Are Elephants Friendly or Aggressive? (Explained!)

The elephants have been loved and admired by humans over the years. These mammals show various emotions and behaviors such as learning, play, compassion, cooperation, etc. They are considered to be one of the calmest and peaceful animals despite their large size.

Are elephants friendly or aggressive? They can be both friendly towards human beings who treat them well and right. But they can be aggressive also once their safety and their calves are threatened. Their aggression can also be related to their sexual hormones.                      

These mammals may react to threats in varying degrees. They are also brilliant animals that have complex emotions, feelings, compassion, and self-awareness.

This article will help you understand the friendly and aggressive side of elephants towards human beings. It will also discuss the reasons behind these behaviors.

Are Elephants Friendly To Humans?

Elephants are friendly to humans. It is said that they are thought to be highly generous animals. In this sense, they aid fellow animals as well as humans when in distress.

In some countries, elephants are observed as playful. These mammals love to entertain themselves and others like humans. They have been sucking into the water, holding their trunk high in the air, and spraying water like a fountain.

Captive elephants also show a cooperative relationship with their trainer. These animals are predisposed to cooperate with humans as long as they are appropriately treated with love and respect.

Do Elephants Like Humans?

Yes, elephants like humans. Studies would show that elephants respond differently to humans. An individual elephant may initiate interactions depending on the person.

Research suggests that these mammals interact more exclusively with guides. In contrast, other elephants prefer volunteers or tourists.

Do Elephants Bond With Humans?

Studies are showing that elephants formed a uniquely close bond with humans, especially their caretakers.

They have an intuitive understanding of what it means when a human points into something. They respond very well to body language. An elephant and a human caretaker form a connection.

One study of African elephants shows that elephants manifest seeking-out behavior. This behavior is considered an indicator of their bond between the animal and the guide.

Can I Pet An Elephant?

Elephants are not ideal to pet. They have not been domesticated like other animals. These mammals will still likely retain and display natural wild behaviors even after you tame them.

However, these mammals can be easy to handle due to selective breeding compared to wild animals of the same species.

In most countries, elephants are kept and used for labor. Some of them require brutal training before they would accept human contact.

If you are going to pet this mammal, they are knowledgeable and could respond very well to positive reinforcement. However, male elephants can be hostile when it comes to mating season.

Also, they are not suitable for a constricted and controlled environment to live in.

petting elephant

Are Elephants Gentle?

Elephants, despite their immense size, appear to be warm and gentle. They could capture the hearts of every tourist around them.

These mammals are empathic and sound listeners. In the wild, they support other species by pushing over trees to maintain the ecosystem.

A study has found out that elephants are known to avoid eating the type of acacia tree because it is where ants live. And ants are known to frighten this enormous creature.

Young elephants resemble an infant who is sucking their trunks as their way of comfort. Aside from that, they demonstrate behaviors of compassion and kindness.

Are Elephants Aggressive?

Just like any other wild animal, elephants can be aggressive.

Female elephants can be aggressive, especially when their young calves are present. Those tusk-less females are the most aggressive female elephants.

Elephant bulls can be aggressive, too, especially during musth.

During musth, a male elephant experiences an increase in its reproductive hormone. It marks the bull elephant’s period of being highly aggressive. It is associated with a behavior that is characterized as unpredictable, dominant, and excitable.

Nonetheless, both male and female elephants can become aggressive if they are sick, wounded, or under attack.

Do Elephants Get Angry?

Elephants become notorious for their violent anger and sometimes fatal outbursts. Their strength and affinity for rage make them one of the most potentially dangerous animals in the world.

A rocking motion often precedes such behavior. It can be true for both wild and captive elephants, especially under stressful situations. It is also more common in those kept in a zoo or circus.

This anger can be due to the excessive frustration they have felt being captive or restricted to a tiny area or, most often, if they have experienced abuse.

Do Elephants Attack Humans?

Just like humans, elephants can also feel threatened, angered, or abused. According to studies, each year, approximately 500 people are being killed by an elephant rage.

Elephant bulls can attack humans. Some countries have been reported, particularly in India and Sri Lanka, where elephant bulls attacked an entire village.

They have an extraordinary memory. Most of these killings are inflicted upon villages directly involved in mass culling, even decades before the attacks. They even avenge the death of an elder elephant who happens to lead their herd.

Moreover, attacks related to this mammal could be due also to hunger, where they find food to eat in nearby villages.

Why Do Elephants Attack Humans?

Elephants have the tendency to become hostile and violent during their state of musth. Due to this heightened period for their sexual activity, elephant bulls get aggressive when humans interfere.

Another reason is that these mammals have a good memory. They do not forget their enemies, almost all other creatures. Elephants have been known to remember those that have hurt them or helped those years after the fact.

After extended periods of poaching and culling, elephants suffer post-traumatic stress disorder from witnessing the slaughter of their families and young ones.

These unpredictable attacks may similarly be a function of abuse inflicted on working elephants, whether in zoos, circuses, or industry.

These animals will ensure a fair amount of abuse out of loyalty and their human character before they break.

And the moment they do give in to their frustrations, it frequently ends up in the death of a human being.

These mammals turned to become more hostile and aggressive as a result also of being shot and harassed by humans in tight areas.

Do Elephants Attack Humans Unprovoked?

Every animal, like a human being, has a flight or fight mode. Even unprovoked, they may attack humans around them.

If your distance gets too close to them or your gestures intimidate them, it will frighten the big animal. Thus, it will cause them to attack humans.

There have been reported cases in some countries where an unprovoked elephant attacks and kills a man.

angry elephants

Are Elephants Dangerous To Humans?

Elephants are the largest living mammals inland. They are born to be wild with aggressive instincts. Therefore, they can be dangerous to humans, especially those living near these giant creatures.

An elephant’s incredible size and heavyweight are more than enough to kill a human being with just one strike. In South Asia, these mammals are known to raid villages or croplands. They would even wound or step on humans that get in their way.

An average of 100 to 500 human deaths due to elephant range is recorded every year.

Since these creatures are being squeezed into smaller areas nowadays, their source of food gets limited. As the scarcity of food strikes, they happen to go near villages where there are crops, and then they raid and destroy them.

Why Are Elephants Dangerous To Humans?

These mammals are dangerous to humans because they are huge and have a ton of power; they could crush anything without a struggle.

These mammals use their tusks to fight and fend off predators. They even use it to attack humans who invade their space and safety.

Its tusks are made of intense ivory, which is capable of tearing you apart. It could even shatter human bones. Their tusk may look soft, but this big, sensitive area can even lift a truck.

A mad elephant could knock a person down, roll them, punch, and rip you sideways. Also, a single kick of an elephant can shatter your ribs and can completely fracture any of your limbs.

Their feet are their most dangerous weapons. When these mammals come down on you, they will be using their total weight. It can murder your internal organs, which will undoubtedly result in your death.

What To Do If An Elephant Chases You?

Being chased by an enormous creature is a real disadvantage. Its size could even intimidate you more to the point where you cannot think of the best and safer way to respond.

It can plow down trees, flip trucks, and even run as fast as 40km/hour. Hence, there’s a slim chance that you will outrun them.

But here are a few tips you can do just in case an elephant chases you.

The first is to run in a zigzag pattern. Elephants have difficulty changing direction due to their enormous size. You can use this as your advantage and at the same time could keep you safe from the attack.

These mammals could run much faster than you, especially if they are in charge of attacking you.

However, if you can’t run, the safer thing for you to do is to keep a great distance from them.

Second, stay downwind from the animal at all times. The wind should be blowing past the mammal towards you, not the opposite.

By staying downwind, these mammals will find it hard to smell and seek you.

Third, look for something that will keep between you and the elephant. Search for a tree, a vehicle, a building, and the like.

Fourth, escape from the elephant’s reach by climbing a study tree. It should be tough and high.

Fifth, hop into a narrow surface where this big elephant could not get into you. You may also throw a decoy object to distract these creatures.

Lastly, if nothing goes well, then resort to making a loud noise while standing on the ground. It is going to be your last option.


In summary, elephants are one of the largest living mammals on earth. They are also considered to be highly intelligent and express behavior similar to human beings.

These mammals are known for their compassionate, emphatic, and altruistic behavior. They are said to be good listeners, and they help other species, including humans.

People grow fond of these animals. The guides in the zoo or tourist camps enjoyed their company and had developed a relationship with this mammal. Elephants also respond to their human caretaker by entertaining them and being affectionate to them.

But just like any wild-born creature, these elephants have an aggressive instinct. Despite their loving and charming attitude, there will be instances where they could be hostile against people.

There have been many reported cases already of elephants attacking human villages.

Nonetheless, these elephants need more care than being feared. Their safe space and its natural habitats are becoming smaller as time passes by. And sooner, human beings will be invading their lands.


Image credits – Canva

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I'm David, and safari has been my passion since I was a little boy - I grew up in South Africa. I love to help spread knowledge about safari, so let me know if you have any questions. Read more