Fight Club

It’s no walk in the park being an animal, and the ‘fight for survival’ is often a very literal one


Fighting is common in the animal world, but some wild warriors are particularly ferocious:


Hippos attack with their enormous mouths

They might look slow and clumsy when they’re lumbering around at the zoo, but hippos have a fierce reputation in the wild. These enormous semi-aquatic mammals are highly territorial and will not hesitate to attack if threatened.

Hippos use their giant incisors and canines as weapons in battle, crushing down on opponents with 1,821 pounds per square inch of bite force. Individuals will attempt to intimidate their rivals by ‘yawning’, baring teeth that can grow to half a metre (19.7 inches) in length.

As well as showing aggression to their own kind, hippos regularly take on Africa’s most formidable predators. Lions and hyenas have both felt the wrath of raging hippos, particularly during breeding season when hippo babies are preyed upon by these stealthy hunters. Nile crocodiles are also attacked frequently by hippos, and these powerful mammals have even been known to attack boats filled with human passengers. In fact they kill around 2,900 people per year.


Giraffes use their necks as deadly weapons against their opponents

The giraffe’s most famous bodily feature is also its greatest weapon. These gangly mammals swing their long necks into one another during fights, making for some of the most whiplash- inducing battles in the animal kingdom.

This ‘necking’ behaviour usually occurs between rival males, who compete to establish dominance or win the right to mate with
a female. However, not all neck fights are dangerous; occasionally a pair of giraffes will lean their necks into one another, using their body weight – which can be up to 1,270 kilograms (2,800 pounds) – to wrestle until the exhausted loser submits.

A giraffe’s powerful legs are another asset, particularly when predators decide to try their luck. Indeed, a well-placed kick from a giraffe is strong enough to kill a big cat, so predators have to be desperate to take on such powerful prey.


Grebes are much more aggressive than you would think

Great crested grebes are more famous for their elaborate mating rituals than violent scuffles, but these water birds are known to attack one another during breeding season. The graceful swimmers grab at one another with their pointed bills and attempt to plunge their opponents underwater, using their long necks to twist and wrestle their rivals into submission.


Ants are tiny masters of fighting strategy

Ants regularly engage in combat with other mini beasts. They wage war on enemies such as termites, forming large armies and raiding nests with devastating efficiency.

Rather than focusing on individual fighters in their battles, army ants take their enemies by surprise by moving as one united front, overwhelming the opponent with a vast biomass of six- legged marauders.

Weaker ants are assigned to the front lines, lulling the enemy into a false sense of security before larger soldier ants step in to deal the killer blow. When they have successfully claimed a new territory, the colony will devour as much food as possible (including the bodies of their fallen victims) before moving on to the next target.

Thousands of ants readily sacrifice themselves with every raid, but by focusing on the good of the group rather than individual lives, ants have become extraordinarily successful predators.


Hooked? There are lots more animal fighters in Issue 48 of World of Animals, on sale in UK shops until the 2nd August and available online!