Do animals bite more during a full moon?

December 21, 2000

Do animals bite more during a full moon? Retrospective observational analysis

Barking mad? Another lunatic hypothesis bites the dust

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 studies in this week's Christmas issue of the BMJ attempt to shed some light on a question that has baffled science for too long.

Researchers in Bradford 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.

In contrast, another study shows that - in Australia at least - no positive relation seems to exist between the full moon and dog bites requiring hospital treatment. Researchers at the University of Sydney compared dates of admission for dog bites to public hospitals in Australia with dates of the full moon, over a 12-month period. 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 peaks.

These findings suggest that more caution with dogs might be exercised over Christmas and especially at New Year - irrespective of the full moon, conclude the authors.
Contacts: Chanchal Bhattacharjee, Accident and Emergency Department, Bradford Royal Infirmary, Bradford, UK

Professor Simon Chapman, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Sydney, Australia


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