Cow vs.Shark: Which is More Dangerous?

There's been a lot of well deserved coverage about the recent shark attack off Cape Henlopen in Lewes by a lot of competent reporters, so I won't get into recapping the incident here. Suffice it to say, I like many others, wish Andrew the best along with a speedy recovery and a quick return to the ocean. I also hope that the general feeling of calm and reassurance people seem have about continuing to swim in Delaware's coastal waters remains; there's no reason to panic or frenzy over this right now.

Having said this, I have to comment on what just might be one of the most interesting things and factoids (to my twisted perspective at least) that's come from the Lewes shark attack, Rich King's comment:

 “You've got a better chance of being run over by a cow than you do being bitten by a shark.”

Really? On first glance, this comment seemed bizarre to me and at the very least, misplaced as a means of comparison. However, with just a little research, I came across some fairly startling statistics -  it turns out that cows are in fact, fairly dangerous. So much so that Popular Mechanics reported on a CDC study which showed cows killing 108 people in the U.S. vs sharks killing 4 people during the same time period (2003-2008). Do the numbers: that's 27 times the fatalities from cow attacks than shark attacks. Wow...forget Jaws, let's talk Hooves! Numbers like these paint a vastly different picture about our perceptions of reality and perhaps on our "misplaced" fears.

But wait, statistics being what they are, numbers alone don't tell the whole story. For example, in most of these instances, the cows did not run over anyone, blunt force trauma caused by kicks to the head and chest were most often the causes of fatality; people weren't getting blindsided in a stampede. This also makes it worth noting that just about all incidents happened in confined areas- think barn stalls- and as such, point more toward a condition of occupational hazard rather than a surprise vacation encounter in the wide open ocean, suggesting that the cow attacks are as much about location, frequency and concentration as anything else. Oh, and they all seemed to center around some cow-centric activity taking place at the time of the attack (when's the last time you tried milking a shark?).

So which is more dangerous? That's a good question, especially considering the Sussex County environment: lots of farmland and lots of ocean. To my way of thinking, it all depends on where I am when you ask me that question. Numbers aside, since the closest I usually get to a cow is drinking a glass of milk in my kitchen, I'll stick to looking out more for sharks, after all I go in the water way more than I visit a farm. Still, the next time I find myself within striking distance of a friendly looking bovine, I'll be sure a take a few respectful and cautious steps back.

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