It turns out human beings aren’t the only species to play with dogs.
A new video from Kruger National Park in South Africa shows one male elephant charging into a pack of wild dogs gathered on one of the park’s roads.
While it may appear that the elephant is displaying aggression, that’s not actually the case, says elephant expert Joyce Poole.
Poole is the co-founder of Elephant Voices, an organization that studies the cognitive, communicative, and social behaviors of elephants to promote their ethical care. She notes that elephants display a range of complex emotions and this video is no exception.
“Watching his charging of the wild dogs, he does not appear to be very serious—it’s likely he is having a bit of fun chasing them about,” says Poole.
As the elephant runs into the dog pack, dispersing the wary canines, it can also be heard loudly trumpeting. (See how this elephant invited a rhino to “play.”)
Poole calls this behavior “pulsated-play-trumpets,” or the vocalization elephants make when engaged in exuberant play and characterized by low, quick bursts of trumpeting. In contrast, when an elephant is threatened, it will vocalize what Poole describes as a “trumpet blast,” in which a higher pitched, extended trumpeting noise signals discomfort.