An elephant resting his or her head on another. Rest-Head often occurs during play when one elephant rests his or her head on the back or flank of another. It is also often observed in a resting group when one elephant rests his or her head on a nearby elephant. In Courtship a male may Rest-Head on an estrous female as a prelude to Mounting. On rarer occasions a female may Rest-Head on another female in a display of dominance. On several occasions we have observed this behavior in the presence of a newborn infant, sometimes during an attempted kidnapping, when a dominant female places her head on the back of a younger mother.

References: Poole & Granli 2003; Goldenberg and Wittemyer 2018 [Rest-Chin]. (Full reference list)

This behavior occurs in the following context(s): Affiliative, Aggressive, Courtship, Social Play


Context: Affiliative (1)

A young mother Rests-Head on a calf. (Amboseli, Kenya)


Context: Affiliative (2)

Two families walk toward one another on a spit of land between two water holes. Ten elephants come from the right (East) and the MB family comes from the left (West) with at least 26 elephants in their group. A couple of males watch. Soft Rumbling begins before they meet. As the MBs approach with Maria in the lead, Annelies with a newborn, and another female with her, stand Head-Raising and Ear-Lifting, Waiting for them. Both Oriented-Away slightly.

When Maria is about 4 meters from her Annelies Urinates and erupts in loud Open-Mouthed Rumbling and Rapid-Ear-Flapping, As Maria reaches her Trunk-Toward her she Open-Mouth Rumbles again. Maria Ear-Folds and Reaches-Over Annelies and Rests-Head on Annelies' back. Annelies continues to Rumble and gets Temporal-Gland-Secretion. There is more Rumbling by the female who came with Annelies, who Backs-Toward members of the MB family, one of whom appears to Social-Rub against her. Both families continue to the east side of the water holes, where the ABDC families had come from. Annelies and her group join Amparo. Later the two families join again.

Note that while this occurs in an affiliative context it may well be that Maria is showing her dominance over Annelies with the Reach-Over and Rest-Head and Annelies her subservience by Backing-Toward her. (Amboseli, Kenya)