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Steve Irwin wasn’t afraid of many things. That’s part of what made the late reality show star, who fans affectionately nicknamed, “The Crocodile Hunter,” such a popular staple on television. With his upbeat personality and unmatched enthusiasm for exploring the animal kingdom, Steve Irwin was a true legend.

Steve Irwin
Steve Irwin | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Part of what made Steve Irwin so famous was his fearlessness. Audiences couldn’t look away as he casually grabbed onto crocodiles, manhandling them like they were no more dangerous than newborn kittens. It was exhilarating and a little nerve-racking to watch the Crocodile Hunter in action — always in his trademark khaki ensemble, of course.

But despite his name and his blatant disregard for the rules of nature, it wasn’t a croc who killed Steve Irwin. It also wasn’t the one animal that Irwin admitted he was scared of.

Steve Irwin had so many reasons to say ‘Crikey!’

One of the things American audiences loved most about Steve Irwin was that he hailed from Australia and wasn’t afraid to show it in his words and mennerisms. Born in Melbourne, Irwin grew up with animals. His parents owned a wildlife park which is now called Australia Zoo, so he was always around animals. Young Steve Irwin was handling crocodiles in his youth and even received a live python for his ninth birthday.

Steve Irwin
Steve Irwin | Australia Zoo via Getty Images

The famous television show The Crocodile Hunter first aired in 1992, in Australia. In four short years it became so popular that the American television network Animal Planet picked it up, making Steve Irwin a household name in the United States. Even though he didn’t have a formal degree, Irwin was clearly a wildlife expert. People couldn’t get enough.

A tragic accident caused Steve Irwin’s death

Steve Irwin was filming a new show off the coast of Port Douglas, Queensland on September 4, 2006, when things quickly took a dire turn. Irwin was snorkeling right next to a stingray when it unexpectedly stung him right in the heart. Irwin died of cardiac arrest shortly after.

The world was shocked and saddened to learn that the 44-year-old wildlife expert had died. Fans inundated the Australia Zoo with cards and flowers to show their deep sympathy.

After years wrestling crocodiles, it was shocking to see Irwin taken down by a stingray. Especially considering that wasn’t the animal he truly feared.

Steve Irwin with family
Steve Irwin with his family | Australia Zoo via Getty Images

Steve Irwin admitted he feared hippos

Irwin wasn’t afraid of crocodiles or snakes. He didn’t fear stingrays, though he probably should have. But one animal he was wary of all along? Hippos.

The Crocodile Hunter admitted his fears while filming for his show in Zambia. When Steve Irwin encountered a pair of hippos in the wild, he allegedly turned to the production crew and said, “Hey, I don’t want anything to do with this, guys!” while steering clear of the gigantic wild animals.

Hippo | Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images

What exactly made fearless Steve Irwin so scared? Most people don’t realize that hippos are extremely territorial and will quickly turn violent if they feel their space is being threatened. “They don’t go out and hunt humans, but if you encounter them on the way back to the water and you are in between, then you have to make a plan,” conservation ecologist Johan Eksteen explained. A hippo could trample a person or bite them, both of which could prove fatal.

In the end, Steve Irwin should have been less worried about hippos and more about stingrays. At least he died doing what he loved — communing with nature and getting up close with wild animals.