Big Bull

06th January 2013
I was driving through the park recently when I saw a large elephant bull pushing through the bushes towards the road. He seemed agitated so I moved forward to avoid blocking his path and waited to see what would happen.

As he approached me, he bashed through the bush near the road, creating a nice image of excitement and nervousness.

After approaching my vehicle and sniffing all around me, he crossed the road and dropped down the bank towards a lagoon. He displayed a swaggering walk which made me think he might be coming into musth (a condition of heightened sexual readiness in male elephants), but he wasn't showing any of the visual signs that a young bull should.

As I was about to move off, I heard more crashing in the bushes and the story began to become clear. Following the younger bull was a huge adult male, who was most certainly in full musth! He was dripping fluid from his genitals and rolling his shoulders in a overly exaggerated way as he moved. He kept the tip of his trunk right on the ground just as a dog's nose tracks along the ground when it is hunting. It was too late for me to move, so I just sat very still and checked that the wind was not going to blow my scent across his path.

As he approached the side of the road, he wheeled around and returned to a spot just behind him, where he sniffed the ground intently for nearly a minute. I'll never forget what followed; an ear-splitting trumpeting-bellow accompanied by a series of head-shakes which cause the ears to slap against the head. It wasn't aimed at me, but more an automatic response to whatever scent he had picked up on the ground, which I suspect to be a urine mark from an oestrus cow.

By this point, the dripping from his genitals was even more pronounced and his temporal glands were glistening wet down the side of his face. He looked up, saw the younger bull (who was by now drinking on the other side of the lagoon, 200m away) and began to charge directly towards him! The young bull didn't mistake the aggression and took off running towards the thickets beyond the lagoon. The pursuer didn't relent until the youngster was driven out of sight, after a charge of several hundred metres!

Sadly I don't have any images of the charge, as I was concentrating on keeping quiet and not becoming part of the action.

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