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"If we remember the seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines of the wise Solomon, we shall applaud the modesty of the Arabian, who espoused no more than seventeen or fifteen wives."--The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-89) by Edward Gibbon

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Polygyny (which comes from neo-Greek: πολύ poly "many" + γυνή gyny "woman") is a specific form of polygamy, where a male individual is recognized to have more than one female sexual partner or wife at the same time. It is distinguished from a man having multiple sexual partners outside of marriage, such as concubinage, casual sexual partners, paramours, and recognized secondary partners. Polygyny is the most common form of polygamy. The much rarer practice of a woman having more than one male sexual partner is called polyandry.


In nature

Several species such as the wood mouse Apodemus sylvaticus possess a polygamous social order in which males mate with multiple females. Such circumstances result in competition between males during reproductive periods. This competition can extend beyond the superficial scrambling for females and exists at a microscopic level as competition between spermatozoa in the reproductive tract of the female organism.

A variety of methods for practicing polygamy can be observed in the animal kingdom. For example, female defense polygyny is seen in marine amphipods, where the male herds the females into a cluster. This allows them to be protected by the male, while the male has continuous access to the females. Resource defense polygyny is a strategy seen in African cichlid fish, where the male collects empty snail shells which the females use to lay eggs. A third type is scramble competition polygamy, where females are widely spaced or fertility is time-limited, as in orangutans.

Elephant seals are known from long-term behavioral studies to be highly polygynous.


In zoology, the term Harem is used for the social organization of certain species, such as those in the Hominidae and Equidae families, in groups of females surrounding a single dominant male. Non-dominant males will organize themselves in bachelor groups.

Bachelor band

Among members of certain species, such as apes (Superfamily Hominoidea), horses (more broadly, Family Equidae), dogs and whales, young non-dominant males can spontaneously form "bachelor groups" or "bachelor bands."

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Polygyny" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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