On Safari with Luke Street: Challenge of dominance

The other afternoon, while out on safari, Luke came across an unusual sighting. There were 11 majestic kudu bulls in the riverbed, as though this large group of incredible males was not an impressive enough, two bulls put on an incredible fighting display.

The bulls who engaged in the thrashing and locking of horns were the largest animals in the herd. In Luke’s opinion, these two animals were not actually fighting for dominance, but rather putting on a show for the rest of the younger males. It was as though inspiring them for what they can aspire to do! Dominance within such a herd of bulls is determined by size and fighting skills. The older breeding males tolerate the younger males, and the younger males must constantly show their subordination by looking away from the older males and by grooming themselves,

Actual fights between male kudus are rare. The usual behavior when asserting one's dominance is for the two bulls to hold their manes erect and for one male to display himself in front of the other bull, making himself look as large and threatening as possible. If this showing off of size and strength does not determine a winner then the males will start a wrestling match by interlocking their large horns and seeing which animal will manage to push his opponent back or throw him off balance. These fights never last longer than about ten or fifteen minutes. The loser will make a hasty escape and the winner will return happily to the breeding females.

There are reports of these fights leading to the death of one or even both bulls. This normally happens if the horns become so entangled that they cannot free themselves. Sadly the bulls will eventually starve to death or be caught by predators. In addition, sometimes the stab wounds inflicted by these large and beautiful horns are fatal.


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