A Game of Bluff
from the book, "Our Fascinating Earth"

Book: 
Our Fascinating Earth

A Game of Bluff

Movies and television often depict the gorilla as a fearsome, ferocious beast, the villain of many fantasies. But that is all these portrayals are — fantasies. The wild antics of this frequently misrepresented animal — the hooting, screaming, flailing of the arms, and beating of the chest — are in reality unmitigated bluff.

A scientist conducting research on gorillas in the wild reported that on several encounters when he startled a gorilla the animal put on a tremendous show. Each time there were unfinished charges accompanied by great screaming and chest beating. The animal would interrupt its histrionics periodically and peer inquisitively at the scientist to see whether they had had any effect. Seeing no reaction, it would finally turn and walk away to resume its feeding.

The gorilla seemed to carry the game of bluff to ridiculous extremes. Researchers during the 1980s observed a dispute between two large males that, with much roaring and chest beating, rushed furiously at each other. Then they stopped suddenly and stared silently into each other's eyes, their faces only a foot apart. After about thirty seconds of stare—down, with neither giving ground, they both turned and ambled away without so much as a backward glance.