Elephants have one of the more tender mating rituals in the animal kingdom. Males conduct their courtship over a period of weeks. They flirt by squirting the females with water and bringing them food. Because the mating season is short, mature females are never far from adult males.
They typically mate when the female is in estrus (fertile and horny) rather than when the male is in musth (horny). Female elephants go into estrus only a few days each year. Both sexes have distinct mating calls that communicate to any interested parties in a two mile range that they are ready to get it on. They also leave scent markings that display their sexual receptivity. Female scent markings attract any nearby bulls.
Once the men arrive, it’s ladies choice. An interested female will hold her head high, produce a low, rumbling invitation, and then run quickly across the plains in a game of chase with the bulls. She’ll outrun younger males and only stop for a larger, dominant male who then gently caresses her with his trunk. The two may stand head to head, touching mouths, intertwining their trunks, and touching each other’s genital areas. The trunk is the elephant’s main sensing organ and they use it to touch, caress or smell each other with their trunks.
After mating, the female rumbles out the post-copulatory sequence, a group of six grunts with strong overtones. She repeats this sequence several times, continuing for up to half an hour. Holla!