Bull elephant awkwardly sits down on all fours for stretch in the mud
Watching elephants in the wild during an African safari is always a great experience. When these giants are in the vicinity of mud, you can be sure of great entertaining behaviour, especially when they perform awkward looking body movements one would only expect to have seen from a circus elephant in the olden days.
It was during a safari in the Kruger National Park when we came across a large herd of elephants gathered around several mud wallows. The herd was scattered all over and our attention was fixed on a small group of large bull elephants, standing around a smaller wallow some distance away from the rest of the herd. It was a blazing hot summer morning and most of the elephants were splashing themselves with mud. The cool mud covering the elephant’s skin brings great relief from the heat. While watching the large elephant bulls enjoying their time in the mud, we noticed that the largest bull was missing his tail. The large bull’s body was almost completely covered in mud and he was just standing there, staring at the wallow for some time. Suddenly the big elephant bull looked like he was about to slip, but his movements became more intent and controlled. I was totally blown away to see the large old bull, slowly bending down onto his knees. I was totally confused by this incredibly awkward body position the bull elephant found himself in. Once on all fours, the elephant bull slowly stretched out his front legs, looking like he was enjoying a good stretch. The old elephant bull then dragged his stomach and hind legs through the mud before easily getting back onto his feet. The bull elephant then casually proceeded to stand next to the other bulls, slightly bumping them out the way, just to reiterate his dominance over them and the mud wallow.
Everybody on the safari vehicle was in total awe to see how flexible and agile such a large and old elephant bull can be if he wants to. Whether the old bull just wanted a good stretch or maybe wanting to get mud into a few hard-to-reach places, we will only ever be able to assume and never really know. In the end we could only leave with the total amazement of such rarely seen behaviour out in the African wild.