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Rumble in the USA Facts

Timber wolves are 30 pounds heavier than a German Shepherd and equipped with fangs as long as a human thumb.

Timber wolves are 30 pounds heavier than a German Shepherd and equipped with fangs as long as a human thumb. (View larger version)

Photograph by John Conrad/CORBIS

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  • Wolf packs are the closest nature gets to a human family: composed of a reproducing pair and their children, they are a peaceful and unified household. However if another pack dares encroach on their territory, bloody and lethal fights will ensue.

  • Bison are the ultimate heavyweight fighters of the American West, weighing in at 2,000 lbs, they fight by charging at each other head on. It is no wonder 50% of veterans show evidence of broken ribs.

  • Bison have exceptional adaptations to allow such awesome battles: fourteen oversized vertebrae attaching massive neck muscles give them tremendous force, and 8 inches of thick fur on the head cushions the hits.

  • Prairie dogs may look cute and cuddly, but they live in a brutal society: females often murder their own nieces and nephews to favour the development of their own children and the sister will use her centimetre long claws to viciously defend her young.

  • Male bighorn sheep vie for dominance by colliding head to head at speeds of 32 mph with horns that weigh more than the rest of their body’s bones combined.

  • To avoid instant death during their collisions, bighorn sheep have a set of remarkable adaptations: a massive tendon that links skull and spine helps the head recoil from a blow and a thick and specially domed shape skull protects the brain and frontal sinuses act like airbags to absorb the shock.

  • Sharp-tailed grouse females are not easy to please. Potential suitors must perform flawless dances and have startling bright yellow feathers above each eye. So the less competition the better, and male grouse often lash out at each other with their beaks to try and pluck out the prized yellow feathers.

  • Rattlesnakes have venom that is 19 times more potent than rat poison potentially killing each other in a single bite. To avoid such an outcome, fights are governed by strict rules: no biting, but instead, using their entire body to wrestle, victory goes to the one that can pin its rival down to the ground.

  • Scorpions don’t fight for mates, territory or dominance: another scorpion is just another meal, and the victor will kill its opponent with its powerful venom before eating it.

  • When elk are in fighting mood, nothing is more obvious: a surge in testosterone sheds the velvet on their antlers to expose deadly spikes, they engage in loud bugling matches and they spray themselves with their own urine-based brand of perfume. They are ready to rumble!

  • Elk antlers are both deadly weapons that can stab a rival, and hefty shields against attacks.

  • Desert tortoises may only spend 5% of their time outside of burrows, but when they do they are never far away from a fight. Males fight for access to females, food and even for who gets to enter the burrow first.

  • Grizzly bears very rarely fight, because with a huge muscular hump, strength up to 5 times that of a human and 75kg of bite force, the consequences can be serious. However, when they do, it is no holds-barred and it is not unknown for them to crush each other’s skulls to death.

  • During breeding season, testosterone-filled whitetail deer bucks do not back down easily from fights over mating rights. So much so that their antlers can sometimes become interlocked together and if they cannot wrestle them free, the two will die of starvation.

  • Mustang societies have a strict pecking order, with a leading mare that every other individual obeys and a head stallion that insures the protection of the herd whilst maintaining mating rights to all the females. However the latter’s tenure only lasts around 2 years as younger stallions waste no opportunity to try and dethrone him.

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