The Difference Between Chimps And Bonobos

“A man has no reason to be ashamed of having an ape for his grandfather. If there was an ancestor whom I should feel shame in recalling it would rather be a man.” —Thomas Huxley

In A Nutshell

Although often mistaken as the same animal, chimpanzees and bonobos are two separate species within the same genus. They are 99.6 percent genetically similar to each other, but have different appearances and vastly unique social behaviors. The biggest differences between the two are in how they govern their societies: Chimps are led by an alpha male and tend to maintain order through aggression, while bonobos are dominated by females and keep the peace through sex.

The Whole Bushel

It’s commonly known that chimpanzees are humans’ closest living relatives, but what many don’t realize is that another great ape, the bonobo, also shares 98.7% of its genome with humans. Bonobos live exclusively in the Congo, and because of the long-term instability in the country, it’s been incredibly difficult to study them in the wild. Thus, bonobos remain the lesser known of the two apes and are often confused with chimps or are considered the same animal. In reality, they are two separate species with unique physical characteristics and dynamically different social behaviors.

Chimpanzees, (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (Pan paniscus) are the only two species in the genus Pan, and it’s believed they diverged from each other around two million years ago. Their genome is about 99.6 percent identical, and while they look very similar, there are a few physical differences that make them easy to tell apart. For one, bonobos are small and slender when compared to the taller, stockier chimps. Also bonobos have pink lips and black faces, while chimps have brown lips and faces that change color as they age. Another notable distinction is the bonobo’s longer head hair, which tends to part stylishly down the middle.

Although the physical variations between chimps and bonobos are interesting, what’s even more fascinating is their behavioral and social differences. Overall, bonobos have a “make love, not war” mentality, which is in stark contrast to the often aggressive and violent manner of chimps. For bonobos, sex is used for almost everything, including avoiding conflict, showing affection, reducing stress, solidifying social status, and simply saying “hello.” Bonobos are much more likely to keep the peace by offering a sexual favor, whereas a chimpanzee’s first instinct is to secure dominance through battle. In chimp groups, the highest-ranking male is the only one allowed to mate with the females, but in bonobo cultures, everyone has sexual freedom, and sex acts occur between all combinations of ages and genders.

Homosexual acts are especially common among female bonobos, which they use to create strong emotional bonds and maintain social dominance over the males. In fact, bonobos have peaceful, matriarchal societies. Chimps are led by an alpha male and occasionally kill each other. Chimp groups keep very strict boundaries, which they viciously defend. In contrast, bonobos allow for overlap in their territories and will even mate across community lines.

Other major differences between chimps and bonobos include their vocalizations, tool use, and territorial nature. For example, bonobos have higher-pitched voices, and chimps tend to hoot, scream, and grunt. Finally, while chimps are known to use tools to crack nuts, collects ants, and clip leaves, bonobos have only rarely used tools in captivity.

(The above image is of two bonobos.)

Show Me The Proof

PBS: Chimps And Bonobos
Bonobos Join Chimps as Closest Human Relatives
Chimps & Bonobos

  • Hillyard

    Maybe the U.N.’s peacekeeping forces should change tactics.

    • Rijul Ballal

      No too many people who join rebellions to get favors from the UN forces…

  • Brp Goyo

    If only hot human females also offer sex as a way of saying hello 😀

    • uglyskank

      Why? The ugly ones do – aren’t they enough for u?

      • Brp Goyo

        I’d like to bar my taste higher than yours

      • CrazyMonkey CrazyMonkey


  • Glengarry Ricky Ross

    I remember my Professor explained this in anthropology.. It was so funny because he jumped around acting like a chimp then would calm himself down and act like a bonobo.

    • Cash

      Hahah, seeing this would be so funny. Your professor is committed.

  • rhijulbec

    Interesting, thanks!

  • Moutica

    Using sex to control is just as devious, no different than using drugs to control someone

    • Cash

      interesting insight my friend 🙂

      • MrClean417

        But Women have been using sex to control us from day one. Chastising our characteristics while bedding the bad boys. This is what happens when human females run things, which is why they shouldn’t.
        Wouldn’t mind watching some of the lesbian stuff though however, does that mean we have to watch Merkel get it on? Never mind. I’m just gonna go off and be a hermit.

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  • Remi P

    I’m not a racist but sayig chimps and bonobos are two different specis although their genus is 99,6% alike is weid when we know a black person has 99,7% of an Asian or a white/red/blue person

    • Nicholas DeShane

      Neeewp so far from wrong. All humans are 99.9% genetically identical and we are about 96% the same as both bonobo’s and chimp’s 85% with mice like 90% with cats hell life is so similar the difference between humans and bananas is only 40%. We share 60% of our genomes with bananas. Most of our genes are basic shit that almost everything on earth shares so a fraction of a percent of difference can be a big deal.

      • Remi P

        Yeah I rode a serious French article (Don’t know if you speak French but here’s the link : stating that our DNA is 99,9% alike but this number could decrease with further researches.

        It also shown 0,1% is already representing 3 millions chromosome differences whih is huge (Must be about the color of the skin and the shape of the face)

  • Sheryl Stevens

    I find this interesting. Are we as a society more like chimpanzees or bonobos? I would guess historically, pre-Crusades, many human cultures were matrilineal like bonobos – Pagan cultures for example. Sex was more likely to be celebrated than reserved for reproduction only or for special cases, if I accurately remember what I’ve read. On the other hand, Christian-influenced human cultures seem more like the chimpanzee – male dominated and comparatively bent on violence between groups – even within groups!

    I wonder if anything would have been different at all in human history if we had bothered to compare ourselves to our cousins sooner. Certainly little seems to be changing now…

    • Aaron Eichstedt

      Lost brother

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  • rascallyrabbit

    The likelihood that an academic would challenge this is ……

  • rascallyrabbit

    What is most sad is when leftists, the supposedly ‘elite’ knowledgeable people, ape these behaviors.