A highly variable roaring, bellowing, screaming, shrieking, or squealing call typically lasting 1-2 seconds in duration. The quality of the Roar depends upon the age of the individual and the behavioral context.

Roars come in three main types: noisy roars, tonal roars, and mixed roars. Noisy roars contain no harmonic elements. Tonal roars are those in which greater than 50 percent of the call is tonal (that is, containing clear harmonics). Noisy elements, if there are any, occur only at the end of the call. Mixed roars alternate between noisy and tonal or contain noisy components, making up more than 50 percent of the call. Noisy roars tend to be unmodulated, while tonal roars may be highly modulated, some reaching a clear crescendo before falling.

All Roar sub-types may start, end, or start and end, with a Rumble; these combination calls are termed Roar-Rumbles, Rumble-Roar-Rumbles, or rarely, Rumble-Roars.

Roars produced by infants are generally higher pitched than Roars produced by adults and the terms ‘screaming,’ ‘shrieking,’ ‘squealing,' or ‘crowing’ better describe the quality of the calls by younger individuals. As elephants become larger Roars take on a more resonant ‘bellowing’ or ‘roaring’ quality.

Most Roars are emitted by protesting individuals or those in some form of distress, with the vast majority being produced by infants, calves, and juveniles. For examples, calves Roar when Begging for, or being denied access to the breast or a food item; when protesting unwanted or rough contact by another elephant; when separated from their mothers; when they are recipients of agonistic behavior (generally pushed, tusked, poked, or kicked); and when attacked by predators. Adults of both sexes may Roar when chased or tusked. Additionally, adult and juvenile female adults may Roar when attacking predators, when chased by males during estrus, and when highly aroused during intense social events.

Roars may be longer in duration and more pulsated if the calling elephant is running, such as when an estrous female is chased. Roaring elicits the support or attention of others. For instance, Roars by calves draw the attention of caretakers, those by a family member draw the immediate response and support of close associates, either individually or as a coalition, and those by an estrous female attract males.

References: Douglas-Hamilton 1972: ch 6; Berg 1983; Stoeger-Horwath et al 2007; Poole 2011. (Full reference list)

This behavior occurs in the following context(s): Birth, Calf Nourishment & Weaning, Calf Reassurance & Protection, Submissive, Protest & Distress


Context: Protest & Distress (1)

The Mabenzi family and associating males are feeding on a tree that Gogogo, gm0001, in musth, has just felled. Gogogo is very tolerant of the females and calves feeding on his tree but less so of other males. He lunges at one who comes too close and the younger male flees and emits a loud Roar in protest. A few seconds after we can hear the rumble and trumpet, snort commentary of nearby elephants to the kurfuffle. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)


Context: Protest & Distress (2)

Little E is 4 days old and is trying to Suckle. He wanders out from under his mother's belly and get between his mother's forelegs and the branch she is trying to eat. He inadvertently gets pricked by the Acacia thorns and Roars in distress. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Protest & Distress (3)

Elephants are browsing. An elephant out of view Tusks an adolescent male who Roars in protest and moves away. We see the trunk of the aggressor reach to touch him Trunk-to-Genitals. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Protest & Distress (4)

Elephants are Browsing along a lugga. A young male comes Charging from the right and Tusks a calf who gives a Roar and Runs-Away. Someone then gives a Trumpet and the male Charges other elephants. It is hard to understand what the problem is although we can hear loud Go-Away birds immediately before.

Later the elephants are frightened by something. Would guess he was charging something else and then hit the calf in a pique of Redirected-Aggression. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Protest & Distress (5)

Mama Little E, Little E (15 days old) and Lorato are out of sight in some bushes with a couple of young, troublesome males. A loud calf scream is heard and I guess that Little E got frightened or hurt by one of the young males. Mama Little E and perhaps Lorato respond with Coo rumble. Mama Little E Back-Towards trying to rescue Little E. She looks alarmed and she Trumpets loudly.

Allo-mother, Lorato, steps forward using a Guiding gesture with her trunk. She is with Little E. Lorato adopts a Suckle-Stance and Touch-Breast as if to show him where to Suckle. Mama Little E comes rushing forward. The male follows and Tusks Mama Little E and then put his Trunk-to-Genitals of, first, Mama Little E and then Lorato. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Protest & Distress (6)

Little E gets too close to Grumpy Grandma, f0412, and she Kicks-Back and Little E Roars. Lorato reaches out to him. Grumpy Grandma Kicks-Back again, Little E Roars again, and then she Tusks him and he Roars once more.

As part of the Tusking movement she curls her trunk and uses it in a directed way to push him straight toward his mother (Shepherding). His mother reaches out with her trunk and directs him to her breast (Guiding) and he immediately Suckles. She again does a Trunk-to-Infant-at-Breast. When Grumpy Grandma Tusks Little E Lorato scoots around the front and then Backs-Toward Mama Little E such that Little E is protected in between them. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Protest & Distress (7)

Little E is 15 days old. His family is trying to get across a rocky river bed. Mama Little E is walking slowing and seems to use her Trunk to check out the safety of the substrate - Test-Substrate. Little E is Tail-Raising in response to a new frightening situation. Mama Little E slips and falls and lands on Little E. No wonder they have been so careful!

Little E roars, someone snorts and females by rumbling and Tail-Raising. Latino whirls around and Redirects-Aggression, Standing-Tall and Kick-Dust, Foot-Scuff, and Head-Dip-Touch-Ground as they check to see what the problem was - check out the rocks as if to see what went wrong. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Protest & Distress (8)

Three calves have been playing, especially an 18 month old male (left) and a 4 year old female right. An 18 month old female is behind inspecting a tree. The 4 year old pauses in her game with the male to Push and Tusk the little female and she complains with a Grumble-Rumble. The 4 year old persists bothering the littler female and she protests with a Roar. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Protest & Distress (9)

Walli is with her two calves, a 5 year old male and an infant female. The 5 year old is bullying the infant female, attacking her and preventing her from Suckling. She is highly distressed, trying to access the breast, but each time she tries he runs around from the other side and she flees Crying and Roaring. To see a longer version of this sequence look under Husky-Cry.

As this clip starts Walli and her two calves walk forward. Then Walli pauses to Browse and the infant backs toward her. She stands with Ears-Stiff, frightened. The 5 year old male sees her, stops Suckling and turns toward her and Reaches-Over her back and presses his tusks into her back aggressively. She gives two back-to-back Husky-Cries in protest. She runs forward, stops, squats and gives a drawn out Husky-Cry. The 5 year old goes back to Suckling and the infant goes over to the teenage male, who is likely also an older sibling and is behind Walli. Then she carefully moves toward Walli's right breast and tries to Suckle. The male is aware of what she is doing and appears to swing his trunk as her at her from his side. Walli moves to prevent him and he complains with a soft Grumble-Rumble. The infant seems to be concerned that he is coming and Roars and runs forward. She is correct. He leaves the breast and runs around behind his mother to her side as she moves quickly forward. She squats again with Chin-Up and Trunk-Curled-Under and Looking-Back clearly expecting trouble. He leaves his mother's breast and runs at her, Ramming her, Tusking her and knocking her down and pinning her in place by holding her around her head with his trunk. She Roars, Husky-Cries and Roars again in quick succession and Walli rushes over to intervene, but does little.

The teenage male comes running over, too, but also seems clueless. The elephants disappear behind a bush and we hear the infant Husky-Cry. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Protest & Distress (10)

It is hard to see what happens, but we hear a young male Roar and then we see Valente, of the Mabenzi family, Advancing-Toward him while Ear-Folding; he Runs-Away. After seeing off the young male the family all turn from the male and begin a Group-Advance on us in an act of Redirected-Aggression. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)


Context: Protest & Distress (11)

Conor is lightly Guarding Jolie who is just coming into estrous. Two young males are hanging around close to her to try their luck. Conor Runs-After them and they Run-Away, the one furthest from the camera Roars in protest. (Amboseli, Kenya)


Context: Protest & Distress (12)

There is tension around an estrous female. One of the males Advances-Toward another and then Runs-After and Tusks him, the younger male Runs-Away and Roars in protest. (Amboseli, Kenya)


Context: Protest & Distress (13)

There is a lot of tourist noise - voices and engines running. There is tension around an estrous female whom Icarus is Guarding against the attempts by several other large males. Paolo also in musth crosses the road in front of our car Waiting for the estrous female who follows him. The Guarding male is distracted by another male whom he Runs-After. This male Roars and Runs-Away. A fearful tour bus driver revs his engine (a no-no!). Icarus Sniffs-Ground and then turns to follow the estrous female, sucking up a trunkful of water as he walks. (Amboseli, Kenya)


Context: Protest & Distress (14)

There is tension around an estrous female and one male Runs-After another who Roars and Runs-Away. (Amboseli, Kenya)


Context: Protest & Distress (15)

There is tension around an estrous female and one male Runs-After another who Roars and Runs-Away. (Amboseli, Kenya)


Context: Protest & Distress (16)

We do not catch what exactly happened on the clip but two families have just come together, one dominant to the other, and I later comment that an adult female gave a "hard time to a juvenile female". This would have been either an aggressive Advance-Toward, which we see in the clip or possibly a Push or Tusk, which we don't see. The juvenile Roars in protest and we can see her Open-Mouth. (Amboseli, Kenya)


Context: Protest & Distress (17)

Nastya is in estrus and has been Mounted by a young male. An older male catches up with them and Pushes him off. We see him with and Open-Mouth and hear a Roar that could almost be a Trumpet. They are at some distance from us. (Amboseli, Kenya)


Context: Protest & Distress (18)

Pascal is Guarding a female in estrus. A younger male approaches and Pascal Orients-Toward him and threatens him with a Forward-Trunk-Swing. The male apparently isn't submissive enough and Pascal Lunges toward him, Ears-Folded, with another Forward-Trunk-Swing The male Roars and Runs-Away. (Amboseli, Kenya)


Context: Protest & Distress (19)

Pascal is Guarding Qadija in estrus. A younger male approaches and Pascal Lunges toward him. The male Roars and disappears from view. (Amboseli, Kenya)


Context: Protest & Distress (20)

A Mating between Pascal and Qadija has just taken place a couple of minutes ago and a Mating-Pandemonium is ongoing.

As the clip starts Queiroz, who has been most vocal during the Pandemonium, moves from left to right and the others begin to follow her. She gives another Rumble. Then we think what happens is that Matriarch Qoral and mother of the newborn Pushes 10 year old allomother Qaskazi (daughter of Qasima) out of the way. Qaskazi then inadvertently knocks the infant over who Roars twice. Someone, gives what sounds like a Trumpet-Blast because it is so near to the microphone, but is most likely a Social-Trumpet. There is a Snort followed by a very weird call that is impossible to classify.

Qasima with the convergent tusks has her Ears-Lifted and Head-Raised. She turns to faces us and Rumbles loudly. Qoral steps forward with her and someone, possibly Qaskazi, gives a Snort-Trumpet. Qasima Rumbles and Urinates. Qoral reaches back to check on her infant and Coo-Rumbles to him. (Amboseli, Kenya)


Context: Protest & Distress (21)

Two juvenile males are playing in a deep pool. One Mounts the other who gives a Roar in protest. (Amboseli, Kenya)