Elephants are often called the gentle giants of the bush – but best stay out of their way when annoyed. A pack of wild dogs learnt this the hard way when their splashing around left an elephant bull seriously unimpressed. Watch what happens when a grumpy ellie’s had enough of wild dog antics. By Gaynor Siljeur

Wild traveller Christine Moynihan and her husband were delighted when they came upon a pack of wild dogs in the Kruger National Park. “We had been driving on the H5 (between Lower Sabie and Skukuza) and stopped at a waterhole. At first there was no sign of life, but then we spotted some wild dogs in the bushes. After a short while, eight to 10 wild dogs approached the waterhole where they drank, played and lolled around leisurely in the water,” she enthusiastically told Wild.

All pictures by Christine Moynihan

As if that sighting alone wasn’t enough to make their day, things soon got more interesting. A lone elephant came strolling along and settled at the opposite side of the waterhole from where the dogs were drinking and cavorting around.

After spotting the wild dogs, the ellie quickly grew annoyed and began to spray water and mud in the direction of these pack hunters.

“The wild dogs didn’t take much notice of the elephant’s behaviour, which was clearly signalling his annoyance. He began to walk around the waterhole with his ears flapping and then suddenly trumpeted and charged the dogs. They got such a fright that they scattered in all directions,” Christine recalled.







The elephant continued his circuit around the waterhole and again charged a few dogs that got in his way. Having clearly shown the wild dogs what he thought of their frivolous behaviour, the bull wandered off into the bush – leaving the dogs to enjoy themselves at the water’s edge.

Video of a rarely witnessed interaction:

“We were the only car there and the only ones to see this interaction. You will notice that my husband was driving backwards and forwards as we were unsure whether the elephant would possibly charge us too. It was a fantastic experience all in all and we couldn’t believe what an amazing scene we were witnessing,” she concluded.

What makes for a bad-tempered elephant?

From the video it would appear this elephant bull was in musth. Musth is a periodic state of dominance in bull elephants and can lead to unpredictable behaviour and increased aggression. To recognise a bull in musth you can look for these signs:

  • Profuse streaming of oily fluid down the cheek to the chin, from the temporal gland located between the eye and ear. Musth males often rub the glands against trees. Temporal gland secretions alone are not a reliable indicator of musth, they can also indicate stress or excitement, so look for co-occurrence with other signs.
  • A swollen temporal gland. At the peak of musth, it will be at least the size of an orange. Musth males often drape their trunks over the tusks to relieve pressure on the tusks.
  • Constantly dribbling urine or wet hind legs. Look for dark streaks running down the legs.
  • A strong, musky odour, distinctly different from the typical elephant or dung smell.
  • A swaggering gait, chin tucked in.

It would be wise to reverse if a musth bull is in front of you. Don’t drive past nor let him walk towards you as this could be dangerous.

Also read: The Last Elephants: are these majestic animals facing extinction?