I was watching War for the Planet of the Apes the other night. I like a good fight scene, so I was pumped to see a good punching match between humans and apes. I was annoyed to find this doesn’t happen in the film, they use guns instead. “WHY ISN’T THERE MORE HAND-TO-HAND COMBAT IN THIS FILM!?!” I kept yelling, before being escorted out.

I didn’t even know movie theatres employed bouncers

As I was being carried out, I told the bouncers “This movie is fake anyways. I could kick the crap out of an ape!” The bouncers disagreed, apparently, because they didn’t let me back in. That does lead one to wonder –  Do bouncers get to watch the movies, or just stand outside the door? Moreover – Could I beat an ape in a fight?

This is the latest installment in my educational series “How to Fight Animals”

Now, let’s be clear. I’m not dumb enough to think I could beat up a gorilla, or an orangutan, or even a chimpanzee. Those are all super-strong animals with big canines, and there are documented accounts of those animals mauling humans, and we’ve established that I couldn’t even take an ostrich before. But there is one ape I might be able to take: the bonobo

That’s right, I’m coming for you, ape

Bonobos are the small, sad little cousin of the ape family. They live exclusively in the Congo and are tied with the chimp as the closest living relative of humans. They’re also called the “Make Love, Not War” ape, because unlike bigger apes, they’re quite peaceful and docile, which, if they think that will stop me from pummeling one, they’re sadly mistaken.

Take your peace signs somewhere else, you damn hippy apes

They’re also endangered, with less than 50 000 left in the wild. They’re about to become a little more endangered, because I’m about to punch one out.

Disclaimer: Science Everywhere does not endorse fighting animals. Or talking to Dan

We’ll do this the same way we did with the ostrich. I’ll fight a grown male bonobo, who knows we’re fighting, and I won’t use weapons. Except the guns on either side of my torso, which are the most devastating weapons on Earth. We’ll judge the likely fight outcome with Size, Speed, Stamina, and Strength, because that’s what they do in the Game Boy game King of the Ring.

This game taught me more than I ever learned in school

Ready? Let’s do this.


Rounding the nearest whole numbers, I’m about 6 ft and 200 lbs, and, had I stuck with the plan earlier this summer, would be super muscular. A grown male bonobo is only 4 ft at the tallest, and average around 85 lbs. They’re slimmer than chimpanzees and have slight shoulders and long legs. Bonobos pass the mirror-test for self-awareness, so they must know how ridiculously puny they are.

Winner: Dan


This one is tricky, because bonobos move on the ground but also climb trees. There isn’t much research on bonobo speed, but chimps can obtain top speeds of 40 km/h, which is around the top speed of humans. Surprisingly, though, despite living in trees, apes don’t climb that fast; in fact here’s a video of a man climbing twice as fast as a chimp. I’m probably about the chimp’s speed, though. Let’s call it a tie.

Winner: Tie


I’m not built for long distances, and in fact I had to take a break from typing half-way through this sentence. Bonobos, on the other hand, have stamina. Specifically, sexual stamina. Bonobos have sex for recreation, pleasure, social bonding, stress-relief, conflict-resolution – basically, if there’s a problem, or not a problem, bonobos are having sex. They have no regard for gender or age. They even have sex missionary style just like us humans, and rub each other’s genitals for comfort, which humans only do if they don’t quite get comforting. There are 50 000 bonobos on earth, and every one of them is having sex right now.

Winner: Bonobos, and now I can’t read that word the same way


I’ve got the size, we’re both kinda slow, and bonobos have stamina and tons and tons of sex. It comes down to strength. I’ve said before that the average man can bench 135 lbs and squat 125 lbs, and I’m much stronger than that, and you can’t prove otherwise. Are bonobos strong? Fortunately/oddly, this paper’s entire focus is comparing bonobo and human strength. It doesn’t go well for humans. This line about sums it up:


“This study shows that untrained bonobos of various sex and age easily outperform even highly trained human athletes. It is not even known for sure if the bonobos’ performance was maximal.”

“We weren’t even trying, bitch”

Apparently bonobos have a much higher density of contractile muscle fibers, meaning they are much stronger per square inch. Probably from all the sex.

Winner: Bonobo


A fight would go like this: I’d attack the ape with my superior size, keeping the bonobo to the outside with my longer reach, parrying and scoring points on precision jabs. Then reality would set in, and the bonobo would pull me to the ground and pound me with a series of extremely powerful clubbing blows, sustaining the attack with all that sex-endurance.

Winner: Bonobo

Looks like the movie theatre security guard was right, I probably would lose a fight to a bonobo.

We all know how the bonobos will celebrate.

They’re lovers AND fighters. Mostly lovers

Dan is sneaking back into the theatre. Email him at info [at] scienceeverywhere.ca to see a topic covered here.

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Dan Re