Unexpected facts

I learned today that horses were once used to roll and flatten grass tennis courts! I have this on the authority of the Curator of the Tennis Museum, though a quick Google image search did not reveal any pics, unfortunately. This unexpected fact inspired me to search out other interesting and generally unknown horse facts, which led me to the QI page on horses, where I was stunned to learn that, in the period 2000-2006, horses killed more people in Australia than sharks!

Now, I am unable to verify this on the National Coronial Information System (NCIS) database, which was the source cited by QI and a number of news articles that appeared at the time, as I don’t have access permission, but an Injury Prevention Bulletin produced by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in 2000 revealed that between 1979–98, there were an estimated 20 horse-related deaths in Australia each year! [1]

According to the NCIS figures, which deal explicitly with the years 2000-2006, horses were responsible for 36 deaths in this period (a lessening of the 20 per annum estimated by the AIHW), while sharks were only responsible for 11. Yes, you read that correctly. Horses killed more than THREE TIMES as many people in Australia than sharks!

Taronga Zoo maintains a national database of shark attacks, called the Australian Shark Attack File. This database shows that, over the last hundred years to 2014, there have been a total of 136 fatalities due to unprovoked shark attacks [2]. If you extrapolate from the lower NCIS figures, with 36 deaths every 6 years, you get a gob-smacking figure of 600 deaths in a century!

Comparing the much higher ‘death by horse’ figures to the number of shark attack fatalities, one has to wonder why shark culling is taken up with such gusto, while brumby culling faces such fierce opposition. Especially when you consider that many species of shark are threatened or endangered, while the brumby is an acknowledged environmental pest.

Once again, we come face-to-face with the fact that some animals are vilified while others are valorised, and the motive behind such arbitrariness seems to be nothing more than human whim.



[1] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: National Injury Surveillance Unit, “Horse-related Injury in Australia,” Issue 24, May 2000

[2] Australian Shark Attack File, Latest Figures web page, accessed 30 July 2014 – http://taronga.org.au/animals-conservation/conservation-science/australian-shark-attack-file/latest-figures


5 thoughts on “Unexpected facts

  1. Yes, some interesting facts… but I have a comment about some of the wording. I believe it is problematic to say something like ‘horses killed’ of ‘horses were responsible for…’. This intentionalises a horse’s state of mind and there is no evidence for that conclusion, and can lead to demonisation of an animal or a breed or a species. It is the human use of a/the horse/s that creates the (human) death so ‘horse related deaths’ is better. Intentionalising animal actions produces, for example, such terms as ‘man-hunting sharks’ (and this piece itself talks about issues there) and relates to the blanket characterisation of breeds of dogs (ref. dangerous and restricted breeds legislation).

  2. Pingback: Minor injury | horsesfordiscourses

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