Poor sharks. They have a bad reputation, but are they really dangerous? After all, you're more likely to be killed by a cow than a shark [source: Faletto]. But nobody is making movies about deadly cownados. And while you're in the water, you're more apt to drown or be injured by your own surfboard than by a shark [source: Martin].
Researchers love to throw around statistics like these to redeem sharks. Here's another juicy one. In 2021, there were 17,989 instances of dogs biting humans, according the Insurance Information Institute [source: III]. That same year, there were just 47 unprovoked shark attacks off the U.S. coast [source: ISAF]. That means you're about 383 times more likely to be bitten by man's best friend than you are by a shark.
Still, even the possibility of a shark attack terrifies us, thanks to movies like "Jaws" and sensational news reports. For many, sharks represent the unknown and the unknowable. While we can forgive some of those nearly 18,000 dogs for biting us, sharks don't show the same types of emotion, which makes it easy to paint them as mindless man-eaters.
Sometimes the statistics support our fears. In the past few years, the number of shark attacks has risen slightly, although that's likely due to more people engaging in recreational water activities, as opposed to hungrier sharks.
Any shark that measures more than 6 feet (1.8 meters) is a potential threat to humans because it's big and because it likely has adaptations, such as more developed jaws and stronger teeth that have enabled its large size [sources: Burgess, Ritter]. These sharks may not be specifically trolling for human flesh, but if they were to take a sample bite, they could do some serious damage.
While the most dangerous shark may always be the one that's swimming right toward you, it's worth remembering that of the almost 400 identified shark species, less than 10 percent have been implicated in an attack on a human [source: Martin].
Of the approximately 30 species that have attacked, which are the most dangerous? Let's sift through the attack statistics, the stereotypes and the sharp teeth to find out. These 10 top the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) records of attacks around the world between 1580 and the present [source: ISAF]. Let's start with No. 10.