Reaching of the trunk to touch, or near touch the genitals of another. Trunk-to-Genitals is a common behavior and occurs between elephants of all age/sex groups in a broad range of contexts. It is likely that such behaviour is often related to assessment of physical or sexual state, such as male assessment of female receptivity and female and male assessment of male musth state, or assessing the physical state of an infant.

Yet, it is not always the case that this behavior has an olfactory function. For instance calves Soliciting-Suckling have been observed to touch and even ‘pinch’ their mother’s genitals in an action that appears to be aimed at getting her attention. Likewise, mothers and allomothers touch the genitals of infants, apparently to get their attention before moving off or in an attempt to Guide them toward or away from something. Mothers and allomothers also regularly touch the genitals of infants in what appears to be a gesture of reassurance.

Trunk-to-Genitals often occurs during greetings between various age/sex individuals and during Sparring mostly between males. Elephants are very tactile animals with a tremendously perceptive sense of smell. More research is required to fully understand why elephants touch the genitals of other elephants.

References: Jainudeen et al 1971; Eisenberg et al 1971; Douglas-Hamilton 1972: ch 6; Poole 1982: 37 illustration & 174; Poole 1987b; Rasmussen et al 1982; Rasmussen & Wittemyer 2002; Poole & Granli 2003; Poole & Granli 2004; Poole & Granli 2011 [Test-Genitals; Test-Penis]. (Full reference list)

This behavior occurs in the following context(s): Advertisement & Attraction, Affiliative, Birth, Calf Nourishment & Weaning, Calf Reassurance & Protection, Courtship, Social Play


Context: Affiliative (1)

Two groups that have been in the vicinity of one another have come together and engage in a Greeting-Ceremony. In this sub-section of the sequence we see Matriarch gf0070 move toward the approaching group and they Greet. We can see Rapid-Ear-Flapping, Ear-Folding, Trunk-to-Mouth and Trunk-to-Genitals. During the greeting two calves reach Trunk-to-Genitals to matriarch gf0070 and then, later an adolescent female reaches Trunk-to-Genitals to a male calf. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)


Context: Affiliative (2)

Provocadora’s 7-8 year adolescent female reaches Trunk-to-Genitals to what we believe is her younger sibling - a male calf about 1.5 years old. This takes place during an affiliative encounter. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)


Context: Affiliative (3)

Two young males come together and greet one another. The arriving male greets the one standing Trunk-to-Mouth. The one standing greets the arriving male Trunk-to-Temporal-Glands and then Trunk-to-Genitals x 3. There is no audio. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)


Context: Affiliative (4)

Two males walk toward one another; the younger male stops and Waits, J-Trunk, Ear-Spreading and Chin-Out in expectation for the older male, Viajante, to approach. As the larger male arrives and keeps on walking the younger male Backs-Away, reaches Trunk-to-Mouth and then Trunk-to-Genitals. Viajante continues on. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)