Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 344–349 | Cite as

Post-mortem decapitation by domestic dogs: three case reports and review of the literature

  • C. Buschmann
  • B. Solarino
  • K. Püschel
  • F. Czubaiko
  • S. Heinze
  • M. Tsokos
Case Report


Post-mortem animal depredation is not an uncommon phenomenon in routine forensic autopsies. We present three cases of complete post-mortem decapitation by domestic German shepherd dogs. In two cases, the head had been bitten off, defleshed and left lying near the body, while in one case it had been completely devoured by two dogs; only small skull fragments and crowned teeth could be found. Two of the three bodies were putrefied; all dog bite injuries had been inflicted after death. The cause of death was drug toxicity in two cases and fatal hemorrhage from ruptured esophageal varices in one case. These rare injuries due to post-mortem animal depredation are discussed in the light of earlier studies and case reports.


Domestic dogs German shepherd dogs Post-mortem injuries Animal depredation Decapitation Autopsy 


  1. 1.
    Reuhl J, Urban R, Bratzke H, Willnat M. Tödliche Hundebisse im Sektionsgut rechtsmedizinischer Institute. Ergebnisse einer Fragebogenaktion. Rechtsmedizin. 2001;11:411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    De Munnynck K, Van de Voorde W. Forensic approach of fatal dog attacks: a case report and literature review. Int J Legal Med. 2002;116:295–300.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Tsokos M, Byard RW, Püschel K. Extensive and mutilating craniofacial trauma involving defleshing and decapitation. Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2007;28:131–6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Hayase T, Yamamoto K, Yamamoto Y. An unusual case of extensive cadaver ingestion by a domestic dog. Arch Kriminol. 1994;194:177–81.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Pötsch-Schneider L, Endris R. Postmortale Hundebißspuren und Leichenfraß. Kriminalistik. 1984;8:351–3.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Rossi ML, Shahrom AW, Chapman RC, Vanezis P. Post-mortem injuries by indoor pets. Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 1994;15:105–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Buschmann C, Wrobel D, Tsokos M. Post-mortem animal depredation of the genital region caused by a half-breed dog. Arch Kriminol. 2008;222:182–6.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Tsokos M, Koops E, Püschel K. Post-mortem dog bites after sexually motivated homicide with multiple stab wounds—differential diagnostic aspects. Arch Kriminol. 2000;206:30–7.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Weiler G. Cadaver destruction through dog- and lion bites. Arch Kriminol. 1978;162:108–14.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Grellner W, Meyer E, Fechner G. Simulation of attempted homicide by dog bite in unconscious state. Arch Kriminol. 1998;201:165–71.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Mätzsch T, Kleiber M. Simulation of a sexual crime through the effects of animals. Arch Kriminol. 1979;164:78–82.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Mortinger H, Missliwetz J. Forensically important penis injuries. Beitr Gerichtl Med. 1989;47:619–23.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Luff K. Tod durch Hundebisse oder postmortale Zerfleischung? Dtsch Z Ges Gerichtl Med. 1955;44:204–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Benecke M. Besiedlung durch Gliedertiere. In: Brinkmann B, Madea B, editors. Handbuch gerichtliche Medizin 1. Berlin/Heidelberg/New York: Springer; 2004. p. 170–87.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Berg S, Mueller B, Schleyer F. Tierfraß. In: Mueller B, editor. Gerichtliche Medizin, teil 1. Berlin/Heidelberg/New York: Springer; 1975. p. 80–6.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Böhmer K. Postmortale Zerstörung durch Tiere und Rattenbiß am Lebenden. Z Med Beamte. 1925;38(/47):213–8.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Haglund W. Contribution of rodents to post-mortem artifacts of bone and soft tissues. J Forensic Sci. 1992;37:1459–65.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Patel F. Artefact in forensic medicine: post-mortem rodent activity. J Forensic Sci. 1994;39:257–60.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Knight B. Forensic pathology. 2nd ed. London/Sydney, Auckland: Arnold; 1996. p. 75–6.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Mant AK. Post-mortem injuries: post-mortem injuries inflicted by animal. In: Tedeschi CG, Eckert WG, Tedeschi LG, editors. Forensic medicine, vol. 2. Philadelphia: Saunders; 1977. p. 1067–9.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Sperhake J, Tsokos M. Post-mortem bite injuries cause by a domestic cat. Arch Kriminol. 2001;208:114–9.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Mätzler A. Von Hunden getötet und angefressen. Kriminalistik. 1983;37:634–6.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Mittmeyer HJ, Staak HJ, Kraemer R. Wound pattern and identification problems in dog bites. Arch Kriminol. 1976;157:172–8.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Rothschild MA, Schneider V. On the temporal onset of post-mortem animal scavenging—“Motivation” of the animal. Forensic Sci Int. 1997;89:57–64.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Schneider V. Farbatlas der Rechtsmedizin. Stuttgart/New York: Gustav Fischer; 1991. p. 152–5.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Schumann M, Nolte I, Huckenbeck W, Barz J. Post-mortem animal injury—a few hours after death? Rechtsmedizin. 1996;7:22–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Tsokos M, Schulz F. Indoor post-mortem animal interference by carnivores and rodents: report of two cases and review of the literature. Int J Legal Med. 1999;112:115–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Tsokos M, Schulz F, Püschel K. Unusual injury pattern in a case of post-mortem animal depredation by a domestic German shepherd. Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 1999;20:247–50.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Rothschild MA, Karger B. Postmortaler Tierfraß durch Wirbeltiere. In: Brinkmann B, Madea B, editors. Handbuch gerichtliche Medizin 1. Berlin/Heidelberg/New York: Springer; 2004. p. 187–91.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Schmeling A, Schmidt S, Hartwig S, Geserick G. Decapitation due to early post-mortem canine gnawing. Arch Kriminol. 2004;214:86–92.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Verzeletti A, Cortellini V, Vassalini M. Post-mortem injuries by a dog: a case report. J Forensic Leg Med. 2010;17:216–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Ropohl D, Scheithauer R, Pollak S. Post-mortem injuries inflicted by a domestic golden hamster: morphological aspects and evidence by DNA typing. Forensic Sci Int. 1995;72:81–90.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Romain N, Brandt-Casadevall C, Dimo-Simonin N, Michaud K, Mangin P, Papilloud J. Post-mortem castration by a dog: a case report. Med Sci Law. 2002;42:269–71.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Pollak S, Nadjem H, Faller-Marquardt M. Agonal dog bite injuries. Beitr Gerichtl Med. 1992;50:351–6.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Möttönen M, Nuutila M. Post-mortem injury caused by domestic animals, crustaceans and fish. In: Tedeschi CG, Eckert WG, Tedeschi LG, editors. Forensic medicine, vol. 2. Philadelphia: Saunders; 1977. p. 1096–8.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Brand A. Tierfraß zwei Stunden nach Todeseintritt. Kriminalistik. 1977;31:124–5.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Brettel HF, Luff K. Aggressive behavior of dogs towards their keeper. Arch Kriminol. 1973;151:49–51.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Rupp WR, Eusemann J, Faller-Marquardt M. Early post-mortem animal bites after suicidal gunshot wound to the head of a police dog handler. Arch Kriminol. 2001;207:73–80.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Grzimek B. Tötung eines Menschen durch einen befreundeten Hund. Z Tierpsychol. 1953;10:71–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Byard RW, Tsokos M. Forensic issues in cases of Diogenes’ syndrome. Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2007;28:177–81.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Byard RW, Gilbert JD. Characteristic features of deaths due to decapitation. Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2004;25:129–30.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Byard RW, James RA, Gilbert JD. Diagnostic problems associated with cadaveric trauma from animal activity. Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2002;23:238–44.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Buschmann
    • 1
  • B. Solarino
    • 2
  • K. Püschel
    • 3
  • F. Czubaiko
    • 4
  • S. Heinze
    • 1
  • M. Tsokos
    • 1
  1. 1.University Medical Centre Charité—University of BerlinInstitute of Legal Medicine and Forensic SciencesBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Section of Legal MedicineUniversity of BariBariItaly
  3. 3.Department of Forensic MedicineUniversity Medical Centre Hamburg-EppendorfHamburgGermany
  4. 4.Criminal Investigation DepartmentHomicide DivisionBremenGermany

Personalised recommendations