A video of elephants mud wallowing during a recent safari at Pondoro Game Lodge. This behavior is typically enjoyed by animals who have very little body fur. The reasons can be anyone or all of the following:

  • to cool the body temperature down in hot weather
  • to prevent sunburn
  • to keep biting flies and other insects at bay
  • to keep irritating flies off open wounds.

Mud wallowing is common behavior in elephants, rhinos and older buffalo bulls who are starting to lose hair on their hindquarters. These old buffalo bulls often stay in a fairly small area close to water where soft green grass are more abundant as their teeth wear down with old age. Even hippos and crocodiles will often mud wallow as waterholes dry up in order to keep the sun from damaging their skin or overheating their bodies which can lead to dehydration and even death.

Most species will will use logs, trees and rocks as rubbing posts after wallowing. They tend to use the same rubbing posts over many years and logs and even rocks can become smooth over time and easily recognized as such. This aids in removing parasites encrusted in the mud after wallowing as well as old skin cells providing definite health benefits. Mud that persists on body hears and cracks in the skin will also help in insulating the body in cold, windy weather.

Animals can sometimes even be seen licking the mud on rubbing posts. This might be to get minerals, salts and metals needed for their diet in a process called geophagia and is practiced by many species. In some areas where the soil is rich in salts large barren patches of soil or slat licks develop where animals gouge into the earth with their tusks, horns or hooves to loosen the soil.