snopes.com Post new topic  Post a reply
search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hello snopes.com » Urban Legends » Critter Country » Arm-breaking swans

 - UBBFriend: Email this page to someone!    
Author Topic: Arm-breaking swans
snopes
Return! Return! Return!


Icon 86 posted      Profile for snopes   Author's Homepage   E-mail snopes       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Comment: In England a lot of people say that a swan can break your arm
with its wing. But it seems like the kind of thing that people just repeat
because they've heard other people say it, not because they actually know
for sure that it's true. How about that for an urban legend?
(Unfortunately I've no idea whether or not it's true, but I have heard it
about twenty times since my childhood. Certainly they get angry and hiss
if you go near them or their cygnets.)

Posts: 36029 | From: Admin | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Dutch Angua
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Dutch Angua   Author's Homepage     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Oh yes, they can...they can.

--------------------
Dude, where's my siggy?

Posts: 276 | From: Holland | Registered: Apr 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Hans Off
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Hans Off   E-mail Hans Off   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Was your's broken by a swan then?

--------------------
"British English speakers point to Americans adding more syllables so that they can make even more noise without actually saying anything." Llewtrah


Posts: 2235 | From: Sussex , UK | Registered: May 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Dutch Angua
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Dutch Angua   Author's Homepage     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Nope, but I've heard lots of things about it on our local news over the years.
But yeah, you're right, I shouldn't say anything without proof, should I? [Wink]

--------------------
Dude, where's my siggy?

Posts: 276 | From: Holland | Registered: Apr 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Jay Tea
The "Was on Sale" Song


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Jay Tea   E-mail Jay Tea   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
These from guardian.co.uk


quote:
As a kid I was told to keep away from swans as they can break your leg with their wing. Has this ever been recorded anywhere as actually happening?


My great uncle had his arm broken by a swan while canoeing on the canal near Gorton Manchester


From an incident two years ago i can vouch swans are quite capable of this. My freind and i were walking back to our residences in stirling when another student walking by the lake must have got too close to a nest by accident. The resulting attack by the mother swan was serious enough for hospital treatment, and a leg cast. whether the injury was caused by the wing or by the beak I couldnt tell you but the swan was pretty ferocious. I give them a wide berth now.


I've never heard of anyone's leg being broken by a swan, but my grandmother had her arm broken by one. She was a keen ornithologist and got too close to a pen on her nest, hence the attack and resulting injury. I don't know how old she was when the attack took place or if she suffered from brittle bones but it happened before I was born and she was in her late 50s when I came along.



--------------------
This is where I come up with something right? Something really clever...

Posts: 6552 | From: UK | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Elkhound
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Elkhound         Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Another bird which is more dangerous than most people realize is peafowl. I used to live down the street from someone who raised them, and they can be very aggressive.

--------------------
"The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart."--Iris Murdoch

Posts: 3307 | From: Charleston, WV | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Floater
Xboxing Day


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Floater   Author's Homepage   E-mail Floater   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
What about geese?

--------------------
Små hönor skall inte lägga stora ägg för då blir de slarviga i ändan

Posts: 1334 | From: Sweden | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
LadyLockeout
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


Icon 1 posted      Profile for LadyLockeout   Author's Homepage     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I don't know of anyone who has had broken bones from geese, but they gave me quite a few bruises on the farm. They weren't really trying, mind you, but ow anyway.

--------------------
Katesune: We still can't find the way to albuquerque, and glisp won't stop to ask for directions.
Glisp42: Of course not. I know where I'm going, I just don't know where I am right now

Twisted Links

Posts: 2599 | From: Texas | Registered: May 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Jimmy Jive
I Saw Three Shipments


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Jimmy Jive   E-mail Jimmy Jive   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I was told that a goose could break your finger with it's beak.

--------------------
Like Johnny says, I walk the line...

Posts: 87 | From: Toronto, Ontario, Canada | Registered: Jun 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
snopes
Return! Return! Return!


Icon 216 posted      Profile for snopes   Author's Homepage   E-mail snopes       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Comment: I have often heard that a Swan can break someones arm with a flap
of their wings - or that this had happened to someone in the past and was
being repeated as a cautionary tale. But I was wondering if a swan were
that powerful or if there were any verifiable events of this actually
happening as it seems unlikely.

Posts: 36029 | From: Admin | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
geminilee
The First USA Noel


Icon 101 posted      Profile for geminilee   E-mail geminilee   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
"I heard that a swan can break a man's arm with a blow of its nose"

ETA: [Big Grin]

--------------------
"Accompanied by the ghosts of dolphins, the ghost of a ship sailed on..." Terry Pratchett

Posts: 660 | From: Gainesville, FL | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Troberg
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Troberg     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I don't believe this at all. Several reasons:

* I've seen plenty of angry swans (it's a cruel joke of nature that they were created as swans, in their own mind, they are eagles). They attack by first warning by standing up in the water, spreading their wings, burring up their feathers, streching their necks straight up and hiss. Then they attack by striking with the beak. A friend of mine took an excellent photo of a swan just when it strikes at the camera, it's a huge open beak, a looooong neck and a small body far away. They do not attack with the wings.

* Bird bones are hollow with some internal struts (which, in this case is a somewhat funny joke in Swedish). This makes them light, but also more prone to breaking. A swan striking a human arm with its wing is more likely to break his wing than the arm.

* Height. In most cases, the arm is too high for the wing to hit it effectively.

* Swans are not predators. They don't really attack, they defend. They try to scare the opponent first (which worked quite well for my mother's dogs), and when they eventually get pushed into attacking, it's a quick pinch just to show that they mean business. If pushed beyond that, they flee.

I've been attacked by a swan when swimming around a boat in a lake. It was deep water, so I used the rubber dingy to hang onto to rest. When the swan came, I at first tried to keep the dingy between us, but when that failed, I tipped the dingy upside down and dived under it. Reaching under the swan, I grabbed its feet and gave them a light tug. That scared it enough to flee in panic.

--------------------
/Troberg

Posts: 4360 | From: Borlänge, Sweden | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Major D. Saster
The First USA Noel


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Major D. Saster         Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I've heard that story many times, too, although I can't remember of any actual case. I live by a lake with a large swan population, and all I can tell is that I wouldn't give a try... especially now, as close proximity with wild birds is to be avoided.

The only time I was really confronted with a swan was several years ago. I was having a picnic with friends by the lake of Thun, and a whole bunch of ducks came out of the water and litterally surrounded us because they were interested by our sandwiches. Their proceedings caught the attention of a large swan, which came straight at us. Upon our refusal to feed it, the bloody beast pinched one of my friends in the back. Whereupon this guy, who's quite the daring type, grabbed the swan by the beak and held it firmly. The swan pulled back as hard as it could. Then, my friend suddenly let loose, and the swan fell arse over head. The big mean bird was so humiliated it went back into the water and swam away...

Result : no broken arm, and a swan with a damaged ego.

--------------------
Desperate, but not serious.

Posts: 689 | From: Confoederatio Helvetica | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Floater
Xboxing Day


Icon 215 posted      Profile for Floater   Author's Homepage   E-mail Floater   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Nowadays they don't have to resort to violence. They just sneeze in your general direction. [Razz]

--------------------
Små hönor skall inte lägga stora ägg för då blir de slarviga i ändan

Posts: 1334 | From: Sweden | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
00-Saleen
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for 00-Saleen     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I think I remember reading that Audobon got his arm broken by an angry goose, but I don't recall the source.

The best way to grab them is around the neck. They'll go anywhere you drag them. [Razz]

Posts: 239 | From: Tennessee | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Squishy0405
Wii Wiish You A Merry Chriistmas


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Squishy0405   Author's Homepage   E-mail Squishy0405   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
This reminds me of Fabio and the goose, but that was on a rollercoaster. Bet THAT goose was mad!

--------------------
"Fate is like a strange, unpopular resturant, filled with odd waiters who bring you things you never ask for and don't always like."-Lemony Snicket

Posts: 1119 | From: Bronx, NY | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
CU84
Ron Mexico


Icon 1 posted      Profile for CU84   E-mail CU84   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Chuck Norris could kick that goose's ass.
Posts: 10 | From: South Carolina | Registered: Apr 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Rexodus
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Rexodus     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I disagree, Troberg.
quote:
Originally posted by Troberg:
* ...They do not attack with the wings.


Sure they do. Here's primary source documentation. The paper linked describes constraints on the timing of wing molting in tundra swans, and one listed constraint is the need for strong wings for beating when defending new cygnets.
quote:
* Bird bones are hollow with some internal struts (which, in this case is a somewhat funny joke in Swedish). This makes them light, but also more prone to breaking. A swan striking a human arm with its wing is more likely to break his wing than the arm.

While it's true that swan bones (at least the ones in their wings) are hollow, they're very tough to break. That makes sense when you think about the force they have to withstand during flight. And (a bit off topic) a flute carved from a swan bone survived intact for 35,000 years in Germany.
quote:
* Height. In most cases, the arm is too high for the wing to hit it effectively.

Trumpeter swans and mute swans stand about 4 feet high with a wingspan of about 7 feet. Tundra swans are slightly smaller - about 3 feet high and a wingspan of 6 feet. Still, that gets them within range, especially if the attackee is bending down to harass one.
quote:
* Swans are not predators. They don't really attack, they defend. They try to scare the opponent first (which worked quite well for my mother's dogs), and when they eventually get pushed into attacking, it's a quick pinch just to show that they mean business. If pushed beyond that, they flee.

A solitary adult swan might give up readily, but a parent defending its cygnets is much more likely to put up a fight. (See the cite given above.) Some stories of swans injuring people also involve wounded swans and hunters or their dogs. A swan with one wing shot off has little to lose in defending itself.

--------------------
"Your name is Thurmon Mermon?"

Posts: 244 | From: Chicago, IL | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Jay Tea
The "Was on Sale" Song


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Jay Tea   E-mail Jay Tea   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Rexodus has it.

I do think the awesome power of the swan is down largely to modern folk tales, which themselves evolve into our beloved ULs, but swans for years were part of my daily life, and clumsy they may be on land, but only recently I witnessed an embittered fully grown mute lunge for a wrapped white sliced loaf on a bench - the people on the bench scarpered and a wee dog yelped into the fray!

The swan flapped, physically and metaphorically and I swear it knocked an admittedly ancient park bench to three bits - these things can unleash a can of whoop-ass of their own and when they punch those muscles through those wings? Well, broken bones is one thing, but there is little doubt that those wings pack a whallop [Wink]

--------------------
This is where I come up with something right? Something really clever...

Posts: 6552 | From: UK | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Bunion
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Bunion     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I had heard this same story, except the bird was a goose. It was some story in a newspaper or a magazine about how people use geese for guard "dogs" at their houses. I have repeated that same tale, but no idea how factually correct it is.

Bunion

--------------------
You get more of what you want with a kind word and a gun then you do with a kind word alone.

Posts: 44 | From: Columbia, SC | Registered: Mar 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
DadOf3
Jingle Bell Hock


Icon 1 posted      Profile for DadOf3     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Has anyone here ever read "Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction"? If so, you'll understand why this thread makes me laugh.
Posts: 539 | From: Nova Scotia | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Dutch Angua
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Dutch Angua   Author's Homepage     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
It was some story in a newspaper or a magazine about how people use geese for guard "dogs" at their houses. I have repeated that same tale, but no idea how factually correct it is.
Well, I know geese make a heckload of noise when someone gets onto 'their' land. Enough to wake you up.

--------------------
Dude, where's my siggy?

Posts: 276 | From: Holland | Registered: Apr 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
christmas tree kitapper
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


Icon 1 posted      Profile for christmas tree kitapper     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Bunion:
I had heard this same story, except the bird was a goose. It was some story in a newspaper or a magazine about how people use geese for guard "dogs" at their houses. I have repeated that same tale, but no idea how factually correct it is.

Bunion

My father says that farmers in Illinois used to do so, and a friend of mine in Wisconsin says the same about Wisconsin farmers. Geese are mean and noisy.

--------------------
"I have never in my life been more disappointed by a politician I voted for than I have been with George Bush. He is a total liberal."- overheard by me on the shuttle to the U of A game on Nov. 11th.

Posts: 3878 | From: Tucson, AZ | Registered: Jan 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Stoneage Dinosaur
We Wish You a Merry Giftmas


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Stoneage Dinosaur   E-mail Stoneage Dinosaur   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Dutch Angua:
quote:
It was some story in a newspaper or a magazine about how people use geese for guard "dogs" at their houses. I have repeated that same tale, but no idea how factually correct it is.
Well, I know geese make a heckload of noise when someone gets onto 'their' land. Enough to wake you up.
Historian Livy wrote about how Rome was saved from the Gauls by a flock of geese in 390BC - the geese were disturbed by the invaders during the night and their loud honking alerted the Romans to their presence.

--------------------
"You learn something new every day if you're not careful" - Wilf Lunn

Posts: 893 | From: Durham City, England | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Ganzfeld
Let There Be PCs on Earth


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Ganzfeld     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
There is supposedly a prison in Brazil that relies on geese as guard dogs. Whenever a person enters the area outside the wall where the geese live, they rush up to him and quack very loudly. It looks intimidating. Anyway, they showed it on TV and we all know how accurate TV is! But it looked pretty real.
Posts: 4922 | From: Kyoto, Japan | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Brad from Georgia
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Brad from Georgia   Author's Homepage   E-mail Brad from Georgia   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Don't Sicilian swans break the kneecaps of people who owe then money?

--------------------
"No hard feelin's and HOPpy New Year!"--Walt Kelly
Hear what you're missing: ARTC podcasts! http://artcpodcast.org/

Posts: 7581 | From: Gainesville, Georgia | Registered: Jun 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Rexodus
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Rexodus     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
No, but you shouldn't go up against them when death is on the line.

Or so I've heard.

--------------------
"Your name is Thurmon Mermon?"

Posts: 244 | From: Chicago, IL | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
BizzarroBuffy
Turkey Largo


Icon 1 posted      Profile for BizzarroBuffy   E-mail BizzarroBuffy   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Up here we have gangs of urban wild turkeys. They like to terrorize the teenagers.
Posts: 31 | From: Bizzarro Ontario Canada | Registered: Mar 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Tabby Cat
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Tabby Cat     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
The most aggressive fowl I've met have been geese or domestic duck/geese hybrids. Given one particular speciman was able to grab the hem of my shirt (I'm about 5'7), was around 60-70cm from chest to tail and had no compuctions about biting a had to make it drop food, I can see how they might make good guard animals. There's a reason I stay away from the lake near my uni.

I'm not sure about the swan wings, but I could see how it could possibly happen. Especially if we're talking bout one of the larger species - muscles used to fly long distance in a bird that large are pretty damn powerful.

Posts: 12 | From: Brisbane, QLD, Australia | Registered: Mar 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Kindly Wise
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


Icon 216 posted      Profile for Kindly Wise   E-mail Kindly Wise   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Perhaps, what with scurvy and rickets and all, people used to have more fragile bones?

All I know is that from an angry goose there are softer parts of my body I would more likely protect.

--------------------
Beati caseusarii

Posts: 103 | From: Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada | Registered: Oct 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
mommyrex
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for mommyrex     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Not about the wings, or even swans, but on the general topic:
One of the many, many geese at my former place of employment attacked an employee in the parking lot, causing him to fall and injure his wrist. Last I heard, he still had only about 30% range of motion in that wrist.

The company decided they needed to keep the geese off the parking lot, but they didn't want to do anything that would be seen as mean. So they acquired a sheepdog that had been trained to herd geese, and had her keep the geese on the grassy parts of the campus, away from people. The dog lived with one of the maintenance engineers, and she came to work whenever needed.

--------------------
We also ask that you follow the guidelines above and try not to over-think these guidelines.
- the transportation safety administration's permitted and prohibited items air travel list

Posts: 240 | From: Kansas | Registered: Oct 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Rexodus
Deck the Malls


Icon 505 posted      Profile for Rexodus     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Mommyrex, check out the thread in Wild Kingdom about angry geese at a Toys R Us.

--------------------
"Your name is Thurmon Mermon?"

Posts: 244 | From: Chicago, IL | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.

Instant Graemlins
   


Post new topic  Post a reply Close topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Urban Legends Reference Pages

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2