I recently returned from yet another wonderful safari in Botswana with a special couple. On one of our drives we came around a bend in the road in the midst of a beautiful mopane forest and encountered this bull elephant in musth.
Musth is a hormonal condition exhibited by male elephants once a year after they have reached sexual maturity. It is associated with increased sexual activity and is recognised by three visual cues. A bull elephant in musth has a copious (strong smelling) secretion from his temporal gland, his penis dribbles continuously and he walks with an arrogant swagger. During this period the elephant has increased levels of testosterone circulating in his body.Normally cow elephants are more dangerous than bulls but when in musth, bull elephants are considered POTENTIALLY more dangerous. Indeed they are more aggressive toward other bull elephants, who generally move out of their way. And while they can be aggressive this is not always the case, but they are always supremely arrogant and confident. In this picture you can see that I am carefully backing up as he swaggers toward me. He is not being aggressive but he is being assertive. He convinced me to give way and then arrogantly continued on his way, satisfied that he was in charge.