Online Encyclopedia

SWAN (A. S. swan and swan, Icel. svan...

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V26, Page 179 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: it!
SWAN (A. S. swan and swan, Icel. svanr, Du. zwaart, Ger. Schwan), a large swimming-bird, well known from being kept in a half-domesticated condition throughout many parts of Europe, whence it has been carried to other countries. In England it was far more abundant formerly than at present, the young, or cygnets,' being highly esteemed for the table, and it was under especial enactments for its preservation, and regarded as a " bird royal " that no subject could possess without licence from the Crown, the granting of which licence was accompanied by the condition that every bird in a game " (to use the old legal term) of swans should bear a distinguishing mark of owner-ship (cygninota) on the bill. Originally this privilege waa conferred on the larger freeholders only, but it was gradually extended, so that in the reign of Elizabeth upwards of 90o distinct swan-marks, being those of private persons or corporations, were recognized by the royal swanherd, whose jurisdiction extended over the whole kingdom. It is impossible here to enter into further details on this subject, interesting as it is from various points of view .2 It is enough to remark that all the legal protection afforded to the swan points out that it was not indigenous to the British Islands, and indeed it is stated (though on uncertain authority) to have been introduced to England in the reign of Richard Coeur de Lion; but it it now so perfectly naturalized that birds having the full power of flight remain in the country. There is no evidence to show that its numbers are ever increased by immigration from abroad, though it is known to breed as a wild bird not farther from the British shores than the extreme south of Sweden and possibly in Den-mark, whence it may be traced, but with considerable vacuities, in a south-easterly direction to the valley of the Danube and the western part of. Central Asia. In Europe, however, no definite limits can be assigned for its natural range, since birds more or less reclaimed and at liberty consort with those that are truly wild, and either induce them to settle in localities beyond its boundary, or of themselves occupy such localities, so that no difference is observable between them and their untamed brethren. From its breeding-grounds, whether they be in Turkestan, in south-eastern Europe or Scania, the swan migrates southward towards winter, and at that season may be found in north-western India (though rarely), in Egypt, and on the shores of the Mediterranean. The swan just spoken of is by some naturalists named the mute or tame swan, to distinguish it from one to be presently mentioned, but it is the swan simply of the English language 1 Here, as in so many other cases, we have what may be called the " table-name " of an animal derived from the Norman-French; while that which it bore when alive was of Teutonic origin. 2 The king and the Companies of Dyers and Vintners still maintain their swans on the Thames, and a yearly expedition is made in the month of August to take up the young birds—thence called " swan-upping " and corruptly " swan-hopping "—and mark them. The largest swannery in England, indeed the only one worthy of the name, is that belonging to Lord Ilchester, on the water called the Fleet, lying inside the Chesil Bank on the coast of Dorset, where from 700 to double that number of birds may be kept—a stock doubtless too great for the area, but very small when compared with the numbers that used to be retained on various rivers in the country. The swanpit at Norwich seems to be the only place now existing for fattening the cygnets for the table—an expensive process, but one fully appreciated by those who have tasted the results. The English swan-laws and regulations have been concisely but admirably treated by Serjeant Manning (Penny Cyclopaedia, xxiii. 271, 272). notable power, but it is by his representations of the larger wild animals, mainly the felidae, that he chiefly established his reputation; in this branch of practice he has scarcely a rival. His picture " The Prodigal Son," bought for the Chantrey collection in 1889, is in the National Gallery of British Art. He was awarded first class gold medals for painting and sculpture in the Paris Exhibition, 19oo. He died on the 14th of February 191o. See SCULPTURE; " The Work of J. M. Swan," by A. L. Baldry, in The Studio, vol. xxii.; and Drawings of John M. Swan, R.A. (George Newnes, Ltd.).
End of Article: SWAN (A. S. swan and swan, Icel. svanr, Du. zwaart, Ger. Schwan)
JAN SWAMMERDAM (1637-168o)
SWAN PASHA (1515-1596)

Additional information and Comments

1; The swan has in the past being used as emblem or totem of sertain tribes in Europe, like the Frisians in North of Netherland and Germany. 2; it maybe of interest that in Australia there are black swans.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.