The Showdown

Hey Boet, are you checking out my chick?

Bru I’ll give you something to check out with!

Come say that here, right here!

What you going to do about it?

This could quite easily be a story about hard-headed, intoxicated men in a night club.

Perhaps it is…

During the rut males undergo several physical changes; such as darkening of the coat due to greasy secretions from the sebaceous glands, thickening of the neck and acquiring a musky odour. These changes result in greater aggressiveness and territoriality.

The males fight over dominance and the chance to mate, often giving out noisy roars and chasing one another. Sometimes being the biggest chauvinist is enough to deter other males, but if two chauvinistic males happen to take interest in the same “Bokkie” with clown-like make up and clear heels, a good head butting should resolve the issue.

In the process of reproduction antelope go through a period called a “rut”. Due to rains being seasonal, most animals will have their young when food and water is plentiful. Antelopes have different gestation periods, and therefore the rutting will be specie dependent.  The rut involves the females attainment of oestrous, and the males attempt to take advantage of this period to ensure their lineage continues.

Males prepare for the oestrous period by “buffing-up”, much like ourselves, the males devote less time to eating, and more time to size growth. The hormone release has effects similar to steroids; thicker necks, increased aggression, and increased interest from females. Fortunately for men like me, women don’t necessarily value these traits as a basis of mate selection.

The goal is to hand a beat-down to any other male who dares challenge your claim…

Mokala National Park, situated in the Northern Cape, is the newest national park in South Africa, and serves the role of breeding threatened species, notably antelope species. As a part of our nationwide road trip, Dominique and I stayed a few nights in this jewel of the Northern Cape. After a few hours of driving, and on our way back to our campsite we stumbled into the middle of a Mexican Standoff.

A Mexican standoff is a confrontation between two or more parties in which none of the parties can neither proceed nor retreat without exposing themselves to danger. As a result, all participants need to maintain the strategic tension, which remains unresolved until some outside event makes it possible to resolve it.

The bird calls seemed to mimic the sounds of Ennio Morricone as Angel Eyes and Blondie drew their battle lines. Although not quite the circle of death Clint Eastwood chose in the graveyard of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, the tension seemed everlasting.

Blondie and Angel Eyes are Red Hartbeest. These two were clearly in the rutting season, and we found ourselves in the middle of the climactic scene of a western movie.

The Red Hartbees is found in Southern Africa and is closely related to the Topi and Tsessebe.

The Red Hartbeest is the most attractive of all the subspecies; an ochre skin with black markings contrasting against its white abdomen and behind. Its face is longer than that of other subspecies, with complex curving horns joined at the base. The average weight of a male is about 150 kg, and female is 120 kg.

The scene panned from Angel to Blondie, eyes to eyes, horns to horns, as both stood motionless waiting for the other to draw.  A Loerie called to the soundtrack of Morricone. Eyes to eyes, horns to horns, neither animal flinching. The seconds dragged as the tension grew. Noticeably Angel Eyes’ leg began to quiver, perhaps a sign of weakness, or impatience. Blondie showed no signs of fear and stood resolute.

Angel Eyes pulled the trigger, Blondie was on top of him as he drew, horns smashing together into the dust. Dust rose as the hooves beat the floor, the two heaved at one another pushing back and forth. When separated, the two launched at each other with a loud crack worthy of a splitting headache.

One final crack proved to be enough for Angel Eyes as Blondie substantiated his confidence with his ability. Angel turned and fled with Blondie in pursuit. Blondie gave up the chase and returned to the “Bokkies” who had gathered to watch this demonstration of courage and mental ability, keen to show that this sort of character is what they desire.

Are we any different, or are all males just stuck in a rut?

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