RANKED: Apes, And How Scared I Am Of Them

Catty Donnelly
Published in
4 min readDec 11, 2018


NOT SCARED — Gibbons

Please stop crying.

Gibbons are the one variety of ape that barely made the cut, both in terms of fear and in terms of Ape. They probably should’ve just been classified as monkeys but they’re so soft and benign-looking that I bet the Gorillas and other apes couldn’t say no to them (but apparently still stuck them in a category called “Lesser Apes”, because fuck them I guess). Do I think Gibbons could still hurt me? Unquestionably. But for every picture on google where one is baring its sharp teeth, there are 20 where they just look extremely depressed, and if I really search my heart I can name individual dogs that frightened me more. I’m sorry you’re so sad and small, Gibbons.

MILDLY SCARED — Australopithecus, Homo Erectus, Neanderthals, etc.

“What’s that sound? Does someone…need to be broken?” ( Michael Hagelberg / ASU Research Magazine)

These guys are all dead, so I’m not really shitting myself over them. Plus, on the off-chance science was able to clone one, they would probably only get as far as the nearest Shake Shack before being hit by a car or shot — and this city has an absurd number of Shake Shacks. That said, they were good hunters, had powerful bodies, and might’ve had brains that could rival ours. Mostly I’m just glad that we’re the only species perfect enough in god’s eyes to produce ghosts, because Neanderthal ghosts would probably hunt foppish, sobbing Victorian ghosts for sport.

SCARED — Humans

Tim Allen, an example of Humanity’s malevolence. (ABC)

At first I figured Humans would be higher on my list, what with all the wars and senseless cruelty. But, on the other hand, I’m constantly around them and I don’t freak out about them unless they’re carrying weapons or smile exactly the same way in all of their selfies. I am also one of them, so I have a lot of first-hand knowledge about their behavior. Ultimately, if a human ever “went ape” and killed me I’d obviously be upset, but I wouldn’t be shocked. I’d probably just be thinking, “yeah, this makes sense” as I bled out.

VERY SCARED — Orangutans

Oh my god. (centerforgreatapes)

Orangutans are probably the first extant ape that I would whisper “fuck” about if I were to be alone in a room with one. They seem relatively docile, but they’re also large, and increased size means you’re fully subject to their mercurial whims. Also I heard that male orangutans’ faces swell up when they become the dominant one of the group, which is technically body horror. The only reason I’m not more scared of them is because they only live in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra and I barely leave my house.


No. (Craig Lovell/Eagle Visions Photography/Alamy)

Gorillas are kind of just chimps that got extremely buff. And like, chimps already possessed absurd, super-human strength. I’m mortified! They are also very likely to participate in elaborate deception campaigns with humans who want to convince us a gorilla can learn English so that the human can sell t-shirts about it. That’s not scary, per se, but it is a crime.


While searching for an image to use here I learned that chimps often form groups to murder their own. If you were curious. (Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images)

In the 90’s, we produced a ton of direct-to-video movies where chimpanzees wore backwards baseball caps and people carried them around like babies. But then in the early 2000’s a rash of headlines came out where illegal pet chimps completely obliterated their owners for looking at them wrong and we all grew up a little bit. This is the sin of Chimps, and why I rank them higher than Gorillas — theirs is a deceptive malice.

Somehow, even though I thoroughly distrust them, I still get sad when people kill chimpanzees for a bad reason, like when we shoot them for looking at us wrong. I guess, in that way, we’re not so different.


I have no words for how this image makes me feel. (ucumari photography)

I was originally going to put these at the top of the list because I thought they were apes but I guess they’re not. They are essentially the wasps of the monkey world, though, to the point where even primatologists say these boys mean business. Whereas any of the apes might get distracted by their own belly button or a fleeting wistfulness, baboons have a laser-focused hatelook that’s like, “go ahead. Fuck up. Give me a reason”. The only baboon I was never afraid of was Rafiki from The Lion King, but that film was not based on real biology and actual baboons are incapable of wisdom or love. As such, I can pretty confidently say that I am anxious about every single baboon that exists.