Editorial note — Cow Week is a tongue-in-cheek look at risk analysis and why we fear the things we fear. It is inspired by the Discovery Channel's Shark Week, the popularity of which is largely driven by the public's fascination with and fear of sharks. Turns out, cows kill more people every year than sharks do. Each day, I will post about a cow-related death, and add to it some information about the bigger picture.
Some cow-related deaths are accidental, or at least understandable. When humans and animals live and work in close proximity, it's not surprising that humans sometimes do things that startle or scare the animals. And when 500-pound animals are scared, bad things can happen.
Other times, though, it really seems like the cows are out to get us. Take this story, related in the July 31st issue of The Times of India. Bhoop Narayan Prajapati, a 65-year-old resident of Deori Township in the Sagar district of Madhya Pradesh, was gored by a bull and later died of his wounds. But, the death turns out to be the culmination of a months-long feud between Prajapati and the bull, centered around Prajapati's attempts to get the bull to stop sitting in front of the door to his house.
Prajapati threw a cup of hot water at the bull one morning. The next day, the bull came back and gored him. But that wasn't quite enough.
Much to people's surprise, the bull reached the hospital following Prajapati. Deepak Chourasia, a town-dweller, said that when the mortal remains of the old man were being consigned to flames the bull again sprang a surprise by arriving at the crematorium.
There is a minor history between Prajapati and the bull. Six month ago, the bull had attacked the old man after he hit the animal with a stick. Prajapati was at that time admitted to a hospital where he stayed for more than a month due to leg injury, Deori police station inspector R P Sharma told TOI.
Yesterday, I told you about how cows kill more people every year than sharks, even though sharks are (by far) the more-feared species. Today, let's look at this from the shark's perspective. Turns out, sharks are actually threatened ... by us. Yes, they have pointy teeth, but we have harpoons and nets.
In a 2010 article for Our Amazing Planet, Charles Q. Choi reported that as many as 1/3 of all shark and ray species in the world are at risk of dying out. Most of the deaths are accidental. Sharks can simply end up caught in nets meant for other animals. But there's also a thriving trade in shark fins and plenty of money to be made in allowing fishermen to hunt sharks for sport. Overall, humans intentionally kill upwards of 73 million sharks a year, according to a 2009 New York Times editorial.
Read the rest of the Times of India cow death story
Read Charles Q. Choi's piece on the risk of shark extinction
Read the New York Times editorial on the death of sharks
Read a 2007 interview with Jean-Michel Cousteau on the threat to sharks and how to save them.
• Cow Kills Irish Pensioner
Cow-related death story via Alston D'Silva
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.