Man bites dog: an adage used to illustrate that the media only reports the extraordinary. Dogs bites man? Well that story tends to get plenty of attention, too, and with good reason. Dog bites and attacks can be traumatic, life-changing experiences, and they account for 386,000 emergency-room visits each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Just last week, attacks on postal workers by stray pit bulls aborted mail service in several Dayton, Ohio, neighborhoods. Despite the real-life example of the classic feud between pooches and postal workers, children ages 5 to 9 tend to be the most vulnerable to dog attacks.
German shepherds, pit bulls, and Rottweilers often get a bad rap. But are these dogs the most dangerous breeds, or are they merely penalized for having a larger population? While dog-attack statistics are notoriously unclear on elucidating why people are maimed or killed by dogs (cruel breeders, bite victims that don’t seek medical attention), the sheer number of attacks should show some commonality across breeds, so The Daily Beast set to clear the air a bit by finding out, on a per-dog-basis, which breeds are more prone to attacking humans.
To rank the most dangerous breeds, we used a report compiled by Merritt Clifton, the editor of Animal People, which lists all of the press accounts of dog attacks organized by breed type. The study tallies the total attacks by dogs kept as pets from 1982 to 2009 in the U.S. and Canada. While it’s certainly exhaustive, it is by no means a complete list. We considered only the statistics pertaining to pure-bred dogs or breed variations for our purposes (example: Shar-Peis were considered, but not Shar-Pei/Rottweiler mixes, but the Belgian Malinois and Belgian Sheepdogs were grouped together as both are variations of the same breed). For each breed, we then tabulated a numerical attack value by adding the total number of attack victims, the number of deaths and the number of maimings. Because the severity of attacks is relevant, incidents of mailings and deaths were weighted two and five times, respectively, as much as each attack victim.
For a final “score” for each breed, we referred to the American Kennel Club’s most recent precise data on dog registration statistics. The numerical attack score was divided by total registered population to calculate the total score for each breed—a metric of incidents per dog, in essence.
To be sure, civilization would be poorer without our canine friends. And these incidents represent a minute fraction of the total number of dogs out there, the vast majority of whom are loving pets. But not all dogs are bred to equal—and one breed, in terms of danger, stands out from the rest. To find out which, click here.