January 31, 2023

9 Dog Breeds That Have Attacked the Most People

Dogs have long been man’s best friends—loyal companions that love you unconditionally. But sometimes, they can bite you in the butt…literally.

Reports surface every year with dog bite statistics, chronicling researchers’ different methodology when determining what counts as a dog attack. The 2014 report “Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada (1982-2014),” compiled by ANIMALS 24-7 editor Merritt Clifton, is one of them.

The report’s aim was to structure data involving dog breeds that have been in the news for attacking humans. Though some argue that the use of press accounts is not the most reliable approach, Clifton argues that media coverage is legitimate because it is multi-sourced, incorporating information “from police reports, animal control reports, witness accounts, victim accounts in many instances, and hospital reports.” After taking a closer look at the methodology, PetBreeds concluded that this report gave a sufficiently thoughtful and unbiased summary of dog attacks in the United States.

We acknowledge that the data can be evaluated in a few different contexts (breed-specific behavior, bite frequency relative to frequency of severe injuries, degree of relative risk), but instead of drawing definitive conclusions, we will simply show the number of attacks.

We focused on the number of attacks doing bodily harm in the past 32 years, which includes fatalities, maimings (loss of limb or disfigurement) and other severe injuries that required hospital treatment. The dogs included in the statistics are only those whose breed has been clearly identified and have been kept as pets. The report also excluded police and guard dogs “at work,” because they are specifically trained to fight. In an ideal world, we’d use a report that factored in the total number of dogs of each breed in the United States, but that information is not readily available.

Before we get on with the list, we wanted to make one thing very clear: just because a dog breed has been involved in an attack does not mean that breed as a whole should be condemned. Every dog has a different personality and is shaped by the environment in which it grows up. We aim to present and interpret data for our readers in order to better inform their decisions, not to pass judgement.

To read more about the methodology and results, refer to the report above. If you have experienced a dog attack, feel free to share in the comments below. Alternatively, if you own one of the dogs listed and think it’s wonderful, let us know as well!

Lots of dogs are looking for good homes. Check out our newly launched adoptable pets topic to adopt a dog near you!
9 Dog Breeds That Have Attacked the Most People
Attacks doing bodily harm: 56
Deaths: 3
A large majority of Labradors are loyal, harmless pets—after all, it’s the most popular breed in the country according to the American Kennel Club. But many might be surprised to know that Labs have still caused 56 attacks and three deaths in the last three decades. One of these cases detailed an incident in which a woman was attacked by her daughter’s 23 labs at once.
9 Dog Breeds That Have Attacked the Most People
Attacks doing bodily harm: 61
Deaths: 8
Chows are descendants of ancient Arctic wolf-like dogs, so some have exhibited the same aggressiveness as other Northern breeds, such as Huskies and Akitas.
9 Dog Breeds That Have Attacked the Most People
Attacks doing bodily harm: 64
Deaths: 7
Boxers are known for having very strong jaws, so their powerful bites (ideal for hanging on to a toy during play) can also be harmful to humans.

9 Dog Breeds That Have Attacked the Most People
Attacks doing bodily harm: 70
Deaths: 8
Akitas have a similar attack pattern to sled-pulling “Northern breeds” such as Huskies, though in the case of the latter breed, some of the attacks are deemed assaults by feral animals, since they are often kept in packs without human supervision. Akita attacks have, however, mostly occurred in home situations.
9 Dog Breeds That Have Attacked the Most People
Attacks doing bodily harm: 83
Deaths: 26
Huskies are a common pet throughout America, but attacks doing bodily harm by the breed have mostly occurred in Alaska, the Northwest Territories, the Yukon and northern Quebec.
9 Dog Breeds That Have Attacked the Most People
Bull Mastiff(Presa Canario)
Attacks doing bodily harm: 111
Deaths: 18
This particular breed of Bull Mastiff’s ancestry overlaps with that of the Pit Bull, and therefore many share similar temperaments. This includes having relatively less inhibition about attacking those bigger than they are and without warning.
9 Dog Breeds That Have Attacked the Most People
German Shepherd
Attacks doing bodily harm: 113
Deaths: 15
According to the report, “Because German shepherds often use the guiding nip and the grab-and-drag with children, who sometimes misread the dogs’ intentions and pull away in panic, they are involved in biting incidents at almost twice the rate that their numbers alone would predict.” This sort of nip and protective grab-and-drag are common traits among herding dogs.
9 Dog Breeds That Have Attacked the Most People
Attacks doing bodily harm: 535
Deaths: 85
One factor that could explain why Rottweilers appear so incredibly high in harmful attack statistics is the breed’s sheer strength and popularity among dog owners. As Clifton puts it, since they are so powerful, they are “capable of doing a great deal of damage in cases where bites by other breeds might be relatively harmless.”
9 Dog Breeds That Have Attacked the Most People
Pit Bull
Attacks doing bodily harm: 3,397
Deaths: 295
Pit Bull behavior has long been debated and scrutinized in the dog world. Though many Pit Bulls are perfectly lovable and good with children, there is an incredibly disproportionate number of attacks doing bodily harm—most notably fatal attacks—that are worth raising an eyebrow about. A trait common in Pit Bulls, getting angry and attacking without any warning, is a contributing factor. This is because, in many cases, an adult may spot that a dog is aggravated and may back away or have time to react. Not being able to spot the subtle warning signs Pit Bulls give off puts adults at significant risk in said scenarios.
* Note that Pit Bull refers to the “quintessential Pit Bull” breed, including but not limited to the American Pit Bull Terrier.