The power of the moon is often used to explain a wide range
of events - from human insanity to traffic accidents - but
do animals feel more inclined to bite humans during the full
moon than at other times? Two new studies have come up with
This week's British Medical Journal (BMJ) carries two studies
- one from the UK which finds that you are more likely to
be bitten by a dog when the moon is full, and a study from
Australia which finds that you're not.
A study by Professor Simon Chapan and Stehen Morrell of The
University of Sydney showed no positive relation between the
full moon and dog bites requiring hospital treatment. They
compared dates of admission for dog bites to public hospitals
throughout Australia with dates of the full moon, over a 12-month
Overall, full moon days were associated with slightly lower
admissions (4.6 compared with 4.8 per day). Of 18 peak days
(more than 10 admissions per day) the maximum peak centred
on the New Year break. Full moons coincided with none of these
A study by a team in Bradford, UK on the other hand, has
found that animals do have an increased propensity to bite
humans during the full moon periods. During 1997 to 1999,
they identified 1,621 patients attending the accident and
emergency department at Bradford Royal Infirmary after being
bitten by an animal.
The chance of being bitten was twice as high on or around
full moon days, indicating that an association exists between
the lunar cycles and changes in animal behaviour. However,
the authors suggest that further experiments are needed to
verify these results.
So why the difference between the UK and Australia? Are dogs
in the UK more aggressive?
"The only explanation I have is that maybe because of
a general drabness in England more people take pleasant walks
under the full moon and are therefore more available to be
bitten by dogs," speculates Professor Chapman who submitted
his article to the BMJ without any idea that the other paper
was being submitted.
He decided to do the study after a comment from a farmer
on a randomised controlled trial he had done on the use of
school programs to prevent dogs biting children.
"Don't you scientists know anything?," the farmer
said to him. "You should be looking at why they bite
- it's because of the full moon!"