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Elephants are the mammals that manage to reach the largest sizes among land animals, an aspect that undoubtedly makes them majestic and imposing individuals. But its size is not its only peculiar feature. These proboscidians have particular characteristics associated with their behaviour, to the point that, for many specialists, they are particularly intelligent animals, which is reflected in the way they communicate. It has been found that they develop a complex system of interactions through different mechanisms. If you want to know how elephants communicate, we invite you to continue reading this article from



the language of elephants

Language comprises the various forms of communication that are used. In the case of elephants, it has been determined that they communicate visually, chemically, acoustically and tactically, which includes the perception of vibrations, which shows the complexity of their communication system. This is linked to their form of social organization, since they are animals that are grouped in matriarchal herds, consisting mainly of females and their descendants. Adult males, on the contrary, usually live alone, staying in small groups close to the ones formed by females. That’s why elephants require various forms of communication to stay connected and transmit different types of information. More details:

  • Visual communication Although they don’t have the best eyesight as vertebrates, elephants rely on it to communicate, so it’s important to understand the movements and behaviours of members of the herd.
  • Chemical communication: it is highly optimized thanks to the peculiar nose of these mammals, capable of perceiving various chemical stimuli, even at long distances, a useful aspect for reproduction and also for detecting food. Check out our article on eating elephants to learn more about this topic.
  • Acoustic communication: elephants have very efficiently developed their acoustic communication system so that the emission of various sounds is decisive for the interaction between individuals of the species. Furthermore, they have an auditory system that is among the most effective in the animal world.
  • Tactile Communication: Touch is used by pack members to convey messages, particularly between mothers and their children.

In the following sections, we will review examples of how elephants use these forms of communication.





how elephants talk

Elephant communication, as we’ve seen, is very complex. Depending on whether it’s visual, chemical, tactile or acoustic, elephants are able to convey different messages. These are some examples.

Body language

Elephant visual communication allows them to detect certain particular messages. For example, the position of the ears and the trunk convey clear information, as does body posture. In this way, an elephant can “read” or perceive one another through its sense of sight.

Communication for reproduction

The nose or trunk of elephants is a complex structure made up of thousands of muscles, as well as multiple nerve endings in the nasal canal, which allow them to perceive chemical signals (odours) at great distances. In this sense, in the reproductive season, a male can notice the chemical changes that occur in women and therefore proceed to courtship. You can read our article on how elephants reproduce if you are interested in learning more about this aspect.

Why do elephants sweep?

Acoustic communication is another extraordinary way that elephants get turned on. Thus, these large mammals emit various types of sounds. Some can be easily heard even by people, but there are others that are infrasonic and that only they detect. Depending on whether the communication is established between mothers and children, males and females in the breeding season or members of the same herd, elephants will use different frequencies, which can even be felt up to 2.5 km away.



Tactile language

The form of tactile communication mainly includes the use of the tube, which, as mentioned, is provided with several nerve endings. For this reason, elephants use it to touch themselves, although it is also common for them to use their tails to sense textures or what is behind them.

Communication through vibrations

The ways in which elephants communicate do not end with those we have already explained, as it has been determined that they are also capable of detecting ground vibrations, particularly through their legs. And is that elephants can emit various types of steps to convey a particular message to other elephants. For example, a mother does this when she feels threatened. They can also sense, through vibrations, whether a natural event is about to occur or whether people or other animals are approaching.

What is musth?

It’s about a period that male elephants cross. During this state, they show important behavioural and hormonal changes. Other individuals may notice this temporary transformation because they secrete a substance through a skin gland located in the cheeks and increase their levels of testosterone and other hormones. Also, your physical disposition changes, walking more upright and becoming violent. They also emit specific infrasounds, especially older elephants. These sounds can only be detected by their counterparts.


How do elephants communicate over long distances?

To make themselves understood from a long distance, elephants use various means. A very effective one is chemical communication, as, as we have already mentioned, they have one of the most developed olfactory systems in the animal world. On the other hand, they can also use acoustic communication, emitting various sounds, many of which are of such low frequency that only they can hear them. Thus, they manage to transmit fear, aggression, submission, etc. finally, ground vibration communication can also be received at certain distances, so they use it when they are not close to each other.