In mammals, large males are often assumed to have higher mating success because they have greater success at contest competition. This relationship is often used to explain the prevalence of male-biased sexual size dimorphism in mammals. However, in many small vertebrates, large individuals are not always dominant. Using staged dyadic encounters, we examined the relationship between male body size and social dominance in captive male yellow-pine chipmunks (Tamias amoenus), a species with female-biased sexual size dimorphism. The yellow-pine chipmunk has a mating system in which males participate in mating chases and dominant males may have an advantage in acquiring matings with oestrous females. Captive male chipmunks were aggressive in only 28% of 144 paired encounters; however, several lines of evidence indicated that smaller chipmunks were dominant over large chipmunks: (1) small males were dominant in more dyads than large males; (2) within dyads, dominant males were smaller than subordinate males; and (3) small males performed more aggressive behaviour than large males. These results are not consistent with the prediction that large males are typically dominant. If large chipmunks are able to gain matings with females because of qualities other than dominance (such as the ability to successfully find and/or chase receptive females), then the costs of aggression to large chipmunks may outweigh any potential benefits. Small males, but not large males, may improve their mating success by being aggressive.