The first documented mention of the royal swan prerogative was in 1186, however, there is some evidence to suggest that the bird was royal property even before then. In 1482, that status was legally defined by the Act of Swans, and anyone who was not the king or given permission caught with a swan could face imprisonment. Royals initially kept swans for food. Queen Elizabeth II became the first known monarch to take part in what’s called the Swan Upping, the annual counting of her royal brood of swans and a tradition that goes back more than nine centuries. There are about six species in the swan genus, including the mute swan, North America’s trumpeter swan, and the whooper swan.