Giraffe Battle: Etosha National Park, Namibia

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“This video may not be for the squeamish but I can assure you up front that nobody dies.”


In May of 2012 m’lady and I were vacationing in Namibia.  We rented a car for the duration of the trip and spent several days on a self-drive safari through the large and very impressive Etosha National Park.  We drove ourselves from watering hole to watering hole seeing an incredible array of wildlife – it was simply stunning.

After a long final day we were on our way out of the park when we decided to endure a small detour in order to visit just one more watering hole.  We drove down a long dusty road and found ourselves alone with five giraffes (or was it six?).  We shut off the engine and sat watching them for quite some time.

We soon realized that it was one male among a group of females, and we watched with eyebrows raised as the male tried unsuccessfully to mount each of the other giraffes in turn.  And then out of the trees came another giraffe.

Another male giraffe, as it turned out.

As the newcomer approached the group the tall male went to greet him.  The two stood side-to-side facing opposite directions and then to our complete astonishment they started fighting!  Over and over the two huge animals whacked at each other by swinging their thick, muscular necks and hitting their opponent with those two little knobbed horns on their heads.

I had always wondered why an animal would have such small horns.  They always seemed so ineffective.  Boy, was I wrong about that!  

Whack, whack, whack!  Taking turns they quickly flailed at each other, landing huge blows with such centrifugal force that chunks of flesh were sometimes sent flying.  On and on they fought as we gaped with our jaws slack; it was just never-ending.  

After what must have been at least three, perhaps four minutes one of us said, “Maybe we should be recording this.”  M’lady pulled out her little point-and-click.  I don’t think it had a zoom but we didn’t need one; this fight was happening right in front of the car!

And so here is the final minute of what was a much longer encounter.  This video may not be for the squeamish but I can assure you up front that nobody dies.  For those keeping score the first male giraffe was successful in defending his tower (yes, a group of giraffes is called a “tower”.  Isn’t that fun?).  My favourite part is when he corrals the newcomer back towards the jungle.  “Please,” he seems to be saying, “Let me walk you out.”

The whole time not another soul drove down that road.  We had been the only ones to witness such a remarkable battle.  Oh, and a tower of rather impressed-looking lady giraffes who were probably ready to start loosening up a little.

A few years later I was watching a BBC nature special or some such thing and there was a crew that set out trying to catch a wild giraffe fight on film and it took them YEARS to come across one.  So I guess we were pretty lucky to have seen it.  Luckier than the poor sap who lost this fight, that’s for sure!

Sorry we didn’t start shooting from the very beginning.  Can’t win ‘em all.

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