A winner effect supports third-party intervention behaviour during fallow deer, Dama dama, fights

Domhnall J. Jennings*, Caitriona M. Carlin, Martin P. Gammell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Male ungulates engage in intense competition for access to females during the breeding season. Although fights are generally dyadic level encounters, they are on occasion disrupted by the intervention of third-party males. We investigated these third-party interventions using predictions derived from Dugatkin's model (Dugatkin 1998, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B, 265, 433-437) of intervention behaviour. The model argues that when an individual successfully defeats an opponent there is an increase in the probability of winning a subsequent contest: a winner effect. Third-party intervention behaviour is predicted to occur as it serves to prevent either member of a competing dyad from successfully defeating his opponent, achieving a winner effect and subsequently becoming a threat to the intervener. Consistent with model predictions, our results show that intervening males held significantly higher rank than males that did not intervene and were also more likely to be dominant to both of the competing males. Intervening males did not selectively target competitors based on rank, nor did they target males based on overall dyadic rates of aggression between the intervener and competing males. Furthermore, interveners were more likely to have won their interaction immediately prior to intervention and were also likely to win their interaction subsequent to intervention when compared with contest success of the two competing males. Our results are consistent with predictions that support a winner effect for intervention behaviour in fallow deer fights.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343-348
Number of pages6
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01 Feb 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Dama dama
  • dominance
  • fallow deer fight
  • third-party intervention
  • winner effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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