There is a reason it says “not feared enough,” though.

Many of us struggle to differentiate alligators and crocodiles, a fact that combined with the former’s media presence due to their American habitation, makes people think of the two as very comparable.

The reality, however, is that, compared to crocodiles, alligators are harmless little sweethearts. Not something that matches their reputation, and really, alligators can certainly pose a threat, but that just illustrates how menacing crocodiles actually are.

Larger, much more aggressive even toward humans, and equipped with a considerably stronger bite force, “Salties” and other crocodiles are hardly comparable to gators, at least where danger is concerned. It turns out, even though many of us are familiar with a parallel to them, saltwater crocodiles are one of the most uniquely formidable things you can find in Australia.[2]

8 Excessively Feared—Cassowary

Cassowary Facts: the MOST DANGEROUS Bird (?) | Animal Fact Files

A very prehistoric-seeming, large bird equipped with big, sharp claws and a confirmed history of killing people is certainly not a combination many of us would look at without concern.

Cassowaries are one of the most stereotypically dinosaur-ish animals on the planet and are often considered the most dangerous bird on the planet, a stance that might not actually be untrue.

Yet you have to consider the fact that, compared to most animals, birds as a whole pose no real threat to us. The first confirmed death caused by a cassowary was in 1926, nearly a hundred years ago, without a second to follow it until 2019, when a Floridian farmer was tragically killed by the cassowary he kept.

Scary for a bird, certainly, but with only two deaths in a hundred years as well as only showing aggression when someone enters their territory, they don’t quite live up to their monstrous reputation. Velociraptors, they are not.[3]

7 Not Feared Enough—Cane Toad

Australia’s Most Destructive Creature

Cane toads are large, poisonous toads. Not something you’d want to eat or come in contact with, sure, but not exactly the most terrifying image. Yet, they might just be the most harmful animal on this whole list.

Cane toads will not kill you. They will, however, harm the environment to an incredible extent, as well as our resources.

Considered a major pest by the Australian government, these amphibians breed very quickly, eat a lot of food, cause untold amounts of environmental damage, and threaten many of Australia’s native species that they happily consume in incredibly large amounts. Not a direct threat to us, but as a major threat to Australian people’s futures and ecosystems, they aren’t to be taken lightly.[4]

6 Excessively Feared—Redback Spider

MORE DANGEROUS than a Black Widow?!

The “Australian black widow” ranks among Australia’s and, indeed, the world’s most venomous spiders. It’s only rivaled on the continent by the infamous funnel-web spiders. Redback spiders are one of the few spider species alive today that can and have killed humans.

All true, except since an effective antivenom was introduced in the 1950s, only a single person has died from their bite.

One of the most fearsome spiders in the world and one that would certainly result in an unpleasant hospital trip if it bit you, but would it result in your death? Almost certainly not.[5]

5 Not Feared Enough—Platypus

The Platypus: Australia’s Unlikeliest Killer (Wildlife Documentary) | Deadly Australia | Real Wild

The platypus is one of the relatively few Australian animals considered cute and charming. Unfortunately, they aren’t quite so cuddly, despite their unique allure and fascinating biology.

Are platypuses the most dangerous animals on this list? Certainly not, but given how few people talk about some of their less charming points, they deserve their spot immensely.

The males, highly unusual for mammals, are venomous. While not terribly dangerous, the bite is not quite like a wasp sting, either. The stinger’s on the male’s limbs that deliver said venom likely couldn’t kill you, but they would almost certainly lead to one of the most painful experiences of your entire life thanks to the unique proteins contained in their unpleasant substance. Best observed from a distance, like wild animals generally are.[6]

4 Excessively Feared—Inland Taipan

Why This Is the Deadliest Venom in the World

Now it’s time for the most venomous snake in the entire world. That is to say, the one with the most potent venom, at least according to LD50 testing on mice. How could they possibly be excessively feared?

These rare snakes are, in fact, incredibly shy. Their venom is all it’s said to be, a rare and scary thing when it comes to venomous animals, considering how many are victims of fearmongering. However, you’re unlikely to ever come across one. If you do, even still, this snake will flee unless you bother it. If you do bother it, however, the snake tends to give a threat display, giving you a chance to back off.

Inland taipans do not want to bite you. Only a few people have gone through that, all of whom survived due to quick hospital treatment. That being said, their close relatives, the coastal taipans, are far more aggressive and more common. Either way, don’t mess with taipans, just in case.[7]

3 Not Feared Enough—Kangaroo

How dangerous are kangaroos in Australia? | REACTION

As the symbols of Australia, kangaroos are odd but endearing, a majestic sight with their unique physiology. It seems like there’s much to love about kangaroos. At first, anyway.

An Australian wildlife expert, when asked for advice on the best course of action when encountering a kangaroo, simply stated, “Just get away from it as fast as you can.”

Ominous to hear from an expert, but nothing compared to the follow-up. According to the same expert, if you’re standing upright, a kangaroo can kick you with such force that it can “rip you open.” It’s a horrific thing to imagine and a scenario to avoid at all costs. Kangaroo attacks are quite rare, thankfully. Not so thankfully, though, they are also potentially fatal when they do happen.[8]

2 Excessively Feared—Sydney Funnel-Web Spider

Why you should NEVER touch this Australian spider | How Deadly (Funnel Web)

Possibly the most feared spider on Earth, a rather impressive spot to be in when one considers the group’s reputation as a whole. Does it live up to it, is the question. Compared to other spiders? Perhaps. In general? Not really.

Their bite, again, isn’t something you want to experience. They’re not feared for absolutely no reason at all. As the pattern goes, though, they really aren’t likely to be a major threat to your life if you visit Australia. They do not jump or chase people, either, despite what some rumors suggest.

Even if someone is bitten, and even though it will be a rather horrible experience that could result in death, if that person were to die, they’d be the first since funnel-web antivenom was introduced.[9]

1 Not Feared Enough—Eastern Brown Snake

10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Eastern Brown Snake

The actual snake to fear in Australia, it turns out, isn’t the one with the most potent venom in the entire world.

Their venom may be second to the inland taipan, but they more than make up for that with their nervous disposition that makes a bite far more likely. In addition, they seem to enjoy living and even thriving in human-inhabited areas.

Their bite is often painless, a fact which might seem like a small mercy, but it really just means that you’re less likely to notice it until it’s too late. The snake delivers a venom that’s still among the most potent in the world. The common and relatively unassuming eastern brown snake is responsible for the most snake-caused deaths in Australia.

That being said, Australia is a wonderful, beautiful country. If there’s anything to take away from this list, it’s that if you keep a safe distance from wildlife, as everyone should, there’s no real reason to avoid visiting this unique, incredible continent.[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen