A woman in Australia was killed by a rooster who pecked at her leg, puncturing a varicose vein that hemorrhaged and caused her death.
The 76-year-old woman was gathering eggs from her rural property when the rooster struck at her leg repeatedly, according to a study published in late August in the journal Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology. She is unidentified to protect her family.
The hemorrhage caused the woman to collapse and later die. She was previously diagnosed with hypertension, type II diabetes and varicose veins.
“Even relatively small domestic animals may be able to inflict lethal injuries in individuals if there are specific vascular vulnerabilities present,” the report said.
Professor Roger Byard at the University of Adelaide in Adelaide, Australia, who co-authored the study with Judith Fronczek, said the freak incident shows “how vulnerable the elderly are.”
“It draws attention to the vulnerability of elderly folk with varicose veins to minor trauma, even from a rooster peck,” Byard told USA TODAY. “Lethal rooster attacks are very rare, but small animals can cause death from trauma.”
To prevent incidents such as this from happening, Byard advises that individuals should treat animals, “even small ones,” respectfully. Varicose veins also should be treated, he said.
Dr. Dianna Bourassa, an assistant professor of poultry sciences at Auburn University, advises cautionary measures when dealing with an aggressive alpha chicken.
If a hen or rooster is about to attack, she told USA TODAY, a person can grab the chicken by the leg and cradle it under their arm to establish dominance. It won’t harm the chicken.
If a chicken continues to be aggressive – and as Bourassa notes, it usually “isn’t a one-time thing” – she suggests wearing protective clothing, such as thick long-sleeve shirts and pants and boots.
This isn’t the first time a rooster has killed or harmed someone.
In 2011, a California man was stabbed in the calf by a cockfighting bird with a knife attached to the rooster’s limb.
A “vicious” rooster was also cause for concern in Jasper, Arkansas, in July, though it did not cause any major injuries.