We humans might think of ourselves as the big species on campus, but let's be honest here: In a one-on-one fistfight between Man and Nature, the latter will almost always come out on top and end up playing our intestines like a meat harp. We say "almost always" because the following folks not only went up against some of Mother Nature's most dangerous killers and managed to survive, they did it by pulling the kind of crazy shit that action heroes would scoff at in disbelief.
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Carl Akeley was a taxidermist, inventor, biologist, conservationist, and nature photographer. Show him two animals, and in no time he'd have one thoroughly cataloged and protected under law and the other stuffed and shipped off to an American museum. He was a man of complex dualities and balls of goddamn Damascus steel. A hero is only as good as his villains, however (just ask Batman), so Akeley needed a pretty badass nemesis. He chose well with "the entire species of leopards," which he believed were "disreputable," "vindictive," and "free to dine at a never-ending buffet of dicks."
(That last one might have been a slight paraphrasing.)
"Free? They gotta pay for that shit. You think I'm just made of dicks?"
It was a vendetta Akeley would get the opportunity to act on: During an African expedition, he came across a leopard and failed to kill it with his rifle. Either this was one of those notoriously dangerous "countin' leopards," or it was just feeling lucky, because the cat lunged right as Akeley ran out of ammo.
With no other option in sight, he grabbed the leopard by the throat and started jamming his right hand into its mouth. The cat, initially surprised that its dinner was doing all the work for it, soon found itself suffocating. Ignoring the pain of being partially (if voluntarily) eaten, Akeley kept right on pushing his hand deep into the throat of the beast, choking it from the inside. In the end, he managed to kill the leopard with one long, slow, prolonged punch to the tonsils. You can see the aftermath of the fight in the picture below, featuring perhaps the greatest, and certainly the most justified, "I am so done with this shit" face in all of human history:
Field Museum of Natural History via NPR
His only regret was that he didn't think of the one-liner "Human got your tongue?" until the flight home.
Richard Moyer of Perry County, Pennsylvania, was letting his dog back in the house at 3 a.m. when a bear plowed right through his patio door and tackled him.
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Maybe the bear had once given him an expired coupon.
To reiterate: He wasn't out hunting furry threshers to prove his manliness, or camping in bear-village, or even taking the highway to the Grizzly Zone. He was standing in his home, his place of safety, sleepily calling for his dog to finish pooping, and then he was under a bear.
Hearing the commotion, Angela Moyer walked out, presumably to see what that damn dog was doing now, and found her husband trying to put a headlock on a super predator. Angela, whom we officially proclaim the undisputed queen of rolling with it, distracted the bear and got it off her husband. Unfortunately, bears are generally distracted from a meal only by other, more insistent meals -- so it immediately tackled Angela instead, and dragged her outside.
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"Dammit, Angie, I said I've got it!"
Richard did not want to start dating again. Ugh, paying for all those dinners, and that first date nervousness, and now there's, like, texting protocol and stuff to deal with, right? No thank you to all that; he'd rather chase a bear into his yard and keep the fight on. Eventually, even the bear couldn't believe this shit was happening and checked out of that mess. In the end, Richard and Angela survived despite suffering serious wounds.
Oh, and because we know our audience, here's the most important bit: The dog made it out OK too.
"Oh man, you guys gotta check this out! I was over there pooping and I found this -- Jesus, what the hell happened to you two?"
In August 2002, 61-year-old David Parker was on his nightly stroll in British Columbia when he ducked under a rock overhang to avoid a downpour. Parker found himself face-to-face with a 100-pound cougar, which took advantage of the fact that its meals had suddenly started delivering themselves, and lunged at the man.
The retired mill worker quickly determined that his best chance of survival was to protect his jugular by any means necessary, so he made the perfectly rational choice to shield his neck from the attack with his head. As the cougar bit into his skull, the skin of Parker's scalp was pulled over his eyes, practically blinding him with his own face. The cat then threw Parker into a ditch, where his jaw and cheekbone were broken on a rock. Thinking him beaten, the cat presumably used this time to gloatingly reveal its master plan ...
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"Don't you see, Mr. Parker? LOLcats, Grumpy Cat, Catbook ... it was all a ruse!
And you humans bought it, hook, line, and sinker ..."
But you've seen this movie already, and you know that it doesn't go well for the bad guy: Parker waited patiently for the animal to finish soliloquizing, then, when it lunged, he flipped open his 3-inch pocket knife and plunged it straight into the beast's throat. In his facemeat-blinded fury, Parker managed to slice clean through the cougar's neck and basically turned it into the world's grossest Pez dispenser.
Parker walked half a mile to find help, and survived the encounter despite serious damage to his head and face. As one report puts it, "[He] still lives with the damage -- and the anger." Forgive us for glossing over what is surely a hellish and lifelong tragedy, but man, doesn't that sound like a hell of a tagline to a sequel?
This story starts where most others end. Eric Nerhus, a 41-year-old Australian diver, was swallowed by a shark. What, you thought Australia wouldn't make this list? Please, the champ doesn't stay that way by not swallowing motherfuckers with a shark or two now and again.
Why should venomous snakes have all the fun?
Nerhus was diving off Cape Howe searching for abalone, when the 12-foot great white bit into him like a hoagie: In one sudden gulp, it took Nerhus' head, shoulders, and one arm into its mouth. Imagine it: You don't even know you're being attacked, then the world goes dark, and you look around to find that you're already halfway to the digestive tract. Most of us wouldn't even have the presence of mind to pee ourselves just to ruin the shark's meal, but Nerhus isn't like most of us.
Showing remarkable self-control for a man who was more dinner than not, Nerhus felt alongside the shark's head with his free hand until he located its eye, and then he stabbed it with his abalone-prying chisel. Suddenly he was free. Experts (sharkologists?) say that once the shark realized Nerhus wasn't a seal, it lost interest and let him go. We prefer to think that once Nerhus demonstrated he was the absolute king of high stakes Pin the Tail on the Donkey, the shark had no choice but to back down out of respect.
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"Get lost. 'Great' my ass."
North American Grizzly (Brown) BearAn Adult North American Grizzly (Brown) Bear GrowlingDownloadDennis Donohue/iStock/Getty Images
The main thing you should know about grizzly bears is that you should never, ever go anywhere near them unless you're some sort of superhuman comic book tough guy who can kill an apex predator with your bare fists. The main thing you should know about Alaskan hunter and would-be grizzly chow Gene Moe is that he's apparently some sort of superhuman comic book tough guy who can kill an apex predator with his bare fists.
He frequently volunteers to be Most Dangerous Gamed.
While out hunting near Kodiak, Alaska, in 1999, the nearly 70-year-old Moe was ambushed by a 750-pound female grizzly. His rifle was out of reach, and the only other weapon Moe had on him was a Model 110 Buck knife. The bear, for the record, has about four of those on each paw. Clearly, the bear was feeling pretty good about its odds: It charged and bit off a chunk of Moe's right arm, hurled him to the ground, then moved in for the kill. Moe wasn't done yet, though. He got to his feet and bobbed and weaved between the swings like a boxer, losing only half an ear in the process (hey, half an ear is pretty good on the "mauled by a grizzly" curve). Seeing he was making no progress in his game of grizzly bear rope-a-dope, Moe fought every instinct and rational thought in him, and charged. He ducked within stabbing range, and figured since he was already there, he may as well get some stabbing in. He knifed the animal in the neck, which managed to slow it down a bit, but cost Moe a healthy portion of leg-meat.
The bear charged again, so Moe figured if you're gonna go out, you may as well go out swinging. Literally -- he channeled all his strength into his left arm and threw a final punch at the grizzly as it came running at him full speed. He hit it below the eye. The momentum paralyzed Moe's arm, but you should have seen the other guy, which was a girl, and also a bear, and also now dead. As a precaution, Moe shot it twice with his rifle before he crawled two miles to get help, and to tell the guys at the bar that he just found out he's Wolverine.
"Dude ... you beat up a girl?"
Related Reading: Humans don't always fare so well in a battle against nature. these animal serial killers racked up hundreds of deaths between them. It's enough to make you want to read about this guy who fought a mountain lion off via chainsaw. If you need a reminder to distrust our animal "friends", read about these adorable critters turning to the dark side.