When it comes to the Kgalagadi, one thing is for sure: you never know what dramatic scene may await at the next turn. These Wild travellers’ pit stop turned into a nail-biting encounter when two irritable blue wildebeest bulls squared off – and they weren’t just horning around. By Gaynor Siljeur

Wild travellers Willie and Wilma Immelman were on their way from Mata-Mata to Twee Rivieren in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park when they decided to stop at Kamqua picnic site for some refreshments. But they got much more than they’d bargained for when two blue wildebeest bulls got embroiled in an epic struggle.

The start of an epic battle. Pictures by Willie Immelman.

“We became aware of the two blue wildebeest when we saw one bull chasing the other along the dunes surrounding the picnic spot. One of them even rammed his head into the bumper of a nearby vehicle as it was leaving the picnic area,” Willie recalls.

Soon after the couple spotted them, the two bulls went horn-to-horn in a battle to establish dominance. They rammed their heads against each other, often going down on their knees to try and overcome the other. “The clash of the horns was very loud.”

These two bulls in the middle of battle, ramming their heads against each other.

Going horn to horn.

The confrontation lasted for about five to six minutes until one bull finally admitted defeat. After giving in, the defeated bull was chased off as the winner demonstrated his supremacy over the weaker animal.

One bull admitting defeat.

The winner, demonstrating his supremacy over the weaker bull by chasing him away.

Willie and his wife have been regular visitors to national parks across southern Africa since 2005. Although they have visited various parks in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, this is the first time they have witnessed such a nail-biting territorial battle between two blue wildebeest.

“This sighting has definitely been one of the highlights we’ve experienced throughout all these years,” says Willie about seeing the wildebeest in action.

Territorial blue wildebeest

Wildebeest bulls are territorial and will mark their stomping ground by way of scent marking and middens. Neighbouring bulls will often interact on their boundaries with behaviour such as horn tossing, tail swishing and horn clashing.

In more serious fights, like the one Willie and Wilma witnessed, the contenders go down on their knees and wrestle with their horns as they try to unbalance their opponent.

Territorial bulls are frequently alone and you may spot one with mud sticking to his horns and body. A bull will horn mud as a way to show off to rivals – mud-packed horns look bigger and more impressive. You might also spot territorial males walking with their head held higher than others in the herd.

Source: A FIELD GUIDE TO TRACK AND SIGNS OF SOUTHERN, CENTRAL AND EAST AFRICA WILDLIFE BY CHRIS AND MATHILDE STUART. 2013. STRUIK NATURE.

BEAT ABOUT THE BUSH: MAMMALS AND BIRDS BY TREVOR CARNABY. 2013. JACANA.

Also read: Top 10 tips for visiting the Kgalagadi