The elk rut is in full swing in many parts of the country and the largest bulls are out trying to attract a cow any way that they can. One of the lesser-seen behaviors of the bull elk is their tendency to make themselves smellier to attract a mate. It happens more often than you might think. In this video, one lucky Yellowstone National Park videographer caught this behavior on camera in the Mammoth Hot Springs area.
The bull is still bedded down when the video starts. He quickly stands and starts raking his antlers into the dirt. Then he starts urinating...all over himself. In fact, this bull quite literally showers himself in his own pee. The whole scene was made even more bizarre thanks to the sounds of a park ranger yelling at nearby RVs to keep moving along so they don't hold up traffic. One thing is for sure, this is going to make you feel dirty just watching it!
This type of behavior may seem very odd to us, but it is completely normal for a bull elk. As the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation notes, breeding season for bull elk means putting on a display. They want to advertise how fit and strong they are to the cows, and making themselves smellier is a big part of the process. The easiest way to do that is by urinating all over themselves. This display also helps the bull spread his scent around the area. In an ideal scenario, it will intimidate the smaller bulls, leaving the alpha bull and his harem of cows based on the intimidation factor.
The bull usually wallows in mud after a display like this to spread his scent around more. Those moves, combined with the usual tree rubbing and bugling, really help the bull show off his strength and convince even the pickiest of cows that he's the real deal. Again, even though this behavior may be bizarre and disgusting to us, it's actually quite impressive to the female elk in the area!