Approaching a stationary individual from behind and rubbing the head, ear, shoulder and/or flank against the standing individual. This behavior is used in an affiliative context and occurs most often between closely bonded individuals. Infants and calves may use a stationary elephant (especially the mother) like a tree stump on which to vigorously rub. Calves may also Social-Rub against their mother to Solicit-Food or Solicit-Suckling, as if in appeasement.

Particularly younger animals may Social-Rub during Social Play when they engage in pushing, leaning and rubbing against the body, head or legs of another, who may be standing, kneeling or lying down.

References: Douglas-Hamilton 1972: 112; Lee 1986, 1987; Moss 1988; Poole 1996: 275; Payne 2003; Poole & Granli 2003; Poole & Granli 2004; Poole & Granli 2011; O’Connell-Rodwell et al 2011 [Rub]; Goldenberg & Wittemyer 2018. (Full reference list)

This behavior occurs in the following context(s): Affiliative, Social Play


Context: Social Play (1)

A gaggle of calves in the Mabenzi family are playing together. They are in a big pile rubbing against one another in what might be termed Social-Rubbing. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)