An Elephant's Fantastic Sense of Smell



Olfactory Bulbs

The two largest holes in an elephant's skull are located where the trunk (or their nose) begins. They are called the olfactory bulbs and, as you can see, they are enormous.

Without knowing anything else it would lead any scientist to believe that the sense of smell must be quite important to an elephant because there is such a large portion of the head dedicated to it.

But ... it wasn't until recently that a group of researchers in Japan isolated and identified the actual number of "smell" genes:

  • Elephants = 4000

  • Dogs = 2000

  • Piddly Humans = 1000

Picture by Alex Strachan



Elephants Can Differentiate Between Tribes

In a remarkable series of studies conducted by Dr. Karen McComb, Dr. Lucy Bates, and Dr. Joyce Poole they determined that elephants are, in fact, not only able to distinguish between the tribes that kill them and those who don't ... but elephants can also determine which people are safe and those who aren't by:

  • The human scent of a particular tribe

  • The Color Red (tribes which wear red are more likely to kill elephants than those who don't)

  • Gender (females don't typically kill elephants)

  • Age (young children don't typically kill elephants)

  • Language 

Elephants reacted with far less fear around young children or women then they did around men from certain tribes.



Elephant Bones

Did you know an elephant will never pass by the bones of another elephant ... even if they didn't know the other elephant?

Elephants are known to visit the site of the death of a loved one for many years after the individual has passed on. Bones or no bones.

But when there are elephant bones it's as if the entire family wants to know (or understand perhaps) the cause of death. Each one inspects the bone fragments and everyone is very quiet and calm. And they do this for hours.

Kind of makes you wonder what they're thinking doesn't it?