Elephants are anatomically equipped with built-in tools on their bodies to help them navigate through day-to-day life. We’ve talked about the power of trunks and how they are used for both tactile and sensory reasons, but today we’ll be diving into the functionality of their tails.
Elephants cover their bodies with sand and mud to protect themselves from both the sun and insects, but the tail acts as a flyswatter, keeping bugs away from the back end while their ears flap the bugs away at the front. The tails are also covered with coarse, black hairs that can reach up to almost 100 centimeters, which also helps with insects. Research has shown that the hair on the tail of elephants, composed of keratin, is quite different from the hair on the rest of their bodies, and is similar to the horns of rhinoceroses or horse hooves.
Tails are also used for more than swatting insects. Female elephants often use their tails to feel around and check for calves to make sure they’re still following behind. Like a mother holds the hand of her child, a calf can also grab on to their mother’s tail for guidance or even comfort. The tail can be used as a disciplinary tool; elephants do not hesitate to give a swift and forceful swat at other elephants if necessary.
At Elephant Sanctuary Brazil, most of the elephants don’t have tail hair, which is common in captive elephants. Some captive elephants also have broken tails either from elephant confrontations (mostly biting) or abuse by humans (who break their tails in retribution for “bad” behavior). Lady is the only elephant here who came with hair on her tail, and a very long, beautiful tail at that. This year, Rana started to grow hair back on her tail, which is something we’ve never seen before. She only has about a dozen or so of sparse hairs, but it’s still her own little mini miracle.
Pictured is lady’s cute bum and tail.
- PO Box 2426
- Brentwood, TN 37024
- (615) 435-9523
- Ways to Support
- GSE Merchandise
JeanTryon saysMay 21, 2021 at 3:14 pm
A very interesting tale of tails. I would like confirmation that the tree trunk [covered in black, beyond her right ear] is protection of the trunk… not the elephant trunk!! Oh dear. This is getting confusing!! ?
Sara saysMay 21, 2021 at 3:38 pm
That is indeed a tree trunk.
Julie saysMay 21, 2021 at 3:28 pm
Nice! Did I miss whose beautiful tail is pictured?
Sara saysMay 21, 2021 at 3:55 pm
It is Lady. I’ll update the post to let everyone know.
CAROL OCONNELL saysMay 21, 2021 at 3:35 pm
awwwwww…these poor, poor gals. love them so much. Thank goodness they are safe with you!
Jean Tryon saysMay 21, 2021 at 3:42 pm
A potential “Itchy Scratchy” tree? The plastic trunk might be a deterrent?
Sara saysMay 21, 2021 at 3:56 pm
It is not an itchy scratchy tree, though they are sometimes darker because they get covered in mud. What you are seeing is just a regular old tree. We wouldn’t cover any of our trees in plastic in any way. That’s just the way the tree looks!
Ellen saysMay 21, 2021 at 5:09 pm
That is a great post, so interesting ..thank you so much
Beji saysMay 21, 2021 at 5:43 pm
Never thought I would be interested in an elephants rear end. Fascinating.
SHEILA saysMay 21, 2021 at 8:02 pm
YES SWEET❤️? LADY HAD THE MOST WONDERFUL LONG TAIL IVE SEEN ON A ELEPHANT WITH FULL HAIR?ON TAIL❗️ I SAW THIS IMMEDIATELY WHEN SHE CAME OUT OF THE CONTAINER AT SANCTUARY? AFTER A FEW DAYS. LADY BEGAN BUSHWACKING AND THRASHING THE BRUSH & THE SHRUBS ! PLUS GOING INTO TH JUNGLE LOT, NOT LONG AGO I SAW THE BEAUTIFUL LONG FULL HAIRY TAIL LOOKS VERY REDUCED IN HAIR. DEAR SWEET LADY HAS LOST MUCH OF HER LOVELY HAIR ON HER TAIL AND SUPPOSE CATCHING IN BRUSH‼️I HOPE I WILL COME BACK !❤️ LADYS❤️ TAIL IS STILL VERY LONG AND AMAZING?
Sallie saysMay 21, 2021 at 9:20 pm
Awwwww, this new hair growth, proves how relaxed and secure these beautiful eleys are . . . So very much like humans beings who have been under great stress. I think we all have had our moments, and it is so easy to appreciate the horrific stress of their former lives. I think I can speak for us all, how relieved we are to see such healthful transition for all your Beauties.
Katie Howard saysMay 21, 2021 at 10:03 pm
I’m glad to see Lady anytime – from any perspective! ?❤️?❤️
Bridget Lemen saysMay 22, 2021 at 9:33 am
Thank you for your ever interesting topics. Never knew a tail could be so versitile, even the hair on their tails. Some time I’d like to hear about their sense of feeling through their feet. I read a article probably 30 years ago about how extraordinary that sense is for them. Maybe because of the terrible contintions they lived in, it is not present for the girls but it’s still facinating to know about wild elephants and their potential.
Subscribe to our Blog
Shop & Support Elephants
Visit our online store and and help spread the word about the need for sanctuary for captive elephants.
Give Through Our Wishlist
Shop and choose a treat or much-needed item for one of the elephants.
Global Sanctuary for Elephants
Stay connected with our herd
"*" indicates required fields
MISSION: Protecting, rescuing, and providing sanctuary for elephants worldwide.
Global Sanctuary for Elephants is a 501 (c)(3) tax exempt, public charity status (EIN 46-3564818) and all contributions are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.
© Global Sanctuary for Elephants. All Rights Reserved
Your ticket for the: EleFact Friday: The Multi-Functional Elephant Tail
EleFact Friday: The Multi-Functional Elephant Tail