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Animal Assassin

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"Budd, I'd like to introduce my friend, the black mamba."
Elle Driver, Kill Bill Vol. 2

This is when somebody uses some sort of dangerous animal as a discreet murder weapon. There's the old trick of leaving a snake in their hotel room, for instance, or the one where you drop a spider near their bed, or perhaps the one where you hide a scorpion in their suitcase. Whatever the animal, it's being used as a subtle but deadly surprise for the intended victim. The reasons for doing this vary: maybe the villain hopes that the murder will be deemed an accident (since sometimes, the animal could have gotten there by itself), although other times, it seems that the villain just likes doing things the difficult way for no good reason. Sometimes it's supposed to be some sort of trademark such as a villain with a snake theme. Sometimes it can be an ordinary house pet trained to cause an "accident" like leaving on the gas (read: turning it on after the victim is asleep).

Often, the murder animal seems to know its role in the story. Rather than waste time hiding or just wandering around aimlessly, as a real animal might do, it gets straight to the point and attacks the hero by the quickest route, despite having no apparent reason to do so. No matter how big the bedroom is, the spider will almost always end up crawling onto the face of the sleeping hero — and not, say, scuttling into the wardrobe, which is arguably more likely but rather less helpful for the plot. Although this could be justified, as these critters are cold-blooded and may seek heat/warmth. Don't expect a lot of sympathy for the animal, either. The ones chosen as assassins are generally a species which people consider Always Chaotic Evil like snakes and arachnids. This can lead to unintentional comedy for more knowledgeable viewers, as many of these venomous creatures don't actually have strong enough venom to seriously harm a healthy adult human (tarantulas and scorpions in particular).

Not to be confused with a Shark Pool or other up-front use of animals as a means of execution. This is just about the animals which are delivered to the victim (rather than the victim being delivered to the animal) and which the victim isn't supposed to know about until it's too late. Compare Attack Animal for when someone directly commands an animal to attack, rather than leaving it as a trap. If it's just made to look like a death by animal attack, that's This Bear Was Framed. Compare Exit, Pursued by a Bear, which is more accidental.

Grammar Nazi Note: Several of the animals mentioned below are "venomous" — they inject some toxin in their victim. It is rarely relevant if they are "poisonous" — that is, toxic if you try to eat them or if toxin is absorbed through the skin.


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  • In Season 2 Episode 13 of Happy Heroes, a cat from Planet Gray is hired to go after Careful S., who mistakes him for a stray cat and takes him in despite having an allergy to cat fur.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Case Closed:
    • Done once with a dog that pushes the victim down the stairs. The man is quite smart about it, training the dog to respond only if the command phrase is spoken over the phone at the same time the downstairs clock chimes.
    • A more "hands-on" example occurs when a girl bitten by a snake in the ocean turns out to have been an attempt at murder by her fiancé's jealous stepsister, which involved physically holding the snake and forcing it to bite the victim. This is rather more realistic than most examples of this trope, because such an animal really can't be relied upon to kill someone on its own. Since they were both in the sea, it was basically impossible to find the "weapon" afterward, though a witness is able to spy what turned out to be tape holding the snake in place.
  • Detective School Q features a Pluto agent using this trope on Kyu and Megu with a highly venomous snake after locking them in a secret room that not even their mentor knew existed.
  • One Piece features Mr. Thirteen (a sea otter with a shell-shaped knife) and Miss Friday (a vulture with a machine gun), a pair of Baroque Works assassins who tries to kill off Sanji. Naturally, Sanji makes short work of them (and steals their Eternal Log).
  • Red River (1995): One of the princesses staying in Kail's harem is killed by an assassin leaving venomous scorpions in her room (the story takes place in Asia Minor, which is home to one of the few scorpions with venom potent enough to kill a human). Earlier in the story, some of the princesses leave scorpions in Yuri's bed as a cruel prank, though these are identified as a non-lethal species; however, this happens right on the day when Kail is supposed to spend the night in Yuri's room, so the usually level-minded and sweet Yuri gets pissed.

    Audio Plays 

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: In Detective Comics Vol. 1 #475 ("The Laughing Fish"), the Joker gets a man's pet cat, hopped up on Joker Venom, to bite its owner, killing him and giving him the usual hideous rictus grin. This comic was adapted into an episode of Batman: The Animated Series.
  • In the Eros Comix Domino Lady miniseries, a mobster and a rogue paleontologist use a deinonychus controlled by music to destroy their enemies.
  • In Judge Colt #4, Colt hunts a killer who is making his murders appear to be accidents. One his victims is trampled by a horse, while another is pushed into a stock pen filled with half-wild longhorn cattle.
  • This trope is parodied and double-subverted in the French comic book Rona: L'Or du Macho-Fichu. The Intrepid Reporter protagonist, while investigating in a Banana Republic where he has enemies, is advised to "offer more" to the hotel tenant before getting a room. After doing so, the tenant agrees to remove "Eugène" — a venomous snake that's "part of the house" — whom he's been paid to put in Rona's bed. The same night, though, Rona finds another deadly snake in his bed, and the tenant is outraged — it isn't Eugène, so it's utterly illegal since he's not getting any money from this.
  • Used in several Suske en Wiske comics, including De Scherpe Schorpioen and De Gouden Circel.

    Comic Strips 
  • Several of these appeared in the original stories (i.e., not based on Fleming's novels) in the James Bond newspaper strip:
    • Vampire bats (with venomous fangs) in "Flittermouse".
    • Boa constrictors in "The Snake Goddess".
  • Parodied in Sturmtruppen: one of the soldiers, fed up with the Sergeant's antics, tries to kill him by hiding a venomous rattlesnake in his mess tin. The Sergeant mistakes the reptile for an eel and devours it, asking the cook for a second ration.

    Fan Works 
  • In PokÚdex, Weedle's entry shows that they are often used as assassins by replacing their venom with a more potent one.

  • In the Lone Wolf book 12, The Masters of Darkness, while dressed as the enemy and hitching a ride on a giant land vehicle, the hero is attacked in his cabin by a Plaak, a small jelly-like horror with venomous fangs. Ironically, this isn't because Lone Wolf's disguise has failed; the target of the assassination attempt is the creature he usurped the identity.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In 1994 Baker Street: Sherlock Holmes Returns, a collection of people important to Lt. Ortega are all killed using animals connected to tigers: a tiger, a tank full of piranhas, a.k.a. 'tiger fish', fleas-eating tiger beetles, and a tiger snake.
  • In The Abominable Dr. Phibes, the title doctor kills several of his victims through the use of animal assassins: bees, bats, rats and locusts.
  • In Aliens, Burke lets loose a pair of facehuggers in the room Ripley and Newt are sleeping in, hoping to impregnate them with alien eggs for the trip home as a way of smuggling the creatures past customs. As a fringe benefit, this would also kill Ripley, who has threatened to expose his role in the destruction of the colony.
  • In The Arrival, the aliens try this on Zane by filling his hotel room bed with scorpions.
  • In Les Barbouzes, a group of competing spies have infiltrated the castle of a rich heiress, and are trying to discretely kill each other, to little avail since they're all paranoid. Sure enough, the German spy carefully checks his bed before the night and finds a live scorpion under the sheets.
  • Conrad uses his big cats to eliminate his enemies in Black Zoo.
  • In The Brain Stealers, Chiu-lan is trapped in her hotel room with a poisonous adder which a henchwoman has hidden under the bedsheets. Her partner arrives in the nick of time and fires a dart, impaling the snake head-first from the bed to a nearby dresser.
  • In Call Me Bwana, Mungo slips a giant spider under the side of Matt's tent. It crawls on his arm, waking him up. Matt watches it for a few seconds, paralyzed with fear, then calmly brushes it off, then leaps up and starts firing wildly at the floor.
  • In what is almost certainly a Shout-Out to the Sherlock Holmes story "The Speckled Band" (see Literature examples below), Carry On Screaming! has a scene in which the villains attempt to murder the "heroes" by lowering a snake down the bellpull into their bed.
  • In Circus of Fear, the killer lets loose the temperamental lioness Sheba in hopes that she will kill Gina. Gina is only saved by the arrival of Gregor.
  • In Circus of Horrors, Schüler attempts to murder Elsa by releasing a boa constrictor in her caravan.
  • In Color of Night, the villain leaves a rattlesnake in Capa's mailbox, which nearly kills him.
  • Creepshow: In "The Crate", Henry plans to use the beast "Fluffy" (whatever it might be) to kill his shrewish wife, Wilma.
  • In Cry Blood, Apache, Vittorio kills Two-Card Charlie by tying him up and placing a sack containing a rattlesnake over his head.
  • In Deadly Blessing, somebody attempts to kill Martha by letting a snake inside her washing room while she's in the bathtub.
  • In Death on the Nile (1978), the murderer tries to kill Poirot with a venomous snake. Nothing remotely similar happens in the book.
  • Fire Down Below has the bad guys trying to kill the hero with some snakes in his room. It doesn't work, and those same snakes get put into the bad guys' truck with hilarious results.
  • Done with a snake to the token moderate senator during The Purge in Gladiator.
  • In Hard Target, Chance uses a deadly snake which he knocked out earlier as part of Booby Trap he sets up. It falls on one of Fouchon's hunters and bites him repeatedly. Fouchon blows the head off the snake and then performs a Mercy Kill on the screaming hunter.
  • In High Risk, the tabloid reporter Helen gets cornered in a bathroom stall after some mooks empties an entire sack of poisonous snakes in the loo. She managed to escape in time thanks to Li grabbing her from an Air-Vent Passageway, but suffers a poisonous bite in the process which Li must extract using a knife. Turns into a Chekhov's Gun later on as Li hurls said knife, whose blade still contains traces of the snake's venom, into the Big Bad — it ends up killing the villain two minutes away from the credits.
  • In Holmes & Watson, Holmes is sent a mosquito infected with a deadly plague in an attempt to prevent him from testifying at Moriarty's trial.
  • In If Looks Could Kill, a Femme Fatale tries to murder the protagonist by dropping a scorpion on his lap while his eyes are closed in anticipation for a blowjob. Michael doesn't notice and suddenly jerks up to get a condom, flinging the scorpion into her nightgown, sending her into a writhing panic he mistakes for seductive dancing. The scorpion likely would have killed her had an assassin ordered by the jealous Dragon to kill them both not done the job with a rocket launcher first (Michael was saved because he was still in the bathroom searching for that condom).
  • James Bond runs into some of these.
    • In Dr. No, someone drops a venomous spider (in the film) or centipede (in the book) into his room — he manages to beat it to death. Note that Scolpendra gigantea can be fatal to humans. The producers changed the creature from a centipede to a tarantula for the movie because they didn't think audiences would realize centipedes could be fatal. It's also a more logical choice (to the extent that this trope can ever be logical), as there is no centipede whose bite is reliably fatal to an adult human. While the same is true of tarantulas, there are some South American and Australian spiders of similar size and appearance that really are very dangerous to humans. Thus, a tarantula makes for an acceptable film stand-in. This was no comfort to the arachnophobic Sean Connery, who had to have a body double for the spider to crawl over.
    • In Live and Let Die, somebody tries much the same thing with a snake, which he fries with a quickly improvised Aerosol Flamethrower.
    • In Diamonds Are Forever, Wint and Kidd kill the dentist by dropping a scorpion down the back of his shirt.
    • In Moonraker, Hugo Drax attempts to kill Bond by a reticulated python.
    • In Never Say Never Again, Fatima Blush drives alongside Jack Petachi and throws a snake into his car, which makes him freak out and crash. Fatima then uses a remote-controlled bomb to blow up the car with him in it.
  • Parodied in Johnny Dangerously when the title character has an enemy killed by having him run over by a bull.
  • Kaamelott: Premier Volet: Upon being found among a bunch of slaves, Arthur Pendragon gets rid of slave merchant Quarto (who was looking for him for a bounty) by throwing a scorpion in his robes. Quarto then falls unconscious, presumably dead.
  • In Kill Bill, Elle Driver gives Budd a Briefcase Full of Money that also contains a black mamba, which promptly bites him in the face and kills him.
  • The titular Professional Killer from Killing Gunther one-ups one of his would-be assassins by booby-trapping his car's boot with snakes, a poisonous one which scores a killing blow when the boot opens. For extra irony, said victim is a Master Poisoner himself.
  • Leonard Part 6 is about a formula which turns animals homicidal when they hear a code word.
  • In The Monster Maker, Markhoff attempts to dispose of his assistant through use of a Killer Gorilla (which seems an odd choice for a Mad Doctor with a cabinet full of deadly diseases at his disposal).
  • In The Mummy Returns, Meela throws a venomous snake at Rick, he throws it right back. She also threatens Alex with them.
    Alex: Lady, I don't behave for my parents. What makes you think I'm going to do it for you?
    Meela: Because your parents wouldn't slip poisonous snakes into your bed while you were sleeping.
  • Two of the attempted murders in Murder by Death involve a venomous snake and a venomous scorpion.
  • In My Super Ex-Girlfriend, the spurned G-Girl attempts to kill her ex-boyfriend by flinging a live shark at him through the window of his new girlfriend's high-rise apartment.
  • In Payment in Blood, the mob attempt to kill Fang and his family (for witnessing a mob assassination) by sending a beautifully wrapped present box to their house, which his wife opens, assuming that it's a present for their daughter's birthday. As it turns out, the box is filled with deadly snakes (one which takes up the entire DVD cover!) that nearly kills his wife and has their apartment crawling with venomous serpents.
  • Phantom of the Mall: Eric's Revenge: After the mugger who attacked is revealed to be the mall pianist, Eric kills him on the toilet with a poisonous snake.
  • Primal: When he goes to kill Frank, Loffler leaves behind a bushmaster to kill the Bound and Gagged Ellen and Rafi.
  • In Ring of Fear, O'Malley attempts to kill animal trainer Clyde Beatty by having Twitchy use acid to weaken the harness rope restraining a touchy tiger Beatty is training. When the tiger lunges for Beatty, the rope snaps and only Beatty's superior reflexes allow to escape the cage in time.
  • In Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, Moriarty attempts to dispose of Holmes with a snake in the hidden compartment where he is hiding the necklace.
  • In Shotgun (1955), Delgadito's renegades leave Bentley tied with wet rawhide out in the desert. As the rawhide dries, it shrinks and drags Bentley closer to a stake that has a rattlesnake tethered to it.
  • Sisters of Death: The murderer uses both a tarantula (which fails, except as a distraction), and a rattlesnake, which succeeds.
  • This trope is the entire premise behind Snakes on a Plane. Unable to assassinate a witness to a murder through more conventional means, mobster Eddie Kim arranges for a crate of venomous snakes to be placed on the plane that the witness is being transported on. The latch opens at the appropriate time, releasing the snakes on the passengers. In this case, the hostility of the snakes (who in real life tend to be shy and defensive) is justified by their being dosed with pheremones that make them agitated enough to attack anything in sight without provocation. It's also pointed out that the snakes don't specifically have to bite the witness — they can just as easily cause the plane to crash by killing the pilot or getting in the wiring.
  • In Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, an assassin tries to kill Senator Padmé Amidala by way of some deadly-looking alien centipedes called kouhuns. Fortunately, Obi-Wan and Anakin come to the rescue and slice the kouhuns in half, saving her. Supplemental materials explain that yes, kouhuns really are that aggressive.
  • In Tower of Death, the valet released a lion to maul Bobby to death. The lion only managed to kill the hooker sent to distract Bobby before being beaten off, and it's painfully obvious that said lion is a guy in a suit.
  • In Yellow Hair and the Fortress of Gold, the Tulpani roll tumbleweeds filled with rattlesnakes into the canyon where Yellow Hair and the Pecos Kid are holed up.

  • The Alchemist by Ken Goddard opens with a college drug dealer getting a phone call from the Big Bad who wants to discuss the money he's been skimming. The dealer rushes to his hidden safe, only to find the money missing and an angry venomous snake which kills him. As well as stealing the money and leaving the snake, the Big Bad's Cleanup Crew also planted several books on herpetology to Make It Look Like an Accident. The incident serves as a Chekhov's Gun for when some undercover cops are thrown into a dark room with another snake.
  • Alex Rider: This happens in the beginning of the book Scorpia. An old gangster has finally decided to retire from a massive international terrorist group, but you don't retire from massive international terrorist groups. Thus, one of the members gives him a "parting gift", which is actually a briefcase full of scorpions, which climb all over the man and sting him to death. Apparently, his heart gives out long before the poison kills him.
  • Referenced in "Angel Down, Sussex", when Catriona recalls how she and Edwin were nearly victims of this trope. In a Noodle Incident involving a villain (implied to be Fu Manchu himself), a black mamba was hidden in their picnic hamper. Luckily, they'd opened the hamper while they were out punting and successfully knocked the snake into the water.
  • Animorphs is about kids who turn into animals and kill aliens. (Think that's weird? You ain't seen nothing yet.) They don't have animal assassins... they are them.
  • The second book of Bernard Werber's Ants trilogy has robotic ants sent to guide real ants to kill scientists working on an insecticide (and later, the cop that investigates the case).
  • A different take on this trope appears in the Arkady Renko novel Wolves Eat Dogs. The killer is waging psychological warfare on his target by planting radioactive material in his house (in revenge for his role in the Chernobyl disaster). One way to get past the man's security is to plant a tiny particle of Caesium-137 in the fur of his dog.
  • A snake in the Ben Snow story "Suddenly, with Fangs". Subverted in that the snake isn't that interested in attacking, and the intended victim ends up using it on the assassin.
  • In Children of Dune, some sort of saber-toothed tiger things are trained to attack sets of clothing impregnated with a certain chemical. The clothes are given as a gift to Ghanima and Leto II, and the tigers are sent to kill them. The worst part: the tigers were conditioned to attack two children wearing those clothes and matching their description. How were they conditioned? With carefully selected pairs of children, of course — pair after pair after pair until they got it right.
    "Tell our buyers they can stop sending us pairs of children who fit the description."
  • In Children of the Lamp: The Akhenaten Adventure, the main villains are fond of using snakes and scorpions to do their dirty work. Justified in that a) they have special connections with these animals and b) they're too lazy to do it themselves.
  • Attempted on Jame in Chronicles of the Kencyrath, during To Ride a Rathorn. Jame makes friends with the swamp adder and then returns her to her owner.
  • In The Comfortable Courtesan, Nuttenford's downfall comes after he loses control of his malice and sends Clorinda a live cobra in a parcel.
  • In Court Martial, by Sven Hassel, Two Section has to get rid of a troublesome Gestapo agent who's blackmailing them. After a number of unsuccessful attempts have landed the Gestapo agent in hospital, Porta and the others decide to pay a friendly visit with a wildcat in a cage. "As you know, cats have nine lives. And after what you've been through, you seem almost as immortal! So we're going to do a scientific study - cat vs. man!" Unfortunately, the wildcat gets freed from its cage too early.
  • In Cure the Texas Fever by J.T. Edson, one of the attempts to kill Waxahachie Smith involves unleashing an enraged longhorn steer to run him down.
  • Discworld:
    • Wizards at the Unseen University have a history of advancing their careers by the principle of Dead Man's Pointy Boots, and therefore have a saying: "When a man is tired of checking for scorpions in his boots, he is tired of life."
    • Lords and Ladies:
      • An elf tries to invoke this trope on Hodgesaaargh, siccing one of the falconer's own fearsome birds of prey on him. Subverted in that the raptor attacks the elf instead, because that's exactly what it does to Hodgesaaargh when he handles it.
      • Magrat uses Greebo (Nanny's Ogg cat) against another elf as one would a claymore mine.
    • Snuff mentions a "filing clerk" by the name of Arachne who pleaded to be assigned to the embassy of Fourecks because she's particularly attracted to venomous spiders. Vetinari gives her the task of taking care of Gravid at the end of the book. Not all sins are forgiven.
  • Doc Savage: The Big Bad in the novel The Fantastic Island uses venomous centipedes for this purpose.
  • Fu Manchu: The eponymous villain is the acknowledged master of this method of killing. He is especially fond of this in the earlier books, in which he has access to venomous arthropods "unknown to Western science".
  • Harry Potter:
    • Werewolf Fenrir Greyback is a self-induced animal assassin. He cannot control himself in werewolf form, but he gets around this by deliberately placing himself near his intended victims' home shortly before full moon so that, upon his change, those victims will be the closest human targets he can attack.
    • For that matter, consider Salazar Slytherin, who left the basilisk at Hogwarts for centuries so it could eventually get activated by his Heir (it eventually chose Tom Riddle, a.k.a. Voldemort) and kill the Muggle-borns. And for that matter, Voldemort using Nagini. Both of these examples are unusual, however; as Parseltongues, Slytherin and Voldemort can both communicate with snakes and apparently have no problem getting them to do their bidding.
  • James Bond:
    • A vampire bat attacks Bond in Nobody Lives for Ever. However, it's just supposed to infect him with rabies, and him slowly succumbing to it is supposed to give amusement to the bad guys before they cut his head off.
    • The bad guys try to kill Bond and Easy in Death Is Forever by having their hotel room service bring them food laced with spider eggs, which are supposed to kill them from the inside after ingestion. The Big Bad later claims that it was just amusement to keep them on their toes.
    • The bad guys in The Man with the Red Tattoo develop a species of mosquito which infects people with West Nile disease that acts ten times faster than normal, killing them within a day.
  • In one of the early Magic: The Gathering tie-in novels, a general is nearly assassinated by a scorpion hidden in a bowl of chips (the attempt is foiled by the army's goblin mascot, who gets stung instead).
  • A priest of Amun is killed this way in the period mystery Murder at the God's Gate. The person who arranges it doesn't take any chance that the Animal Assassin will be overlooked or wander away without attacking; they stuff five cobras into the target's box of writing supplies, knowing that the intended victim (a temple scribe) is sure to open it and be bitten by at least some of the venomous reptiles.
  • Nick Velvet: In a case of Early-Installment Weirdness, Nick (who, for the most part, eschews violence in the later stories) fatally unleashes a tiger on two crooks who try to double cross him "The Theft of the Clouded Tiger".
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: In The Lightning Thief, Percy faces an assassination attempt from a pit scorpion (a thankfully fictional species that can jump 15 feet) summoned by Luke Castellan. Although Percy manages to kill the scorpion in a swing, he's still stung, which is normally fatal, but luckily manages to get first aid.
  • Perry Mason: The Case of the Grinning Gorilla features a gorilla hypnotized to perform murder. It's actually a human in a gorilla suit.
  • Phryne Fisher: In Murder in the Dark, Phryne is sent a live coral snake inside a Christmas present.
  • Done with green mambas twice in The Poisonwood Bible. The first attempt fails, the second one ignores the intended target and kills one of the heroes.
  • In The Rise and Fall of the Sky Valley Cult, nighthawks can control animals telepathically. One of them sends a rattlesnake after Craig Steiger, with predictably disastrous results. Later, a pack of nighthawks sic a stag, a coyote pack and a deformed Boar on the surviving characters, who barely survive.
  • Semi-used in Safehold. While arranging for Cayleb to go hunting for a slash lizard was mostly just to get him away from most of his bodyguards, the assassins were hoping the creature would do the job for them. It didn't, so they had to attack him the usual way.
  • Septimus Heap:
    • In Magyk, DomDaniel tries to kill Marcia with his Magogs, unsuccessfully.
    • The Aie-Aie of Queen Etheldredda in Physik carries a plague and is used by the Queen to kill those that displease her.
  • Sherlock Holmes:
    • In the story "The Adventure of the Speckled Band", the speckled band in question is a deadly snake the murderer sends down the bell cord to kill his adopted daughter so as not to have to pay her dowry. The snake is commanded with a whistle — a practice completely unknown in real life. When he tries to do the same thing to the dead girl's twin sister, who had gone to Holmes for help, Holmes attacks the snake, driving it back through the vent into the next room, and the murderer is bitten to death immediately after.
    • There's also The Hound of the Baskervilles, in which the villain breeds a ferocious attack dog to scare an old man with a heart condition to death, and later tries to use it against his victim's nephew. In this case the directness of the animal is justified in that it was trained with the victims' scents, the villain stole the nephew's boot, and it accidentally "killed" (tripped and broke his neck running away) another man who was wearing the nephew's clothes.
    • In the story "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane", courtesy of the Lion's Mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata). Subverted as it's not a murder weapon — the jelly is nigh-invisible, and the victims swam into its tentacles by mistake.
    • Albeit not a Holmes tale, the Arthur Conan Doyle story The Brazilian Cat had the heir to a large fortune tricked into entering a cage containing the eponymous big cat (apparently a jaguar). He's locked inside and has to survive the night while the cat gets increasingly hungry.
  • Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Was Not: In "The Adventure of the Sacrifice Stone", Lady Sarah plans to murder Flower with a red-bellied black snake. Roylott speculates that she might have been intending it as a Fright Deathtrap, as the bite of the snake is unlikely to be immediately fatal.
  • Simon Ark: In "The Treasure of Jack the Ripper", Simon's friend Ceritas Vats is sent a black widow spider inside a hollowed-out book. Simon believes that it was intended more as a warning than a serious attempt on his life, since the sender could just as easily have placed a bomb inside the book as a spider.
  • Solar Pons: The murderer in "The Adventure of the Ipi Idol" kills one victim with a venomous insect (before the story starts) and makes attempts on the life of Pons' client with a tarantula and a green mamba.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • The book features at least one of these. The animal in question is merely referred to as a "manticore".
    • There is also an anecdote told about the occupation of Dorne. After King Daeron conquers Dorne, he appoints a lord loyal to him to suppress dissidents and chase rebels. While guesting at the castle of a disgruntled Dornish lord, he is given a room with a rope beside the bed and told that if he pulls it his host will have a girl sent to his bed. When, feeling amorous, he pulls it, it rips open the canopy above his bed and dumps an unreasonable amount of angry and venomous scorpions on top of him.
    • The Faceless Men sometimes use drugs to drive animals into vicious rages to have them kill their owners. Jaquen H'gar is implied to have used this to knock off one of the people on Arya's hit list, who was savaged by a beloved dog.
  • In State of Fear, the main murder method of the bad guys is to get a team of ninjas to burst in and restrain the target, while someone presses a blue-ringed octopus against their armpit. The point is an untraceable means of murder: the bite mark is barely noticeable and the species fairly obscure.
  • Worthy of mention due to the utter madness: in Tangled Webs, one Jerkass tries to kill a young lady by dropping a venomous (deadly to a human, that is) spider on her bed. Never mind that she's a drow, those sneaky people who check where they go and to whom spiders are sacred animals. She horribly suffers from sharp venomous bites of nostalgia for a few minutes.
  • The Thinking Machine: In "The Problem of the Grip of Death", a man is found strangled in a locked apartment. He was actually strangled by a boa constrictor, which entered through a rat hole in the wall. (Strictly speaking, this is a case of bizarre death by misadventure rather than murder, but it plays out like a murder.)
  • Vorkosigan Saga: In Mirror Dance, Barrayaran history includes an "incendiary cat plot". The exact details of it haven't been revealed yet.
  • Warrior Cats: In ThunderClan's territory, adders can be found at Snakerocks; their bite is strong enough to kill a cat. This is used twice in murder attempts:
    • Tigerclaw orders his apprentice Ravenpaw to hunt there after Ravenpaw witnessed him committing murder, but Ravenpaw manages to not only survive the task but also to kill an adder as prey.
    • Mapleshade lured a cat she blamed for her kits' deaths there, which resulted in the cat getting bitten and dying.
  • In Wings of Fire, Queen Blister tries to send her sister and rival for the throne, Queen Burn, a package of venomous dragonbite vipers as a gift, and then offers them to her during a peace meeting when that doesn't work. Burn sees through Blister's plan and tries to kill her instead, but it turns out that there were two snakes in the box...
  • Young Sherlock Holmes: In Death Cloud, Baron Maupertuis uses swarms of killer bees to dispose of his enemies.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Avengers (1960s): In the episode "The Hidden Tiger", house cats are turned into man-killers.
  • In the 2012 German miniseries Baron Munchausen, the evil majordomo of Tsarin Katharina places a venomous snake in the Baron's clothes. It's identified as an adder, but it's clearly a coral snake (or at least, the inoffensive coral-snake lookalike species that is usually used to film such scenes).
  • In the Bones episode "The Finger in the Nest", a dog is used. Brennan wants to adopt the dog, whom she has named Ripley, but it has to be put down. She and Booth bury him.
  • The Brittas Empire: The episode "That Creeping Feeling" has someone try to kill Brittas by sending over a pair of highly venomous spiders. One of them eats the other in transit, then bites Colin instead (although he survives in the end).
  • Lodz kills Ruthie with one of her own snakes in the first season of CarnivÓle. She gets better.
  • Columbo:
  • CSI: Miami:
    • A vicious attack dog is used as a murder weapon in "At Risk".
    • In "Match Made in Hell", the Victim of the Week is devoured by an alligator the killer lured into his pool.
  • CSI: NY:
    • One episode actually subverts this twice. Someone is killed by Brazilian Wandering Spider venom, but even though there is a person connected to the case who keeps Brazilian Wandering Spiders, none of them actually bit the victim; she was killed with a syringe of the venom. Someone else is eaten by a tiger at the zoo but was already dead before he was thrown into the exhibit.
    • Double-subverted in another episode. Meaning only to scare his sister, a brother puts a venomous snake in the very expensive car that their father gives her for her 16th birthday. The father gets in the car before he gives it to her, is bitten, and dies. Before the snake is discovered, it also bites Lindsay, who has to be helicoptered to the hospital.
  • Danger 5: During Claire and Tucker's wedding, they're attacked by giant killer...prawns?
  • Death in Paradise: In "A Deadly Curse", one Victim of the Week (who is deathly allergic to insect bites) is murdered when the killer releases a kissing bug in his cell.
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries:
    • In "Death of a Travelling Salesman", the Victim of the Week is murdered by having a venomous snake planted in his car.
    • In "Ties of the Past", a priest who is allergic to bee stings is locked in the confessional with a jar full of angry bees.
  • Endeavour: In "Prey," the murderer uses a tiger as their weapon of choice.
  • In the Farscape episode "Home on the Remains" (a Cowboy Episode), a Small-Town Tyrant who bosses a mining colony uses a ferocious but trained animal called a "keedva" to kill people who upset him. Points for including a Shout-Out to "The Speckled Band" (the beast is controlled with a whistle) and for Crichton's final battle with the animal being a blatant Homage, albeit with a lower budget, to Luke's fight with the Rancor in Return of the Jedi.
  • In an episode of Frasier, Frasier tries to help his father resolve an unsolved murder case and comes to the conclusion that one of the suspects trained a monkey to shoot the victim. He's wrong. The real perpetrator turns out to be human.
  • Frontier Circus: In "The Depths of Fear", the lion tamer locks his wife and his rival inside a cage and unleashes a lion upon them.
  • Get Smart:
    • One episode has a gorilla who has undergone plastic surgery and mental conditioning(!) to make it look and act human, turning ape and killing when given an auditory cue (and a banana).
    • Another episode has an assassin drop a venomous spider in Max's suitcase while he's unpacking. Max fails to notice it clinging to the coat as he puts it in the closet where another assassin is waiting.
  • Harrow: In "Aegri Somnia" ("Hallucinations"), the Victim of the Week is murdered by being force fed Irukandji jellyfish, the most venomous jellyfish in the world.
  • In the Hawaii Five-0 episode "Cloth of Gold", a venomous marine cone snail (Conus textile), native to Hawaii seawaters, is used as a murder weapon.
  • An immortal in Highlander chases other immortals down with his pack of dogs.
  • A bear is baited into killing a convicted killer who was granted early parole in the Longmire episode "The Worst Kind of Hunter".
  • The Magician: In "The Illusion of the Stainless Steel Lady", the bad guys attempt to dispose of Tony by placing a rattlesnake in his car.
  • Midsomer Murders:
    • In "Wild Harvest", the first Victim of the Week is tied up in a forest, doused with truffle oil, and left to be gored to death by a wild boar.
    • In "The Village That Rose from the Dead", one victim is killed by being constricted to death by pythons.
    • In "the Sting of Death", the first Victim of the Week is immobilised and then doused in a synthetic pheromone that beekeepers use as a swarm lure. This results in them being stung to death by a swarm of honeybees.
  • Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: In "Game, Set and Murder", the Victim of the Week is murdered by having a venomous spider placed in their shoe.
  • Monk:
    • In "Mr. Monk Is on the Air", it turns out that the killer, a Howard Stern-esque radio DJ, has trained the neighbor's dog to turn on the gas in the bedroom where his wife, the victim, slept whenever the dog hears a certain phrase during his radio broadcast.
    • In "Mr. Monk and the Panic Room", a man is found shot to death in his panic room along with his pet chimp, who's holding the murder weapon. The ape is (of course) the prime suspect, but the animal-loving Sharona insists that he is innocent. She's right.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: In the episode "Evil Eye of Egypt", a cobra is placed in a sarcophagus to bite the first person opening it. Naturally, this is blamed on a Curse of the Pharaoh.
  • The New Avengers: The villain in "Cat Among the Pigeons" uses controlled birds to kill in a variety of ways: chasing a victim over a cliff, birdstrike on an aeroplane, attack by falcon, etc.
  • In Once Upon a Time, Regina (in the fairy tale world) has a pair of Agrhaban vipers sent to her room to kill herself with (à la Cleopatra) until her lover, the Genie, suggests that there's another way. He uses the vipers to murder the king. It later turns out that she planned the whole thing.
  • Princess Agents: Yuwen Huai sends venomous snakes into Yuwen Yue's room. The assassination attempt fails when Chu Qiao arrives in time to stop them biting Yuwen Yue.
  • Pushing Daisies uses this trope in "Pie-lette" (a dog), "Bzzzzzt!" (bees) and "Kerplunk" (a Threatening Shark).
  • Quincy, M.E.: Quincy once finds a live coral snake inside a desk drawer. The police assume that it's this trope, and the work of someone put in prison by Quincy's testimony; Quincy himself points out that coral snakes' fangs are too short to easily envenomate a human being, and surmises that it was intended to scare him, not kill him.
  • In the special The Real Wolfman, the specialists believe at the end that a man had trained a hyena to attack women and children, while the villagers believe that it was a werewolf or a large wolf.
  • Red Dwarf: In "Stoke Me a Clipper", one of Those Wacky Nazis unleashes his pet alligator Snappy on Ace Rimmer, daredevil pilot and savior of many a dimension. Ace being, well, The Ace, he uses Snappy to air-surf away from an exploding plane, and has the gator kill his former owner so Ace can acquire his parachute. What a guy!
  • Rosemary & Thyme: In the episode "Racquet Espanol", a man is deathly allergic to insect bites, so his epi-pen is stolen, and an aggressive spider is placed in a water bottle hidden under a pillow. The hope is that it will look like an accident. This man has invested in a resort; the murderer wants the resort shut down so it could be sold to a different developer.
  • The title character of Sledge Hammer! is menaced by a cobra throughout an entire episode. The snake finally has him cornered when Sledge says "I've been wanting to do this for a long time" and clocks the snake in the face with a vicious right cross.
  • In the Starsky & Hutch episode "Satan's Witches", Starsky opens the refrigerator, and a rattlesnake falls out. Hutch picks it up with a blanket and throws it out the window.
  • In Terra Nova, someone is able to get someone else killed by locking up a Slasher and waiting for the guy to open the door.
  • Whodunnit? (UK): In "Happy New Year", the Victim of the Week is bitten by a venomous snake which the killer placed in his safe.
  • The X-Files: In "Die Hand Die Verletzt", Mrs. Paddock's school python is sent to kill one guy from the parents' committee.


    Myths & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology:
    • Older Than Feudalism: a vase (c. 480 BCE) and a poem by Pindar (476-472 BCE) are the first sources for the story of Hera sending serpents to kill the infant Heracles. Of course, it didn't work. Baby Herc just strangled the snakes and used them as rattles.
    • Hera later attempted to kill Heracles with a giant crab. Didn't work out either, but the crab got turned into the constellation Cancer.
    • Artemis (or Apollo, depending on the myth) had a bad day with Orion and had him assassinated by a scorpion. Both were turned into constellations.

  • In one episode of Bold Venture, a radio show starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, someone is murdered by having an enraged gamecock with razor sharp spurs on its face tossed onto them while they are asleep. Their face is slashed to ribbons and they bleed to death.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Traveller: In Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #12, Amber Zone article "Royal Hunt", the Evil Chancellor Hamir has arranged for attacks by two different types of animals on the Potentate and the PC party: the Delajabar, an amphibious animal that lives in the Dweljara river, and a small but highly venomous monster that will be inserted into the party's tents at night.

    Video Games 
  • Mentioned in Assassin's Creed II. A female Egyptian assassin eliminated Cleopatra with a planted snake.
  • In Blade Runner, this is done with (artificial) scorpions. Not only are they used to kill a major NPC, but the player character can also sit on one if you fail to see it (it's the same color as the chair, making it impossible to see).
  • Far Cry 3 employs this frequently. Many outposts that can be taken tend to have cages with deadly predators just waiting to be released, and sometimes the predator can simply come from the wild. Once set loose, that defenseless-looking tiger will rip through pirates like tissue paper, giving you the outpost without lifting a finger. However, the animal will still be there, and be more than happy to eat you next.
  • Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure The7th Stand User: In Chaos Mode (and with enough Bad Karma) the player can choose to "take care" of Mannish Boy by dropping a scorpion in his crib before handing him off to a doctor.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, you can fling scorpions at unwitting soldiers, watch them dance around in a panic, and then die from the poison. Shame on you for laughing.
  • Nancy Drew:
    • In Secrets of Shadow Ranch, Nancy's hosts at the ranch aren't there when she arrives, as a rattlesnake somehow got into their bedroom and sent one of them to the hospital. Possibly a subversion, as it's never confirmed that the culprit actually put it there.
    • In Lights, Camera, Curses!, the Show Within a Show movie Pharaoh supposedly ends when the female lead (playing Nefertiti) tries to murder someone with a venomous snake. The ophidiophobic actress who plays Nefertiti isn't pleased when the director insists that she hold a live (harmless) snake in this scene.
  • The plotline of Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon revolves around Tsukigata family, otherwise known as the 8th Fukoshi Clan, a lineage of assassins who use insects to kill.
  • In Super Robot Wars Alpha Gaiden, after Dekim Barton is defeated, Khamen Khamen deems him useless and promptly sneaks a king cobra to bite and kill him, without Khamen being on the place. It almost bites Isaac, but Haran Banjou shoots it dead in the nick of time.
  • In the Total War games, animals are sometimes used by Assassins in cutscenes — i.e., an assassin slipping a snake into someone's bed in Medieval II.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth has Sirhan Dogen, a blind assassin who's trained his guide dog Anubis to kill. When he's not instructing him to tear people limb from limb, Dogen dotes on Anubis, constantly petting his head and cooing to him; Abunis happily puts his paws on his master's chest and licks his face.


    Web Original 
  • Evil Overlord List item 119:
    "I will not attempt to kill the hero by placing a venomous creature in his room. It will just wind up accidentally killing one of my clumsy henchmen instead."
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-2549, "Animal Assassins", is a phenomenon that causes a random animal to attack and kill a random human.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • All Hail King Julien: In "Viva Mort", Becca and Abner send King Julien a scorpion in gift box.
  • In the Fangface episode "A Creep from the Deep", the international thief Grueller attempts to dispose of the meddling kids on his trail by sneaking a big constrictor snake onto their yacht.
    "This snake will take care of those kids."
  • Serpentor of G.I. Joe often throws live snakes as missile weapons. The show couldn't actually show anyone being bitten, so these allegedly venomous serpents wrap themselves around their targets' necks and choke them instead.
  • Jonny Quest:
    • In "The Fraudulent Volcano", Dr. Zin's mooks use a tarantula against Dr. Quest.
    • In "Riddle of the Gold", Dr. Zin's agent arranges for a tiger to attack Dr. Quest during a hunt.
    • In "The Curse of Anubis", Dr. Kareem sics a group of vipers on Dr. Quest and Race Bannon.
    • In Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures, a mook sneaks a spitting cobra into the hero's jet. It blinds Race, the pilot, nearly causing them to crash. Later, Hadji uses the cobra against the mook.
  • In a Minoriteam episode, the White Shadow laments that his goons keep attempting this.
    White Shadow: Honestly, why do we keep trying to kill these guys with snakes? Pound for pound, dollar for dollar, snakes have to be the worst way to kill someone!
  • Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog: In "Don't Give Up the Sheep", Ralph unleashes an Acme Wildcat against Sam. Naturally, the cat completely ignores Sam and tears into Ralph instead.
  • The Simpsons: In "The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase", Chief Wiggum is attacked by an alligator in his houseboat in New Orleans. Principal Skinner notes that the alligator was just a warning; its teeth have corks stuck to them.
  • The Venture Bros.:
    • The show humorously lampshades this trope. One mook releases a scorpion into Dr. Venture's room while he is sleeping just as a competing mook let a tarantula loose. Instead of killing their intended target, the two creatures just fight each other.
    • There's also an incident in which Dr. Venture checks his mail and opens a box containing a cobra, poised to strike. However, it turns out that the box was very old, and the cobra simply turns to dust.
    • The Monarch's solution to Dr. Venture's group therapy sessions taking away from their, er, time together: have Henchman #21 drop a venomous snake onto the therapist. Notably, it works.

    Real Life 
  • In 1978, Synanon, a drug rehabilitation program that soon became a cult, tried to have Paul Morantz, an attorney who successfully represented a woman who had been held against her will by the cult, killed with a rattlesnake in his mailbox that had had its rattles removed. Morantz's life was saved by prompt and extensive treatment with antivenom, and this incident, along with the lawsuits and bad press that Synanon was already facing, would spell the beginning of the end for the cult.
  • Some versions of the Assassin live-action game, as played on college campuses, allow this tactic. To make a "kill", the attacker must place a toy snake, spider, or scorpion in the target's bed, backpack, or the like; if anyone but the intended target finds the plastic or rubber Animal Assassin first, the "kill" fails.
  • An Indian man was sentenced to double life imprisonment in 2021 for murdering his wife by a cobra. He had hidden a cobra in her bed, where it bit her. The motive was a dispute over her dowry.