If you have watched animals in the wild or have pets, you will probably have seen quarrels, fights, and threats between the same species.
Animals in the wild fight for territory, mates, food, water, and nesting sites. Fighting is generally a last resort, and other techniques are used to avoid this.
If you want to know more about why animals fight, there is excellent information below.
At some stage, all mammals will show aggression toward another animal. Aggression is an essential part of an animal’s survival strategy. There are often resources that other species members will be after, such as getting food, water, mates, and nesting sites. Therefore, aggression usually occurs between members of the same species.
Although aggression does occur, animals of the same species try to stop this before it has even started. Territorial marking, such as scent marking, keeps others out of a specific area and allows mammals to protect the resources.
The risk of fighting is reduced by using signals between animals before a fight. When encountering another tomcat, male cats often stand straight with their tails and legs. They scream and howl at each other before either fighting or backing down.
Many mammals hibernate during winter. Please find out more in this article I wrote.
Signs Of Aggression
Rats are another mammal that will show different signs of aggression before fighting. Brown rats, when meeting rats from another group, will make themselves look bigger. Their hair stands on end, and their backs arch. They approach each other, gnashing their teeth before standing on their back legs.
If one doesn’t give way to the other, they will start to box until one falls over. Although their teeth will keep gnashing, they remain motionless, with one on top of the other. If the one on the ground does not give up, biting and wrestling happen. Fights typically last no longer than a minute, although one usually gives up before it gets too far.
Animals will use different techniques to show their willingness to fight. Some, like the rats mentioned above, will make themselves look larger by rearing up, extending the hair on their back, and providing a side view.
Others, like foxes, will bare their teeth, showing a willingness to bite. Deer and other hoofed animals will paw the ground like a bull. Others use noise, including screaming, hissing, and howling, to show their aggressiveness. Using these techniques allows the animals to assess each other.
Mammals do not want to use their limited energy in fighting and disputes, so aggression is limited so that animals that live together can do so without problems.
This is especially true in animals that are social and form groups. Fighting is limited, and biting and wrestling are generally avoided as they can be dangerous to both animals. Using their teeth to bite the other’s body puts the neck at risk.
When fighting, an animal has regard for their safety, so outright aggression is rarely seen. Animals use agonistic behavior, which includes defensive and aggressive behavior. This can be seen in various ways in different animals.
Cats use agonistic behavior when they arch their backs. Although it looks like the hind legs are moving forward, the front legs are moving backward, moving the front away from any threat.
Agonistic behavior can also be seen in the head-bobbing of animals when sizing each other up. By moving their heads forward and backward, they retreat their heads away from danger while also moving them forward to attack.
Protecting Their Young
It is well known that a grizzly bear with cubs nearby can be very aggressive, which is the same for most animals. Pregnant animals or those who have just given birth can be incredibly aggressive and protect their young to the best of their abilities.
Even animals that are not known to be aggressive such as weasels can be dangerous when young are present. Not only can the females be particularly aggressive, but males can also be aggressive to defend their young.
Animals defending their territories will almost always win against an animal from the same species. This is because they have more to lose and will fight harder. Their habitat includes their food and water source and their den or nest. A lack of food and water can also make animals fight.
In pack or group animals, the effects of where the animal is in the social hierarchy can be determined by fighting. This gives the animal priority regarding food, water, and mates.
The rest of the group will show that they accept the winner’s dominance by appeasing or submitting to the leader. Wolves and foxes often show this by crouching close to the ground with their tails between their legs, sometimes rolling on their backs.
These gestures are not only used after a fight but can also be one of the techniques to avoid a fight when meeting another animal. The submissive animal can avoid a struggle even in another territory by showing submission to another animal, including grooming or crouching.
Aggression is used to survive in the wild and is a behavior that seems intuitive and learned from experience.
Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.