In many species interactions among group are often characterized by agonistic behaviour. Although animals may participate in inter-group encounters in different ways, depending on their energetic requirements, reproductive tactics, and/or developmental stage, the proximate causes affecting an animal's participation in inter-group encounters are still poorly understood. Indeed, many studies have analysed the behaviour of males and females during inter-group encounters without considering the importance of additional factors (e.g. rank). This study focuses on wild non-provisioned Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata yakui) living on Yakushima Island, Japan. It aims to determine how monkeys of different sex, age, and rank behave during inter-group encounters and it discusses the implications and consequences of their behaviour on group composition and male dispersal. Males participated significantly more than females in inter-group encounters, by displaying more aggressive or affiliative behaviour. High-ranking and/or adult males were more aggressive than low-ranking and/or subadult males during encounters occurring in the mating season and they also showed more herding behaviour. This trend was not found in inter-group encounters occurring during the non-mating season. Finally, males which then emigrated to new groups were low-ranking and/or subadult individuals. Those males displayed more affiliative behaviour towards foreign males than males which did emigrate. These data indicate that in non-territorial species with male dominance over female and high competition for mating partners males play an active, and often aggressive, role during inter-group encounter while female participation is scarce. Factors such as age, rank and period of the year (in seasonally breeding species) have to be taken into considerations when analysing interactions between groups and their effects on group composition and social behaviour.