Turning to present posterior and walking backward toward another or other, often higher-ranking, elephant(s). Back-Toward may be observed when individuals (usually adult/adolescent and juvenile females) attempt to join or move to a more central or advantageous position in a gathered group such as during a Bonding-Ceremony, when Bunching, when joining a Resting group, or when an adolescent female approaches a mother with a newborn. Males may engage in Back-Toward during Social Play with a larger partner.

Back-Toward may sometimes be a gesture of appeasement to avoid an aggressive response by a larger elephant, or, within families, as a signal of respect - such as when joining a Resting group, or, in the case of Bunching it may be a way to keep eyes, ears and tusks pointed toward the perceived threat. All age sex groups may Back-Toward the carcass or bones of a dead elephant.

References: Moss 1988; Moss 1992: 130; Poole 1996: 159; Kahl & Armstrong 2000; Langbauer 2000; O’Connell-Rodwell et al 2011; Poole & Granli 2003; Poole & Granli 2011. (Full reference list)

This behavior occurs in the following context(s): Affiliative, Birth, Calf Reassurance & Protection, Coalition Building, Social Play, Submissive


Context: Submissive (1)

Selengei's family is resting under a tree in the heat of the day. A young female moves position to obtain more shade. To move into position she turns her body and Back-Toward the resting group next to Selengei. There were rumbles associated with this. We thought she was initiating movement but seemed just to want to change locations. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Submissive (2)

After receiving a Head-Swipe and Retreating-From Mama Little E, allomother V-Notch Backs-Toward Mama Litte E in order to move back into position near to infant Little E. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Submissive (3)

Allomother, Lorato, wants to get closer to Little E, so she uses a clever maneuver to avoid upsetting anyone: She moves across in front of the resting group and Back-Toward others and into position. Little E comes over to Solicit-Suckle and she reaches back to touch him. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Submissive (4)

Allomother, Lorato, Backs-Toward the Little E his mother and another allomother. It is possible that she is forming a defensive circle around Little E as there are lions in the area. Then she adopts her idiosyncratic Circus-Pose. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Submissive (5)

After a Mating Natsya is surrounded by five males. The youngest male cautiously approaches to test her with Penis-Erection, but when the Guarding male takes a step toward him he Retreats-From with a full erection. Then he Backs-Toward another large adult male who is very tolerant of his close presence. They stand together, at times touching, for at least 10 minutes. At one point the older male reaches back to touch the younger male in an apparently friendly gesture. The two look very alike and we wonder whether they are related. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)