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Why Do Moose Fight So Much?

The point isn't actually to gore the other moose with your antlers, but rather to push harder and show that you're stronger

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Moose are one of the more dangerous animals you might encounter in North America. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, moose can become ornery and aggressive "when they are hungry, tired of walking in deep snow, or harassed by people, dogs and traffic." So they're basically like people. Very large people with horns.

Normally, moose don't take their aggression out on people, though. They tend to fight one another. The American Museum of Natural History has immortalized this tendency in a diorama depicting two bull moose duking it out. Here's a video (the first in a new series from PBS called "Diorama"), in which Ross MacPhee, curator of the mammals collection, explains why moose are so pugnacious:

Most of the time, male moose fight over females or territory (which they hope is full of females). And it turns out that the point isn't actually for one moose to gore the other moose with his antlers. It's to push harder and show that he's stronger. Whoever can move the other one out of the way wins.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Why Are Norway’s Moose Balding?
Minnesota’s Moose Are Missing, And No One Really Knows Why

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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