Weird History
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The Most Bitter Sibling Rivalries In History

Updated October 4, 2021 11.1k votes 2.6k voters 228.4k views15 items

List RulesVote up history's most contentious sibling rivalries that have you shaking your head.

Anyone who has grown up with a sibling knows how easily rivalries can develop. The desire of brothers and sisters to outperform each other is a nearly universal emotion, one that transcends social class, culture, and time period. In other words, everyone is prone to this rivalry, even US presidents.  

History is chock-full of famous siblings with particularly juicy beefs. If humans are already naturally inclined toward competing with their sibs, adding power, wealth, or fame to the equation only inflames that tendency. In societies with hereditary governments, siblings have done all kinds of terrible things to each other to seize power for themselves. In more modern times, while dynastic political families do still exist, high-stakes sibling squabbling often plays out in corporate boardrooms or lawsuits. But throughout history, one thing is clear: Family is complicated.

Read on for some of the ugliest sibling rivalries across history. 

  • Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    The Puma and Adidas shoe companies owe their origins to a pair of German brothers, Rudolf "Rudi" and Adolf "Adi" Dassler (pictured). While Rudi was drafted in WWI, Adi began creating shoes in their mother's laundry room, and in the 1920s, the brothers formed the Dassler Brothers Sports Shoe Company. It soon reached success due to Adi's innovative new shoes with spikes on the bottoms. At the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, American sprinter Jesse Owens won four gold medals wearing the shoes. 

    But success led to tension between the brothers, and WWII brought them into a full-blown feud. After Rudi refused to employ his sister Marie's two sons, hoping to deny other family members control of the company, both sons were drafted into the military and killed. Rudi was himself drafted in 1943, for which he blamed his brother. Adi managed to avoid the draft, as he was deemed essential to running the business. Rudi tried to desert his post, fearing his brother was planning to take over, but the Gestapo caught and imprisoned him for the rest of the war. 

    Like many Germans at the time, Rudi and Adi were both members of the Nazi party, joining in the 1930s. After WWII, each attempted to paint the other as the bigger Nazi, although Rudi was reportedly the more loyal party member. The denazification panel agreed, and Rudi was again briefly imprisoned.

    In 1948, the Dassler brothers finally decided to go their separate ways, splitting their assets and forming competing companies. Adi formed "Adidas" using a shortened combination of his first and last name. Rudi called his company "Ruda," which eventually became "Puma."

    At the height of the shoe feud, their German town itself (Herzogenaurach) became divided. Workers for either company didn't dare cross the village river to the side of the other. For the remainder of their lives, the siblings rarely saw each other, but on his deathbed in 1974, Rudi invited Adi to speak to him one last time. His brother declined.

    Bad blood?
  • According to written sources, the division between 16th-century Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga and his younger brother, Oda Nobuyuki, originated in their childhood. Nobunaga was the second son of their father, Oda Nobuhide, but he was technically Nobuhide's heir because his older brother, Nobuhiro, was illegitimate. Nobuhide apparently preferred Nobunaga's illegitimate older brother; making matters worse, Nobuhide and Nobunaga disliked each other, and Nobunaga was openly disrespectful of tradition. 

    By the time Nobuhide passed in 1551, the Oda clan had split into factions. Some were loyal to Nobunaga, while others were loyal to Nobuyuki, who was considered more soft-spoken and respectful. In 1556, Nobuyuki led a rebellion against Nobunaga while his older brother was away assisting his father-in-law in a war. Nobunaga put down the rebellion and pardoned his brother.

    But the next year, when Nobuyuki again tried to rebel, Nobunaga decided to get rid of him once and for all. He faked an illness, invited his brother to visit, and had him slain. This allowed Nobunaga to unite the Owari Province, which would eventually allow him to become daimyo (a powerful feudal lord) and go to be one of Japan's most feared warlords.

    Bad blood?
  • Photo: Gabri quita / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    The band Oasis might be known for hits like "Wonderwall" and "Champagne Supernova," but the infamous feud between bandmates and brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher might overshadow their musical success.

    Like many sibling rivalries, this one dates back to petty squabbles in childhood. Liam described his take on the feud's beginning, saying, "One night I come in pissed and I couldn’t find the light switch so I pissed all over [Noel’s] new stereo. I think it basically boils down to that.”

    In 1994, Oasis was starting to pick up steam and embarked on its American tour. At a gig at the Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles, the band performed a famously horrific set while high on crystal meth, which ended with Liam hitting Noel on the head with a tambourine. Noel quit the band the following day. It wasn't the last time the brothers' rivalry would escalate to a physical level, nor the last time one of them would quit.

    Released in 1995, "Wibbling Rivalry" was a 14-minute audio recording of the brothers fighting with each other during an interview. Liam's insults included telling his brother, "You can stick your thousand pounds right up your f*ckin’ arse ’til it comes out your f*ckin’ big toe." Meanwhile, Noel summed up his younger brother's central issue as, "You think it’s rock and roll to get thrown off a ferry, and it's not," referencing the time when Liam did, in fact, get thrown off a ferry. 

    The continued altercations and walk-offs threatened the brothers' success. Liam skipped an MTV Unplugged performance due to laryngitis, but instead stayed in the crowd to chain smoke and berate his brother. He skipped an American tour to house hunt with his fiancée, and a few weeks later, Noel followed suit and also ditched the tour.

    One of their worst fights occurred in 2000, after Liam questioned whether his older brother was actually the biological father of his child. Noel quit again. In 2005, Noel claimed he'd learned how to psychologically terrify his younger brother; for instance, by secretly moving furniture around his home knowing he was afraid of ghosts.

    Noel finally quit Oasis for good in 2009, but the public feud continued, particularly after Liam got a Twitter account. In 2016, Liam went on an anti-Noel tweeting campaign, repeatedly referring to his brother as a potato.

    Bad blood?
  • As of 2019, Leo Gallagher (pictured) was 73 and still performing his watermelon-smashing stage show. But in the 1990s, there were actually two people destroying fruit with sledgehammers under the name "Gallagher": Leo and his younger brother Ron. 

    When Leo's unique career as a prop comic took off, Ron, who was reportedly unemployed, asked his brother for permission to tour the country's smaller venues doing his brother's routine under the same name. Leo agreed, under the condition that all promotional material would make it clear that Ron's shows were Gallagher's brother, not Gallagher himself. 

    Ron agreed, but eventually Leo felt Ron's promotional material wasn't creating enough of a distinction between the two performers. Ron, who looks awfully similar to his older brother, wore nearly identical clothing in his act, performed a very similar food-centric show, and never once referred to his brother. By Ron's own estimation to The Baltimore Sun in 1998, "I'd say 70 to 80% of the people will leave here saying they saw Gallagher, which is the greatest compliment you can give." 

    Leo eventually sued his brother for trademark infringement, and Ron had to stop his copycat act. According to Leo, the brothers have gone more than 20 years without speaking. 

    Bad blood?