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The Chimpanzee

The Chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes, is one of our closest relatives.  Apart from the Bonobo, Human beings are the closest living relative to the Chimp. Gorillas are more distant relations.

The Generic name, Pan, is from the Greek god of Shepherds.  The specific name, troglodytes, means cave dweller.  So the name suggests a cave dwelling shepherd.  This is not a very good description of the Chimp. 

Chimpanzees are not known to keep any domestic animals and they usually live in trees rather than caves.  However, there have been observations of Savannah Chimpanzees using caves during the day on hot days.  They apparently go in to escape the heat.  They will also take food in to eat it in the caves.

Chimpanzees and

Some people use the word Chimpanzee for both these species.  I think this is confusing, and in this article, Chimpanzee means Pan troglodytes only.


Chimps are animals, not Humans, despite considerable similarities. When they first came to the attention of modern Europeans they were considered to be Pygmies.  That is, a type of Human.


Chimps and Bonobos are tool making and using animals.  Most of the tools are wood although some stone is used, but probably not enough to qualify Chimpanzee culture as a Stone Age one.


Chimpanzees are omnivores, eating both plant parts and animals. They eat more meat than Bonobos, but less than Humans. Chimpanzees will hunt things like small antelopes and goats as well as several types of monkey.  The meat is eaten raw because Chimps do not use fire.


There are two distinct types of habitat used by Chimpanzees.


Chimps will live in dense jungle.  This is the sort of place we normally associate with them.  In the jungle, they make nests in the trees to sleep.


Some groups of Chimpanzees have taken to living on the open Savannah
Chimpanzees are basically an animal that walks on all four legs although they are capable of some walking on two legs.  They are less upright in their walking and standing than Bonobos.

Chimpanzees are stronger than Humans of the same weight, but the extent of this has been exagerated.

A Chimpanzee running on four legs is faster than a Human.  Part of the extra strength and speed of the Chimpanzee comes by sacrificing stamina.  That is, their muscles are more like a Human sprinter or weight lifter than a distance runner.
Humans have better fine muscle control than the apes.  This may be another trade off with strength.


Human war involves a group of people setting out to either conquer or exterminate another group. Of course, there are some cases of war with more limited aims, but wars still involve the likely killing of numbers of Human Beings.

Chimpanzee wars are between two groups of Chimpanzees.  One sets out to take over the other group’s territory.  This can mean the total extermination of one group.

Many animals fight. Some are even famous for this like the Siamese Fighting Fish, but the only two species known to make war are Humans and Chimpanzees.  Yes, some people might want to include certain types of social insects in the war making list, but I consider these somewhat different.
Steve Challis
Photo By David Shay [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.
Chimpanzee at Liepzig Zoo
By Thomas Lersch
[GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.
org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-2.5 (], from Wikimedia Commons