The tale of the fox and the swan

PUBLISHED: 09:50 16 February 2007 | UPDATED: 22:34 28 May 2010

I heard an interesting tale recently from a couple of friends involving a fox and a mute swan, which I thought I d share with you this week. They were visiting some gravel pits close to Needingworth and spotted a fox lying dead on some short grass next to

I heard an interesting tale recently from a couple of friends involving a fox and a mute swan, which I thought I'd share with you this week.

They were visiting some gravel pits close to Needingworth and spotted a fox lying dead on some short grass next to one of the pits.

Closer inspection revealed that the animal, a fully-grown dog fox, had a mouthful of swan feathers, but they could spot no visible signs of injury anywhere on it.

It was in perfect condition, so their first impressions were ones of wondering what could possibly have happened to the wily predator.

They then spotted a mute swan swimming on the adjacent pit with a wound to the back of its neck and the mystery was solved.

The fox must have made an attack on the swan while it was on land and while trying to deliver the fatal bite to its neck, received a blow or, perhaps more likely, a series of blows from the swan.

It is said that swans wings can exert enough force to break a human's arm or leg, so these would seem to be the 'weapon' used in this instance.

I have never actually met anyone who has suffered the misfortune of having his or her limbs broken by a territorial swan, but I have certainly been chased before while unwittingly straying too close to a hidden nest or an out-of-sight party of cygnets.

I tried to do a bit of research to see how common it was for a fox to be killed by a mute swan.

I guessed it was quite an unusual occurrence, and I still haven't found any literature with evidence of this occurring.

No doubt it does happen, though, but when I have witnessed scuffles between foxes and swans, the fight has always ended in stalemate with the two going their separate ways and the fox going off with its tail firmly between its legs in search of an easier meal of a more manageable size.

Swans are more vulnerable when they are on land (as the individual in this case clearly was) and do not have the protective barrier of water to keep predators like foxes at bay.

Foxes can, and do swim, but they prefer to keep their feet dry whenever possible.


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