A forceful expulsion of air through the trunk, creating a trumpeting sound. Trumpets come in several forms. Trumpets are mainly tonal sounds, though harmonics are overlaid with noise. Most last less than a second (though extremely long trumpets may last over three seconds), with fundamental frequencies falling around 300 Hz and peak energy concentrated at approximately 450 Hz. An elephant can produce a wide variety of sounds by varying the speed of air she forces through her trunk, by the shape in which she holds her trunk, and by her own body posture and movement.
Elephants tend to trumpet when they are highly stimulated—in situations in which they may be fearful, surprised, aggressive, playful, or socially aroused — and the quality of trumpeting varies with the context. Trumpeting is often associated with intensely social events such as a birth, mating, or greeting ceremony, where group participation is important. In these situations we postulate that rumbling may define the context (e.g., greeting, mating, etc.) while trumpeting may function as a kind of “exclamation mark,” expressing the very high level of excitement and stressing the importance of the event.
References: Douglas-Hamilton 1972: ch 6; Berg 1983, Leong et al 2003; Poole & Granli 2004; Stoeger-Horwath et al 2007; Poole 2011. (Full reference list)
This behavior occurs in the following context(s): Advertisement & Attraction, Affiliative, Attacking & Mobbing, Birth, Calf Reassurance & Protection, Coalition Building, Conflict & Confrontation, Lone & Object Play, Social Play, Protest & Distress