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American BisonA Natural History$
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Dale Lott, Jan van Wagtendonk, and Kevin Shaffer

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780520233386

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520233386.001.0001

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Bull to Bull and Cow to Bull

Bull to Bull and Cow to Bull

(p.5) Chapter 1 Bull to Bull and Cow to Bull
American Bison

Dale F. Lott

University of California Press

Social life comes down to managing — one could almost say juggling — relationships. For bison, the most complex relationships play out during the intense though brief breeding season. Attraction, rejection, acceptance, competition, and cooperation within and between the sexes create vital, compelling, generally short-lived, and shifting relationships. This chapter describes these entangled relationships. The prolonged forewarnings, the reluctance to fight, and the generosity to losers are neither the last noble vestiges of chivalry in our time nor nature's way of exhorting humans to live on a higher ethical plane. Rather, they are carefully balanced behavioral adjustments to the social and ecological circumstances in which the competition between bulls evolved. The trade-offs that natural selection selects usually bring all the costs and benefits to bear and therefore favor very different strategies in different kinds of animals.

Keywords:   social life, bison, breeding season, natural selection, competition

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