We encountered these two male Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes on a back road in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas as they first approached each other. For approximately half an hour, we were able to photograph them as they engaged in a ritual that we learned later that it is called a Combat Dance and that it has rarely been seen in the wild.
Each of the snakes was at least six feet in length with a massive body. Again and again, each raised the front third of his body and, with heads held high and tongues flicking, they entwined necks. Then, each pushed and strained, as if in an arm-wrestling match, trying to topple the other. This was repeated over and over, both on the road and in the adjacent desert brush and grasses, and the only sounds were of scuffling and a loud whomp! as one or the other was thrown to the ground.
Eventually, one of the rattlesnakes slithered off into the brush. The other, the winner we presumed, only then took notice of us and began to advance and we, obviously, quickly headed back to our car, breathless and thrilled by what we had seen and photographed.
This image received an award in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition and subsequently was published in National Geographic Magazine (USA) and on the cover of ten foreign issues of National Geographic in Europe, South America and the Middle East in the language prevailing in the area, this one published in Portuguese in Brazil.