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"I have wrastled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale."
Muhammad Ali (in his pre-match speech before his fight with George Foreman)
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There are a number of ways to show off a character as a badass; catching bullets with their hands or teeth, walking away from an explosion without flinching, defeating a large number of enemies all at once easily come to mind. But one of the more interesting ways is to have a character engage an animal in melee combat.

In Real Life, engaging an animal in close quarters is incredibly risky, especially unarmed. In fiction, it's Rule of Cool.

The character may use close range weaponry or fight unarmed. Long range weaponry, traps and poisons will not be used as this is a test of strength and skill against a beast of nature. They don't even have to defeat or kill the animal either. Fighting it to a draw or even surviving the experience would be considered impressive enough.

This might be a form of Training from Hell. It may also happen if the character is a Thrill Seeker or it may be them simply acting in self-defense. Often a display of Charles Atlas Superpower but a character with legitimate Super Strength can also qualify.

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Contrast Kick the Dog, which may involve a character attacking something much smaller and weaker than themselves. See Hunter of Monsters, Demon Slaying and The Dragonslayer when the creature being fought is a little or more exotic than a regular animal. May result in Nemean Skinning. Compare or contrast Bad People Abuse Animals. Can sometimes overlap with Beastly Bloodsports. The Boxing Kangaroo is a possible opponent the human may face. This trope is also basically The Worf Effect as applied to animals.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Baki the Grappler: Being an over the top Fighting Series where even weaker characters are closer to Humanoid Abominations than to normal humans, the manga features many characters who have done this either to challenge themselves or simply to demonstrate their strength. Just a few of the examples include Baki fighting with giant apes and Garland beating an anaconda to death at the Maximum Tournament. When a very minor character at that same tournament boasts about having wrestled with a wild lion, the other character he's speaking to wonders if the first guy is so self-interested and short-sighted that he doesn't realize that every competitor at the tournament has sought out some sort of similar challenge, and that the attempts at Trash Talk and intimidation just come off as pathetic.
    • Doppo Orochi gained his moniker of "Tiger Killer" from fighting one in a match. It is deconstructed, as he admits both how unbelievable it is and how he killed a member of an endangered species to look cool, making it an In-Universe Old Shame.
  • Digimon: The show has had more extreme fantasy versions.
    • Digimon Adventure 02: In "Dark Sun, Dark Spore", Yolei whacks a LadyDevimon with a skateboard.
    • Digimon Tamers: In "Divided They Stand", Rika stabs a Harpymon attacking Renamon in the back with a tree branch.
    • Digimon Data Squad: Unlike most Digidestined who leave the fighting to their Digimon partners, Marcus Daimon frequently fights Digimon with his bare hands, both because he likes it and because he needs it to start his DNA load. Remember that Digimon are powerful beings with a large number of naturally equipped weapons and armor, with some capable of obliterating cities.
  • Dragon Ball Z: In episode 71, Bulma is attacked by two dinosaurs. Gohan and Krillin come to her rescue and make short work of them.
  • Dr. STONE: Tsukasa's Establishing Character Moment has him bursting out of his stone shell and killing a lion with his bare hands. He then uses its pelt for clothes.
  • Fairy Tail: During the The Grand Magic Games, Erza participates in an event called Pandemonium which has her fighting and defeating 100 powerful monsters all by herself.
  • Hajime no Ippo: While at a training camp in the forest, Mamoru Takamura was attacked by a black bear. Although he received several injuries, Takamura fought back and defeated the animal with a Cross Counter. He let the bear live when he saw it had cubs, but it was still killed later by Ginpachi Nekota who served it as dinner to the boxers. As a sign of respect to the bear as well as an Intimidation Demonstration before getting in the ring, Takamura chose to wear the bear's head and fur.
  • Inazuma Eleven:
    • This trope is referenced when the team is were in Hokkaido looking for powerful players they heard the rumor of a player who, in addition to being good at soccer, also practiced extreme sports and fought head-to-head against wild bears. It is never quite clear if the part of fighting bears was real, seeing that he is a very competent player and practices snow sports.
    • In Episode 31, the Inazuma Caravan is attacked by a black bear during the team's trip to Hokkaido. Fortunately, Fubuki knocks out the animal.
  • One Piece:
    • Sanji has fought and defeated giant crocodile creatures called Banawani.
    • Luffy's training during the Time Skip involves him fighting a variety of beasts such as gorillas, elephants, and lions. He uses these animals as inspiration for the names he'd give his techniques in his new Gear Fourth form.
  • Saint Seiya:
    • Bear Geki's training to become a Bronze Saint involved fighting against grizzly bears in the Rocky mountains, giving him Super Strength.
    • Cygnus Hyoga's training likewise involved ocassionally fighting against polar bears.
  • Zombie Land Saga: Tae Yamada, a generally docile and mindless zombie, fights a wild boar to protect her bandmate, Sakura.

    Card Games 

    Comic Books 
  • Gen¹³: Issue #7 of the Gail Simone run has Caitlin fight and kill a saber-toothed tiger using her strength and a rock. The same issue has her fighting a T. rex before discovering it can talk.
  • Marvel Universe:
  • Jungle Girl Season 2: In issue #1, Jana is attacked by a large snake which she kills by decapitating it with her knife.
  • Preacher: The "Good Ol' Boys" arc has Jody participate in a pit fight and finds that the "real gorilla" the organizer was talking about was a literal one. Jody beats the gorilla to death with a baseball bat which he then shoves up the organizer's ass.
  • Transformers: Beast Wars (2021): In Issue #4, Nyx is attacked by a creature resembling a saber-toothed tiger. As her weapons have been disabled, she tries to fight it off with a stick. This barely phases the animal who presses on its attack. Fortunately, Dinobot arrives to save Nyx by cracking the creature's neck and tossing it away.

    Films — Animation 
  • Aladdin and the King of Thieves: Sa'Luk kills a shark that tried to make a meal out of him using only his strength and Wolverine Claws.
  • Justice League: Doom: While walking through a swamp, Bane is attacked by an alligator which he makes short work of using his Venom-enhanced strength.
  • Madagascar: The first and second movies have an elderly lady who beats up Alex the lion. Although he puts up more of a fight in the second film, he still ends up losing. The same old lady also beats up Makunga, the antagonist of the second movie.
  • Tarzan: The titular character earns Kerchak's respect by fighting the leopard Sabor to death.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Subverted in Beast (2022). In the climax, Nate runs out of shots and runs off to lure the lion away from his daughters, eventually getting tackled and brought down. His punches and kicks do nothing but annoy it, and it's mostly down to luck and the lion's previous injuries that he survives long enough for the lead males of another pride to arrive and attack the intruder, letting him crawl away.
  • Blazing Saddles: Mongo's Establishing Character Moment includes a scene in which a man on a horse approaches him and tells him he cannot park his bull in a certain place. Mongo responds by punching the man's horse, causing it to collapse with the man still on top of it.
  • Coneheads: Beldar is convicted of "bonding" with humans and as punishment must fight for his life in a closed arena against a monster called the Garthok. Another convict makes a charge at the Garthok and only lasts less than five seconds before his detached head rolls back to Beldar's feet. Beldar is able to fare much better against the monster thanks to a Chekhov's Skill.
  • Dog Soldiers: Spoon finds himself cornered by a werewolf in the kitchen and engages the beast using nothing but kitchen utensils and his own fists. At one point, Spoon actually kicks the werewolf hard enough to dislodge one of its teeth and the only reason he loses is because a second werewolf shows up.
  • George of the Jungle: George and Ursula first meet when he wrestles and defeats a lion trying to eat her.
  • The Ghost and the Darkness: Mahina claims to have once killed a lion with his bare hands. The lions killing him shows how terrifying they are, while also suggesting he completely made up the deed.
  • Hercules (2014): Eurystheus and Cotys sic the wolves that killed Hercules's family on him, thinking they would be more than enough to take him down. Hercules proves them wrong.
  • Jungle Cruise: Frank fights a jaguar in front of the protagonists to convince them to hire him. It is later revealed that the jaguar was tamed and the fight was staged.
  • Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life: After escaping an underwater temple, Lara punches a shark and hitches a ride with it to the surface.
  • The Legend of Tarzan: Upon returning to Africa, Tarzan and his friend Captain George Washington Williams are confronted by the Mangani who raised him, none of whom look fondly upon Tarzan because they feel like he abandoned them to go and live in England with Jane. In order to prevent the Mangani from killing Williams, Tarzan challenges their new leader, his ape brother Akut, to one-on-one combat. While Tarzan is stronger than the average human, he's spent years living outside the Congo forests, and Akut is stronger and larger than he is; Akut wipes the floor with him in short measure. By the time Akut finally leaves, Tarzan is severely injured and requires an After Action Patch Up.
  • In RRR, Komaram Bheem is introduced setting a trap for a wolf with himself as bait, getting a tiger instead, and then wrestling it until he can hit it with a sedative. It's probably the only being in the film that outmatches Bheem in terms of physical strength.
  • Tyrannosaur: Invoked and deconstructed. Joe kills the violent pitbull that mauled and permanently scarred Sam. He tells Hannah that he still gets letters congratulating him on making a stand, but that he feels no personal triumph from it because the dog itself was only aggressive because it had been abused by Sam's mother's boyfriend.
  • Underworld: Rise of the Lycans: The film shows us a human Raze before he was bitten and became a werewolf. The first thing he does when confronted with one of the wild and feral werewolves is punch the damn thing down. Raze later confesses to Lucian that while he was afraid of the werewolves, he wanted to live that much more.

    Literature 
  • Artemis Fowl: The first book sees Butler take on a troll (one of the deadliest apex predators of the fairy world). His first attempt at shooting it with his Sig-Sauer pistol goes poorly, as the bullets lack stopping power against the troll's thick hide, and it quickly closes the distance and gores him. After being healed by Holly and a chance to re-evaluate his opponent, he tries again, this time donning a suit of armor and wielding a mace — and delivers a Curb-Stomp Battle that quickly reduces the troll to a quivering mass of shaggy fur.
  • The Belgariad: The knight Mandorallen faces a young lion in hand-to-paw combat. This would normally be suicidal but Mandorallen is in full plate armour and is able to bear hug the lion to death while it futilely tries to claw and bite its way through his solid steel armour plates.
  • Devolution: Fighting a Sasquatch (and ideally, winning) is the mark of an Action Survivor, no easy feat given how strong such creatures are. Mostar, Dan, and Kate all adjust relatively quickly to the challenge. Carmen and Effie eventually join them. Although all of them except Kate die in the novel itself (with the possibility that Kate is dead, too, by the end), they manage it with far more dignity than Bobbi or Vincent, who are incapable of fighting back (although, in their defense, they are the first to meet horrible fates), or especially Yvette and Tony, who cower in their house.
  • Dortmunder: In his first appearance, Tiny visits the local zoo and beats up a gorilla under unclear circumstances.
  • Losing Joe's Place: Rootbeer used to work as an alligator wrestler before he was fired for being too tough on the alligators. He responded by throwing his boss's car into a swamp.
  • The Princess Bride: Prince Humperdinck has a "Zoo of Death" in which he keeps all sorts of dangerous animals. When he feels the urge to fight something to the death, he goes down there and picks one to tangle with. He is first introduced to the reader engaging an animal in a wrestling match.
  • Redwall: Scaled-down variants crop up from time to time. One example is Cluny the Scourge, the Big Bad of the first book, who once fought a pike. He lost an eye, the pike lost its life.
  • Tarzan: In almost all incarnations, Tarzan wrestles with wild jungle animals such as lions, leopards, gorillas or crocodiles. Most of the time, he wins.
  • Toldi: While hiding in the wilderness, the super strong Toldi wrestles a pair of ferocious "reed wolves" (golden jackals) protecting their cubs. Later, in the city of Buda, he captures a rampaging bull that escaped from the shambles, grabbing it by the horns and driving it back alive to the butchers.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Being Human (UK): McNair's backstory has him being kidnapped by vampires, who try to feed him to a caged werewolf as part of a "dog fight" for their entertainment. McNair survives the fight and kills the wolf, at the cost of inheriting the lycanthropy curse himself, and later becomes a vampire hunter who regards the strength and resilience his lycanthropy grants him as a curse that makes dealing with other supernatural creatures much easier.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: One of the show's Running Gags is that Pimento doesn't hesitate to fight anyone or anything, including animals. He once got chased out of Alaska for fighting and killing a protected buffalo and getting into a fight with a bear.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Faith mentions having wrestled a vampire's pet alligators in Missouri while discussing her previous exploits with the Scoobie Gang.
    • Buffy normally relies on melee weapons when fighting monsters and has even killed a few of them unarmed. Examples of the latter include beating a cobra-like demon to death in "Shadow" with her bare hands and snapping a Suvolte demon's neck in "As You Were".
  • Crocodile Hunter: This series made Steve Irwin famous for wrestling crocodiles and handling other potentially-dangerous animals. Unlike most examples, this was all done in the name of conservation and education rather than just to be macho.
  • Hannah Montana: In "Knock Knock Knockin' On Jackson's Head", Rico mentions that one of the ways his Australian cousin Angus one-ups him is by wrestling alligators.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: This trope is parodied in a skit. Kirk Vilb, an actor who lands the title role in Scott of the Antarctic, insists on fighting a lion in the movie despite the inconvenient fact that there are no lions in the Antarctic. Ultimately, the title and setting of the movie are changed to Scott of the Sahara in order to accommodate the lion fight scene.
  • My Wife and Kids: Vanessa's father is a large, imposing man who has displayed unusual feats of strength offscreen. One of these is killing a wolf using nothing but his hands and teeth, which only makes him even more intimidating to Michael.
  • Wonder Woman (1975): In "Wonder Woman vs. Gargantua", Wonder Woman wrestles and overpowers the eponymous foe, a Nazi-trained gorilla that has been brainwashed to destroy her.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology:
    • In the Twelve Labors of Heracles, the First, Seventh and Twelfth Labors pitted Heracles against the Nemean Lion, the Cretan Bull, and Cerberus, the guard-dog of Hades respectively. He killed or subdued all three of them by grappling and choking them with his bare hands.
    • Another legend about Heracles states that when he was a baby, Hera sent two giant snakes to kill him. The tyke strangled both of them to death.
  • Hindu Mythology: The hero Krishna is called upon to defend his village from two demons who shapeshift into animals in order to menace humans. The first of these is Arishtasura, who charges into the village while taking on the form of an enormous bull, only for Krishna to defeat him by throwing him to the ground 3 times and snapping off one of his horns. The second demon, Keshi, then tries to fight Krishna in the form of a Hellish Horse, but Krishna thrusts his arm down Keshi's throat and chokes him to death.
  • Samson and Delilah: Samson's feats include killing a lion with his bare hands.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • The Adventures of Bayou Billy: The Archie Comics shows Billy wrestling alligators as part of his Training from Hell.
  • Battle K-Road: A large bear serves as the Final Boss, meaning any character that faces it during gameplay qualifies for this trope.
  • Bloodborne: Flavor text reveals that Valtr defeated a Beast with his bare hands and then ate it.
  • Dead or Alive 4: Jann Lee saves Hitomi from a dinosaur by knocking it out with a Diving Kick. However, Hitomi is not impressed and criticizes Jann Lee for being "cruel".
  • Evil Genius: Egomaniac Hunter Colonel Blackheart is said to have once killed a Bengal tiger with his bare hands.
  • EXTRAPOWER: Giant Fist: Part of what shows off Zophy's Charles Atlas Superpower - unlike most of the other player characters, Zophy can deal with the rampaging animals' Get A Hold Of Yourself Man fights by simply grappling them and flinging them around as easily as he can human enemies. Even when they're gorillas, magical fire bears, or fully sized rampaging elephants! Smaller animals like fish, rats and snakes are gently placed on the ground.
  • Final Fight: One of Mike Haggar's many claims to fame is defeating sharks in combat.
  • Garou: Mark of the Wolves: Khushnood Butt's sparring partner and Friendly Rival is a bear that knows karate.
  • Jurassic Park: The Game: When the survivors are separated and trying to make their escape, Oscar, one of the mercenaries originally hired to retrieve the dinosaur genomes Dennis Nedry stole manages to get the drop on a Velociraptor and kills it with just a knife, and even manages to scare off some other raptors. When the survivors are cornered in the power plant, Oscar goes to open the doors to so they can escape. Unfortunately, while the other survivors make it to safety, Oscar is torn apart by a large pack of raptors.
  • Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite: A story mode cutscene has Ryu and The Incredible Hulk battling and defeating a Dah'ren Mohran.
  • Might and Magic: Heroes VI: Jaguar warriors and panther warriors serve as Elite Mooks of the Stronghold faction. In order to join their ranks, a warrior must kill either a sabre-toothed pao jaguar or a shadow-panther, with nothing but their bare hands.
  • Monster Hunter 2 (dos): When not performing his duties as leader of Dundorma, His Immenseness is known for wrestling beasts such as the colossal Lao-Shan Lungs for fun.
  • Punch-Out!! Wii: The intro cutscene for the match against Don Flamenco, a Spanish matador-turned-boxer, shows him sending a bull flying with a single punch.
  • Street Fighter:
    • Zangief wrestles with bears as a workout.
    • Balrog killed Dhalsim's pet elephant with a single punch.
  • Team Fortress 2:
    • One of Saxton Hale's hobbies is fighting endangered beasts. He's even caused a number of them to go extinct, since many of them are the Last of Their Kind.
    • In his "Meet the Soldier" video, The Soldier claims that Sun Tzu used money he won from fights to buy two of every animal in the world just so he could beat them up.
  • Tekken:
    • Kuma is a bear who was trained in martial arts by Heihachi Mishima, who adopted him as a pet and later made him his bodyguard. Kuma was defeated in the first King of Iron Fist Tournament by Paul Phoenix. His son Kuma II became a rival for Paul.
    • This applies in gameplay for player characters who fight any of the animal characters in the game (Kuma, Panda, Roger, Alex and Gon).
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: In the "Fists of Fury" questline, Geralt must defeat various NPCs in boxing matches. Two of the opponents he fights towards the end of the questline are Olaf, a bear, and Athak, a rock troll.
  • The Yakuza series features several boss fights with powerful beasts:
    • Yakuza 2 has Kiryu Kazuma battling two tigers as a Dual Boss — and winning — to rescue Haruka from Sengoku in the battle that made him a Memetic Badass.
    • In Yakuza 5, Saejima fends off a killer bear while on the run with nothing but his fists, and has multiple encounters with it again in the substories.

    Web Animation 
  • Helluva Boss: Moxxie is mocked during the "Harvest Moon Festival" for being helpless without firearms. He tries killing a demonic pig for dinner without his rifle, but fails to pierce its thick hide with his knife, pissing off the monster which proceeds to throw him around like a rag doll. He's then forced to watch as Striker attempts the feat, easily subduing the beast and hacking it to pieces in seconds.
  • RWBY: In "The Emerald Forest", Ren encounters a giant, two-headed snake Grimm called the King Taijitu. After it disarms him, he fights it with his bare hands, snapping off one of its fangs and jamming it into its eye before obliterating one of its heads with a palm strike.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • Slappers Only: "How A Real Man Orders Coffee" is a sketch in which the titular "real man" (played by Stevie Emerson) boats of numerous masculine feats such as taking down a razorback pig that was charging him and his brother.

    Western Animation 
  • Big City Greens: The Greens have a Rite of Passage which involves wrestling the toughest, orneriest animal available and pinning it down for at least three seconds to earn the family name. Cricket, unfortunately, can't find an animal to fight in Big City, and fears that he'll never be a Green. He eventually does win by wrestling his own grandma, the toughest, orneriest member of the family.
  • Bob's Burgers: Invoked and discussed in "Dr. Yap". The Prince of Persuasia says that one way to get a girl to like you is to make up a story about fighting and killing a wild animal.
  • Family Guy: In "Stewie Loves Lois", Lois fights off a dog that had taken Stewie's teddy bear Rupert.
  • Freakazoid!: The Huntsman's intro shows him wrestling with a bear when he hears the Horn of Urgency calling him to fight evil.
  • Gravity Falls: Invoked in "The Land Before Swine". Grunkle Stan lies to Mabel about fighting a Pterodactyl that captured her pet pig Waddles under his watch (in reality, Stan set the pig outside so it wouldn't disrupt his business.) Eventually, while searching for Waddles, the truth comes out and a very angry Mable gives her uncle the silent treatment indefinitely. Thankfully, her respect for him is restored when Stan ends up having to do this for real in the episode's climax.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Trap Jaw easily bests Cringer in the first episode using only his bare hands.
  • Johnny Bravo: The pilot episode features a scene where the titular character fights and defeats an alligator. This was before he got flanderized into an idiotic weakling.
  • The New Batman Adventures: In "Never Fear", Batman infiltrates a seminar run by the Scarecrow which teaches attendees not to fear anything. When Batman, still undercover, gets captured, he's kept at bay with some crocodiles in a moat. Scarecrow hits him with a dose of his new gas, which does the opposite of his fear toxin and makes the afflicted lose fear of anything. Batman climbs into the moat and gets attacked by the crocodiles. After Scarecrow walks away, Batman climbs out of the moat, soaked but unharmed, while the crocodiles are floating belly up.
  • Phineas and Ferb: In "Fireside Girl Jamboree", Candace has to acquire fifty Fireside Girl patches in one day to win concert tickets. One of the patches she gets is for wrestling an alligator in a sewer.
  • Primal: Spear, the Neanderthal protagonist of the series, lives in a primordial world full of Prehistoric Monsters, and often ends up facing them in melee combat. He manages to slay beasts far larger than himself due to sheer persistence and innovative use of tools and the environment.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Marge Gets a Job", Groundskeeper Willie saves Bart from a startled Alaskan timber wolf that wanders into the school grounds. He grapples it into submission, and a later shot shows him sitting under a tree with the beaten-up-looking wolf, pouring some whisky into the palm of his hand for it to lap and telling it "Don't feel bad for losing, I was wrestling wolves when you were at your mother's teat".
    • In "Monty Can't Buy Me Love", Mr. Burns fights the Loch Ness Monster.
  • Storm Hawks:
    • In "The Black Gorge", Junko beats up a giant eel monster that tries to eat the team. For extra points, he does this without his knuckle busters.
    • Junko does this again in "The Last Stand" where he grabs one of the large scorpion monsters approaching them and tosses it away.
  • Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?: In "Moondreams", Ivy wrestles an alligator in the Florida sewers.

    Real Life 
  • The page quote is a (likely untrue) Badass Boast by Muhammad Ali during his pre-match press conference leading up to the bout with George Foreman.
  • Theodore Roosevelt once killed a puma using nothing but a knife.
  • Queen's College in Oxford, UK, conducts an annual festival called the Boar's Head Carol. According to a local legend, the event is dedicated to a former student of the college who was attacked by a wild boar while walking through Shotover Forest and, having no weapons other than a copy of the writings of Aristotle to defend himself with, thrust the book into the boar's open mouth and choked it to death.
  • In Ancient Rome, gladiators often faced wild beasts in the arena during the morning show (not to be confused with executions, which happened at noon while most of the audience had left for lunch).
  • The Cambodian martial art of Bokator derives its name from the word labokatao which means "to pound a lion". According to legend, the martial art was created when a warrior killed a lion attacking his village with a single knee strike.
  • The Ka-Bar knife, beloved by US Marines and Blade Enthusiasts everywhere, got its name from a letter written by a fur trapper. The letter was mostly difficult to read, but "ka bar" could be made out, being fragments of the phrase "kill a bear". The name stuck for a brand of knives and became the name of the company.


 
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