Stranger Fruit

Rowing … with swans

This made me laugh if only because I used to row back in Ireland:

In Ireland, it is not uncommon for university rowing teams to cancel practice
because there is a swan in the river. Rowing teams tend to be composed of men
who are built like very large trees. Trees that bench-press Volvos. These men
are terrified of swans, probably due to a grizzled old rowing coach, always
looking on from the shore, a bill-shaped scar where his left eye used to be.

FWIW, I can’t bench press a Volvo. Never could.


  1. #1 J-Dog
    March 30, 2008

    Good stuff. I didn’t know that Platypuses were poisonous, or that swans are so agressive, so thanks for the heads up.

  2. #2 Russell
    March 30, 2008

    Swans are sweet birds. It’s the Canadian geese that one has to watch.

  3. #3 Monado
    March 30, 2008

    Hmph. Hippos not only kill people, they bite them in two. Sometimes they capsize canoes so they can get at the people.

    Swans are bullies. Smakes lets information snap into place so the world makes sense: that pretty wings-up pose is a threat posture.

    Someone should tell the editors at that platypuses are not poisonous, they’re venomous.

  4. #4 Monado
    March 30, 2008

    Editing error of my own: Swans…. Science lets information snap into place so the world makes sense.

    “Preview is your freins^h^h^h^h^h^h friend.”

  5. #5 Anne-Marie
    March 30, 2008

    I can relate to their fears, swans are beautiful but also belligerent. I was attacked by a male swan one time, it broke one of my fingers and I had really severe bruising on my torso from where it hit me with its wings…talk about traumatic childhood experiences…

  6. #6 John Mashey
    March 30, 2008

    This actually doesn’t seem so unreasonable … after seeing a Mythbusters episode in which, to their astonishment, their experiments supported that idea that elephants are afraid of (or at least nervous bout) mice.

  7. #7 jeff
    March 30, 2008

    Swan are not mice. They are very aggressive birds, as others have mentioned. They don’t back down – ever. If you’re an average 200lb male, you’ll probably be Ok. Just don’t let them near your eyes.

  8. #8 jeff
    March 30, 2008

    BTW, I should mention that swans are not only aggressive to humans. My relatives had a pond with a few swans, and I’ve seen them systematically exterminate all the offspring of any canadian geese that tried to breed there. The males just hunt them all down and kill them with incredible determination – 18 hours a day, if they have to. For some reason, they tolerate mallards and wood ducks.

    They will also attack any humans that get too close, especially during mating season. They’ll chase you if they can (although they’re very slow on land). I’ve been attacked several times. One swan would not back down even after I almost killed it with a canoe paddle. Sounds funny, doesn’t it? But it’s not funny when it happens. A few years ago, an eighty year old norwegian woman was killed by a swan.

  9. #9 John Mashey
    March 30, 2008

    #7 jeff:
    Sorry, my comment on mice wasn’t meant to belittle the idea that swans could be really tough, but to (humorously) amplify it.

    I grew up on a farm. Some ducks could be fierce, geese were worse, and I’d believe swans were tougher yet. Certainly our cats had no trouble with mice, didn’t bother the ducks very often, and stayed away from geese, and would probably have quickly run away from swans.

  10. #10 wrpd
    March 31, 2008

    I once worked in a building that had an artificial lake on its campus. My office overlooked the lake. Our company bought a pair of swans to swim in the lake. Everyone thought they were cute. Then Canada geese stopped by. Day after day we would watch the swans kick the shit out of the geese. They were vicious; blood and feathers were flying everywhere. The area around the lake was littered with dead and dying geese. One day the swans disappeared. We were hoping they were dead, but we found out that they had decided to move to a bigger lake about a quarter mile from our campus.
    When I was two my grandmother had a pet duck. She had a little duck house but she was allowed to run loose on the extensive property. The duck hated me. She was very friendly with other people but she hated me. It was hate at first sight. I never did anything to provoke her. Visits to grandma were extremely traumatic. The entire time we were there–sometimes for weeks–the duck would stalk me and then chase me around the property as soon as I stepped outside the house. Looking back I can see a certain cartoonish humor in this, like Buggs Bunny blowing up Daffy Duck–hysterical to see in a cartoon but horrific in real life–but my family found it very amusing. I never could understand why some adults could consider terrorizing a small real child could be funny.

  11. #11 Ford
    March 31, 2008

    The link is interesting but has one serious error. The animal that kills the most people in Africa each year is not the hippo, but the mosquito. Humans are second.

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