Battle for Dominance: Mature Bull Asserts Authority, Putting Young Bison in Their Place for Mating Rights in Yellowstone National Park

Apparently the phrase “respect your elders” rings true in the Animal Kingdom too.

Bison are the largest land mammals in North America, and their sheer size demands a lot of respect from humans (though dumb tourists still haven’t caught on) and other bison alike. With full grown male bison coming in at around 2,000 pounds, when two come together to clash, things easily become life and death.

For most of the year, the male bison and female bison coexist rather peacefully. Though there are some skirmishes here and there over territory, or who leads the herd, nothing compares to bison behavior during rutting season (which usually takes place from July to September).

This video, which takes place in Yellowstone National Park and was featured in BBC Earth, shows thousands of bison (male and female) congregating in a valley of the world famous Yellowstone park. As the velvety voiced commentator describes in the video, a large bull bison might choose to mate with over “50 females,” which just seems almost impossible.

However, these bull bison take rutting season seriously, which is why fights over potential mates can strike up at any moment during mating season. A dominant, full-grown male bison (in its prime) can easily reign supreme over a herd if it goes unchallenged, and the younger bison are usually the only ones irrationally confident enough to take them on.

With tensions running high amongst the herd during mating season, the bigger bulls often have to fend off various attacks that come their way. The young bison that ends up confronting one of the larger bull’s of this particular group really only had a chance because it had “fresh legs” when compared to the seasoned bull.

The younger bison slowly approaches the large bison, and though the full-grown male could have chosen to brush off his young competitor, he instead decided to show the young buck who was boss. Both of their heads go down, and the two beasts start butting foreheads and horns like there’s no tomorrow (in the wild, sometimes there isn’t).

Dust flies as the two bison square off, and the battle seemed relatively even until the older, more experienced bison got the younger one turned to its side. Once the fight wasn’t head-to-head (literally), the advantage immediately went to the elder bison, and things got ugly fast.

As the younger bison retreats and walks away from the fight with a limp, the always appreciated BBC commentary states:

“The young bull gambled everything and has paid a heavy price.”



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