10 Best Animal Horror Books of All Time


What are the 10 best animal horror books that have shaped our thinking of animals in the horror story?

Compiling a list of the 10 best animal horror books of all time was extremely difficult. I had a few titles that immediately jumped to mind and then . . . nothing.


You'd think that animal horror would be abundant -- after all, a bad dog is a lot easier to accept than the animated, hungry, dead.

Except that usually, animals do not make good sources of conflict. Unless you modify the animal with hyper intelligence (as in Dean Koontz's Watchers) or anthropomorphize them (as Richard Adams did in The Plague Dogs), they don't have the ability to consciously come into conflict as the protagonist or antagonist.

For those of us who took a creative writing class, Man vs. Nature is the weakest of the conflict possibilities because nature (animals, weather, geological phenomena, outer space, etc) does not actively set itself against the protagonist to prevent him or her from achieving their goal. Nature just . . . happens.

Thus it can be difficult to create the kind of conflict a writer need t keep a reader glued to the page.

Difficult . . . but not impossible.

The authors below have tacked the challenge and in their own way, over came the limitations in Man vs Nature and told a gripping horror story.

Stephen King did this with rabies in Cujo. In Jaws, Peter Benchley didn't bother to explain the great white shark's motivation.

In the Ratman's Notebooks, Stephen Gilbert's unnamed notebook writer trains the rats to carry out his will. In Michael Crichton's Congo, Amy is a gorilla who has learned more sign language than any other before her -- she is instrumental in helping the scientific party when they encounter the strange white haired, hyper intelligent gorilla-like creatures lurking deep in the jungle.

In Jack Ketchum's Red, Red is the dog who is killed which precipitates a growing war between the Red's owner and the pampered rich kids who are incapable of valuing any life other than their own. In Red, it is the humans who are the monsters.

Here you go. Animals as protagonists, animals as antagonists and animals as the inciting incident that leads to much horror. So grab a book, sit back and enjoy a good story with that beloved pet curled up in your lap.

Attention Rifflers: Riffle now has Discussions Boards. Click on the link below the list to tell me what you think of my selections. Do you agree? Disagree? Have suggestions? Wanna just talk about it?

This book list is now complete -- no more titles will be added. Published 8/7/2015.

Updated 8/29/2017 -- updated the book list post again.

-- Gregory Fisher, Riffle Horror Editor and Undead Rat