South African wildlife – Wait, that's not a trunk…

By Ed Yong | November 7, 2009 8:00 am

Elephant-penis

This is a bull elephant firmly establishing why it is he, and not the lion, who is king of beasts. The elephant’s penis is not only massive but prehensile. As we watched in baffled amusement (and the faintest tinge of inadequacy), he used his penis to prop himself up (as in the photo), swat flies from his side and scratch himself on his stomach. David Attenborough never showed us that…

There’s good reason for elephants to have prehensile penises. It’s hard enough for a six-tonne animal to get into the right position for sex, let alone having to do the rhythmic thrusting that’s required. So he let’s his penis do all the work for him.

You’ll also note the dark stain behind his eye – that’s a leak from his temporal gland. It means that this male was entering musth, the period when their testosterone shoots through the roof and they get incredibly horny and aggressive. We tried to drive round this male and he basically charged us. Tramply doom was averted by our driver who slammed his palm against the car door as hard as he could. The elephant stopped and huffed and puffed. We did our best to not soil ourselves.

Elephant-portrait

This picture gives you an idea of how close he was. After a seemingly infinite standstill, he moved aside, extended his enormous penis and had a wee. It’s amazing how terror can convert into comedy so quickly…

Elephantclose



MORE ABOUT: elephant, penis

Comments (15)

  1. Bob O'H

    I was once accosted on the stairs of the old geology building in Helsinki by Michael Fortelius. He pressed a paper into my hand and ran off with a smile. The paper was about testicondy in elephants – their balls don’t drop.
    The point of the paper was that because of this they have a higher mutation rate, and this might explain the high rate of diversification of the elephants, mammoths etc. in the fossil record.
    I just thought you might like to know this.

  2. Catharine

    Oh. my. heavens.

  3. yikes

    If not for the testicondy, there might be some “tusks” accompanying that ‘trunk’?

  4. DrYak

    Reminds me of doing research in Botswana – we used to sex the fresh dung by the pattern of urine deposited with it. In males the urine was in front of the dung (for obvious reasons), sometimes by a looong way… I can definitely confirm that being charged by a male in musth is a very scary experience, especially when you are on foot not too far away from it!

  5. ….. and even more so if you happen to turn your back on the elephant…..

  6. nn

    “tramply doom”
    My favourite term for today.

  7. Dana

    It looks to me like the first photo is of an elephant with a deformed back left leg.
    You’re pulling our leg, aren’t you?!

  8. lulu64

    Was redirected here from an article on Cracked.com and I must say, your writing style rocks. Loved it as much as the article content.

  9. Ed Yong

    I love that Cracked.com is citing me as an expert in elephant todgers.

  10. blaa
  11. BryanGoodtimes

    Well now i know how to linked on cracked.com

  12. cwillson

    Directed here from CRACKED.com as well. I too appreciate your writing style and will henceforth be a regular visitor.
    Cheers

  13. mamita

    I would really like to put my ex-husband in the pen with this bull. They behave similarly.

  14. Malcolm

    Also linked here from cracked. Just added your blog to my bookmarks tab next to Pharyngula :)

  15. ReneeIsMe2day

    I enjoyed your writing style, too.
    I also linked here from Cracked. :-)

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