Monkeys Fighting!

Monkey baring teethPhoto:
Image: Paolo Camera

The human affinity for monkeys and apes can easily be explained by our fascination with a species that is so much like us. When we see monkeys fighting, however, our empathy for the weaker one is overpowered by our admiration for the stronger fighter and his or her animalistic grace and ferociousness. Secretly wishing we had the guts and style to fight like monkeys perhaps?

Fighting langurs:
Fighting langursPhoto:
Image via scienceblogs

It usually starts with a stare down – here two macaques in Morocco:
Macaques in MoroccoPhoto:
Image: Antony

There are many reasons for monkeys to fight: Young monkeys will first start fighting to test their own strength and just like human children, their boundaries. While most of them will go for the smallest and weakest member of the family, Rhesus Monkeys or Rhesus Macaques are known to tackle the biggest and strongest one just to see if they can do it, therefore grossly overestimating their own size.

Fighting macaques in JapanPhoto:
Let the blows start – macaques in Japan
Image: Richard Fisher

Play fighting is important for young monkeys as they thus prepare in a playful way for the real fights lying ahead: over food, mates and territory. Especially with teenage monkeys, boredom is another factor and often play fighting can lead to more serious fights – that must be where the term “monkeying around” comes from.

Photographer Stan Rawrysz captured this great sequence of young squirrel monkeys fighting it out on a rooftop in Costa Rica.

First, it started with a bit of harmless tackling and rolling around:
Squirrel monkeysPhoto:

Then, someone started the hair pulling, a big no-no even in the monkey world:
Monkey pulling hairPhoto:

Some more hair pulling and threatening gestures ensued:
Threatening squirrel monkeysPhoto:

… followed by a mean upper left:
Upper leftPhoto:

… and then all hell broke loose – rolling, punching and shouting:
Squirrel monkeys fightingPhoto:

Social aggression in monkeys can also be a response to pain, frustration, fear or sexual arousal. Monkeys in captivity often react to the stress of their situation with aggressive behaviour towards others or self.

Not a friendly handshake – macaques fighting at Beijing Zoo:
Macaques at Beijing ZooPhoto:
Image: Self-made

Finally, here’s a video of gorillas fighting at Henry Dorley Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska. Yes, we know, gorillas are apes, not monkeys but just look at these guys – they are not just kidding around – their intimidating gestures and poses definitely work:

Sources: 1, 2, 3

We’ll even throw in a free album.