Animal-related fatalities--part I: characteristic autopsy findings and variable causes of death associated with blunt and sharp trauma

J Forensic Sci. 2012 Mar;57(2):370-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2011.01921.x. Epub 2011 Oct 7.


Animals may be responsible for an array of potentially lethal injuries. Blunt force injuries characteristically involve larger animals such as cattle or horses that may kick, crush, or trample a victim causing head and facial injuries. Farm workers in particular are at high risk of lethal injuries involving the head and torso. Significant blunt trauma may be found in vehicle occupants after collisions with large animals such as camels or moose. Rarely, zookeepers may be crushed by particularly massive animals such as elephants. Sharp force injuries usually involve carnivore bites, most often from dogs with a "hole and tear" pattern of wounding. Injuries from animals such as alligators and sharks may have a significant component of crushing. Incised wounds may result in death from exsanguination and air embolism. On occasion, blunt or sharp trauma from animal activity may be confused with postmortem damage or with inflicted injury from an assault.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic
  • Animals
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Forensic Pathology
  • Humans
  • Occupations
  • Postmortem Changes
  • Venoms / poisoning
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / etiology
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / pathology*
  • Wounds, Penetrating / etiology
  • Wounds, Penetrating / pathology*


  • Venoms