Mating Rituals and Courtship | Botswana Wildlife Guide

Sparring male lechwe. Lee Kemp
In most animals mating is the preserve of a dominant male thus allowing the strongest genes to survive. Males will wrestle for dominance in a number of ways - often to the death.

By Leigh Kemp

Mating rituals and courtship

Many species of Antelope - and Elephant - adopt a bachelor herd policy whereby males that have reached sexual maturity will be chased out of a breeding herd by the dominant male or female and will join up with a group of males - bachelor herd - and here they will compete with the others to establish dominance.

This struggle for dominance may take the form of fights or pushing and jockeying for position. Fights between male Antelope may look dramatic but one of the competitors will usually back down before serious injury happens. Serious injuries and even death have resulted when the horns of the combatants become entangled and are unable to pull apart. This has been observed in Kudu and Hartebeest in particular.

Sex through macho and submission

Giraffe have a very loose social structure but males will still maneuver for dominance when they come across each other. This is an elaborate display of shoving and neck fighting. The combatants will attempt to hit the opponent's neck with his head.

A solid blow can be heard from a long distance. One of the combatants will usually back down before one gets too badly hurt but, although unusual, broken necks and death have been recorded.The male Hyena is the one animal that gains mating favours through submission. Hyena society is female dominated and the females are in control of the whole mating process.

The male approaches the female in a submissive posture, watching for any sign of aggression from the female. If the female shows any aggression the male will slink away and wait some time before approaching again. Even female cubs will act aggressively toward adult males.

Baboon seduction

Baboons live in large troops with a number of males that are always on the lookout for an opportunity to mate. When a female is on heat she will swell around her rear. In the period that she is coming into heat she will be mated by any male that comes across her but as soon as she has reached full cycle the dominant male will keep all males away from her and mate himself. The chance of her falling pregnant from sub-ordinate males is very small.I have observed female Baboons 'flirting' with males on numerous occasions. I base the 'flirting' on the observation that the females were not on heat - judging by the non-swelling rear end. In hindsight it could have been that the females may have had a problem with fertility or were needing stimulation but on none of the occasions observed did any males show interest.

Legend of the mating lions

Lions mating habits are the stuff of legends [every 20 minutes for 3 - 4 days]. Having observed many matings it is true to say that they mate many times during a single cycle.

What is not generally recorded is the reaction of the individuals before, during and after the process. I have observed the males attempting to initiate a mating from a not-so-eager female and vice versa.

I have observed a female snarling at a male who was attempting to initiate the act.Upon dismount the female will regularly take a swipe at the male as he flinches away. This behaviour is attributed to the fact that the male has a barb at the end of his penis that hurts the female on exit.

Killing of cubs - when new male lions take over a pride they will often kill all the cubs in the pride. This is to bring the females into heat again so that they can mate with them and thereby start their own bloodline.

The truth about Pumba

Warthog mating can be comical in that a male will follow a female in oestrus whilst making loud clicking sounds. These sounds are presumed to be made by the tusks although some researchers have mentioned that they are made by the tongue.

What it does is produce a huge amount of saliva and this seems to stimulate the male. A male will stay mounted on the female for a long time - I have observed more than an hour. During this time other Warthog will come and nuzzle the female. It is not known why this is done.>In Savuti Botswana I was observing a young male Warthog mounting a female when three young ones arrived and began to react in a strange way, nuzzling the female and flicking their heads at the mounting male. After a while they ran toward some bushes where two big males were engaged in a fight.

The fight had obviously been going on for a while as they were both bleeding. One of the youngsters nudged one of the males. The male looked in the direction of the female and made one last thrust at the other male. This was enough as the other male ran off. The dominant male then turned on the one that was mating with the female. After a short scuffle the young male disappeared at speed into the mopane.The courtship of Weavers involves the male building a nest and then 'inviting' females to inspect the abode. While the female is inspecting the nest the male will display by calling and ruffling his feathers. If the female is not happy she will reject the nest and the male will start constructing a new nest.

It is not uncommon to find a number of unoccupied 'reject' nests side by side with occupied ones. How or why the female judges the suitability of nests is unknown.

Dominance through mating the dying

Males of some species such as Elephant have been observed mounting dead or dying members of the same sex and species. This is explained as a show of dominance over a previously dominant individual. The mounting by males of other healthy males within their herd is often observed in Buffalo and is also explained as dominance behaviour.
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