Watch Two Adult Silverbacks Fight Up Close at the Omaha Zoo

Written by Sharon Parry
Updated: January 24, 2023
© AB Photographie/
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Omaha Zoo in Nebraska is the location of this dust-up between two adult silverback gorillas watched live by some concerned humans and then by over 21 million viewers online! This is an up-close view of some serious gorilla aggression and their fight looks remarkably similar to a human wrestling match! At least neither of them was hurt and they seemed to reach an uneasy truce at the end.

Silverback Gorillas

A common misconception is that silverbacks are a particular species or subspecies of gorillas. In fact, there are four subspecies of great apes which are the western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) which is split into the Western Lowland gorilla and the Cross River gorilla, and the Eastern Gorilla which is split into the Eastern Lowland gorilla and the Mountain Gorilla.

All of them are strong and powerful with wide chests and shoulders and an abdomen that is pushed forward. Their arms are long and muscular and they use their knuckles to help propel themselves along at speed. They are all covered in black fur (mountain gorillas are the hairiest) but their hands, feet, and faces are bare. Older male gorillas have a bare chest.

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The term ‘silverback’ arose because adult males develop a saddle pattern of silver hairs which sets them apart from the other gorillas. The two gorillas in this clip are obviously both adult males.

Gorilla Aggression and Conflict

Gorillas are a native species of Africa where their status is “critically endangered.” They share 98 percent of their DNA with us humans making them one of one of our closest living relative species. They are intelligent and can use tools and communicate with sign language. But they are four times stronger than humans, so should they decide to be aggressive, they can cause a lot of damage.

Gorillas are normally quite shy animals and do not go looking for conflict. A group of gorillas is called a troop or a band and consists of a family group of 30 or so individuals led by one (sometimes two) silverbacks who could be brothers.

The most common reason for silverbacks to fight is if the troop is threatened by a sole male. These lone males try to get some of the troop to join them to start up their own troop and the original troop leader will not want that to happen!

Gorilla fights are rare but when they do happen, they are intense and violent using legs, hands and teeth. This particular fight ended with one gorilla backing off before anyone was badly hurt but silverbacks have been known to fight to the death!

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silverback gorilla
© AB Photographie/

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About the Author

Sharon has a Ph.D. in Public Health but has spent the last decade researching and writing about all things connected with animal health and well being. As a life-long animal lover, she now shares her family home with three rabbits, a Syrian hamster, and a very energetic Cocker Spaniel but in the past she has also been a Mom to Guinea Pigs and several cats!She has a passion for researching accurate and credible information about pets and reviewing products that make pet owners' lives a bit easier. When she isn't checking out new pet products she's trekking around the Welsh mountains and beaches with her dog - although she lets her husband and her three grown up daughters tag along sometimes if they are lucky!

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