Love on the Reserve

In the world of lovers, courtship is done through many age-old traditions – we present our loved ones with flowers, we buy them chocolates, spend time together over sumptuous meals adorned with candle light – and for the truly expressive lovers, weekends away in the wilderness…

But what does courtship look like in the wild?

In the wilderness, courtship is certainly a different experience altogether.

In the romancing of lions both male and female lions become sexually mature at around two-years old, while mating usually only occurs when males and females reach the age of four.
Unlike their relatives (leopards, tigers, cheetahs and other cats in the Panthera family), lions grow up to show the greatest sexual dimorphism (the differences in appearance between males and females of the same species).

Usually, lionesses approach males of their choosing, when in oestrus. Incredibly, a male lion can mate up to 100 times a day, lasting up to five days. The process, however, usually only lasts for 17 seconds.

Quite often, you will see females biting males during mating. This is as a result of the fact that male lions have barbed penises, which cause pain when withdrawn. The reason for this, is that the pain stimulates ovulation.

It is also not uncommon for females to mate with multiple males, which can lead to cubs from the same litter having different fathers. This lessens the chance of cubs being killed.

In the giraffe species it’s all about showing some neck.
Male giraffes battle it out for the attention of females. In a performance called “necking”, males will thrash their necks into one another in a display of dominance. Sometimes, this is a fatal display – many male giraffes have broken their necks in the pursuit of love.

Much the same as lions, giraffe do not have a set mating season. In fact, they can go into oestrus every two weeks. When a male suspects a female of being in oestrus, he will nudge her behind, signalling that he wants to mate. The female will then urinate and the male will taste the secretion for pheromones, signalling that she is fertile.
Once it has been established that a female giraffe is ready, the male will follow her around in the hopes that he has an opportunity to mount her for a few seconds. As with lions, female giraffe choose their partners, sometimes approaching males and rubbing their necks, signalling their willingness to mate. 

The mating rituals of warthogs can only be described as… “salivating”.
During the start of the rainy season, male warthogs will thrash tusks to compete for the right to mate with females. This display of dominance rarely results in any fatalities, just damaged pride.

Male hogs make a clicking sound with their jaws called “champing”. This jaw locomotion and clashing of molars causes them to salivate excessively, releasing pheromones which attract sows (females).

Unlike the brisk encounters between lions and giraffes, warthog mating can last up to an hour, with the result being a romantic cuddle and nuzzle between the pair, and hopefully a few piglets three months later.