Standing or moving with the ears fully extended at ~90 degrees from body. An elephant normally holds its ears in a relaxed position such that they rest approximately 10-30 cm from the side of the body. In this relaxed position the ears do not appear stiff or tense, lifted, spread, or pressed against the body.

Elephants may Ear-Spread when facing an opponent, predator or presumed threat, presumably for the purpose of appearing larger. Elephants may also spread their ears when they are Listening, surprised, alarmed or otherwise aroused. All age sex groups engage in Ear-Spreading.

References: Kühme 1961; Douglas-Hamilton 1972: ch 6; McKay 1973; Poole & Granli 2003; Poole & Granli 2011; O’Connell-Rodwell et al 2011 [Ear-Extension, Ears held out]. (Full reference list)

This behavior occurs in the following context(s): Aggressive, Ambivalent, Attacking & Mobbing, Attentive, Calf Reassurance & Protection, Conflict & Confrontation, Social Play, Vigilance


Context: Ambivalent (3)

Fayza of the FD family has a newborn male calf. She and her family approach our vehicle as they go to water. The infant is alarmed by our presence - perhaps one of the first vehicles he has seen and engages in Ear-Spreading and Foot-Lifting. The Foot-Lifting is repeated in a rather dramatic way many times with both front and hind feet and sometimes with two feet at a time. (Amboseli, Kenya)