Mud-bathing and wallowing
During the rainy season water collects in depressions, some as small as an Elephant tracks. These holes attract animals to drink and wallow, their activities further increase the size of these depressions. With subsequent cycles of filling and usage over the seasons it becomes a fully-fledged wallow and/ or waterhole.
Mud wallows are used by a variety of animals for different reasons. Hot summer days sees the animals like Elephants, Rhino, Buffalo and Warthogs. These are usually animals with sparse hair and few sweat glands.
Animals will often loosen the mud using their feet, horns or tusks before going down for a role.
Rolling in the mud is a method that these animals
use to cool down. Rhinos often go for a wallow
before retreating to a shady area out of the sun
for a midday nap.
Elephants need the mud to help with cooling their
body temperature and will often submerge
themselves completely in water before their
mud or dust bath. Elephants lack sweat glands, and combined with digestive systems generating large amounts of metabolic heat, mud bathing is imperative to keep cool.
A wallow in mud is normally followed by a good scratch against a scratching / rubbing post of some sorts. The rubbing post can be a tree, a termite mound or a rock. The aim of this is to remove ticks and parasites embedded and trapped in the drying mud. These scratching posts are easily identified as they are usually smooth and shiny and bare of any surrounding vegetation, closer inspection will reveal the ticks that were rubbed off in the process now stuck to the post.
Mud therefore acts not only as a means of sun protection and cooling but also as a means of parasite control. So if you’re ever in the bush and in need of some sunblock or a good cool down, mud will do the trick!
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