Patience paid off for photographer Tero Pylkkanen who recently spent hours hunkered in a hide in Kuhmo, Finland to capture some remarkable footage of brawling brown bears.

"I was in the bear hide with my family and these two bears were following each other [for] maybe a couple of hours, and then luckily they took action in front of our hide,” Pylkkanen told PetaPixel.

It took about an hour for the first bear to turn up in the patch of Finnish forest where Pylkkanen and his family were camped out. These apex predators start showing up in early April in Kuhmo and stick around until October at which point they retreat to hibernation dens for the chilly winter months. Bear brawls are more common during May and June when females are in oestrus and competition for mating rights is at its height.

An hour later a second braun entered the scene and the bears began sizing each other up. Brown bears are not overly territorial, but they do typically adhere to a hierarchy: mature males are at the top, while females, subadults and cubs take a lower position in the social standings. Bears may clash if a dominant male feels the need to assert his authority or a female goes on the offensive to protect her cubs. Adult males can be particularly aggressive and are often avoided by smaller individuals.

It would be another two hours before the brawl broke out. Pylkkanen and his family watched with bated breath as the bears began bawling at each other in a pre-clash chorus that ripped through the forest. The smaller of the two tried to shield itself behind a tree, but the dominant male was having none of it. Before long the bears were in a bundle, over 1000 kilograms of brawn tussling and turning in a tense showdown.

It was over in just a few minutes. The victor strutted off, likely marking his territory on the way, while the defeated bear – its nose bloodied from the fight – sprinted away. While the clash certainly looks serious, it is unlikely that either bear was severely injured. As is the case with many species, dominance battles are more about asserting authority than actually risking injury in a full-blown fight.