The male combat “dance” of snakes – rattlesnakes among them – is an affair wherein the obvious isn’t the truth, and the truth is stranger than the obvious (Laurence Klauber, in Rattlesnakes, p. 703)
When we think of combat, graphic images of violent competition come to mind: humans with swords or guns, sheep ramming their heads together, or cats fighting with tooth and claw. Even tortoises, which seem like peaceful creatures, attempt to flip their opponent onto their backs – a potentially lethal sentence.
So venomous snakes, considered by some to be ruthless, cold-blooded killers, must put on quite a show when they fight.
And they do, but it is not the bloody spectacle you might expect. As Klauber said, “the truth is stranger than the obvious.“
A pair of male western diamond-backed rattlesnakes in combat over an unseen female.
Rattlesnake combat is an elaborate wrestling match, where each male tries to topple the other. Although rattlesnakes are not immune to their own venom, they rarely bite during combat and there is little rattling.