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Could you take down a grizzly bear with your bare hands? My husband believes he can

The Guardian logo The Guardian 18/05/2021 Emma Beddington
a large brown bear standing on top of a lush green field: Photograph: Buddy Mays/Getty Images © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Buddy Mays/Getty Images

If you haven’t spent the last few days arguing over the US YouGov poll reporting on which animals people think they could beat in a fight, what have you been doing? It was the most fun we have had in months: admittedly, a bar so low it would challenge a limbo champion.

In case you were too busy reading Spinoza or something, most respondents were encouragingly realistic, but 7% of American men believe they could take a grizzly bear unarmed and 9% fancy their chances against an elephant. At the other end of the scale, 28% of American men and women did not believe they had the wherewithal to defeat a rat unarmed and 31% did not rate their chances against a house cat: I suspect 100% of vets would agree.

My best friend went off piste, saying she could beat a pig, which was not a poll option: “If I’m gonna fight an animal to the death, it had better be tasty.” My spouse started reasonably for a man who once fought off a furious swan with a deckchair (by “fought off” I mean cautiously and respectfully persuaded it to retreat), and threw in the towel after “medium dog”. He declined “eagle”, stating: “I do not know them,” as if one could only fight a species to which one has been formally introduced, and “kangaroo”, alleging, based on absolutely no marsupial encounters ever, that they were “nasty bastards”. However, as discussions continued, his assertions became bolder until, eventually, he claimed that he could perhaps beat a grizzly in the right circumstances; described, bafflingly, as “mano a mano, in Tesco”. This was despite having watched Man v Bear, an idiotic television trial of strength in which the man never wins.

a close up of a brown bear is looking at the camera: Most people polled were realistic, but 7% of men said they could take down a grizzly bear. © Photograph: Buddy Mays/Getty Images Most people polled were realistic, but 7% of men said they could take down a grizzly bear.

I suppose this is the can-do spirit someone in our household needs. But, given our failure to deal with clothes moths, outwit squirrels or evacuate a dozy wasp, I’m dubious. Nature will always get the upper hand somehow, and thank goodness for that.

• Emma Beddington is a Guardian columnist

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