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The fear of animals, also known as zoophobia, is arguably one of the most common fears in the world. While the fear of all animals is rare, the fear of specific animals is common, especially among children. These fears vary by certain factors and by location and is usually centered on native animals that may or may not do the most harm. Researchers believe that one in five people will develop a fear of animals at some point in their life. The fear of spiders, birds, and bees are generally the most common experienced by the general population, with the fear of dogs and snakes also near the top of the list.
The severity of a phobia is typical centered on four factors: unpredictability, dangerousness, disgust, and uncontrollability. Animals that rank highest in these four categories are typically on the list of no-goes for those with a fear of animals. While those who experience true zoophobia, which is rare, take issue with all non-human animals, the vast majority of the population has an extreme dislike for one or more specific animals. The severity of the dislike, and associated symptoms such as trouble breathing and panic attacks, separate common fears from a phobia.
How common these fears are typically depends on the location. In the U.S., for example, where most people live in towns or cities, experience with dangerous animals may be much rarer than in other countries where dangerous animals are more of a part of daily life. The areas with a high population of dangerous animals tend to experience an increased rate of fear of animals. Dogs seem to stir up the most common feelings of fear in the U.S., as there is a large population of them and people encounter them often. In Australia, however, the most common fear of animals is arachnophobia because of the dangerous spider population in the area.
While one in five people are expected to develop a fear of one or more animals at some point in life, fear of animals is most common in small children, especially those under age 10. For children who typically possess a limited understanding of the world, the four factors that cause this fear are much more pronounced. While an adult may understand that a barking dog is only asking for a quick petting, a child may not. Although many children come to outgrow their fears, zoophobia is still one of the most common fears in adults.