One occasionally sees elephants taking a mud bath. They prepare the mud in two ways: one is to kick their feet into the water to stir up the mud and mix it with the water ; the other is by churning the water with their tusks or trunk bringing the mud up from the bottom of the pool creating a thick pudding like consistency Once the mud is prepared they will either spray the mud onto their body with their trunk or they will roll in the mud to coat their body. Seeing huge rolling back and forth in the mud to coat their backs is very entertaining.
Elephants have minimal hair and sweat glands, and they use the mud bath as a way of protecting their skin from the sun and from insects. The mud not only coats their skin but cools them from the harsh sun in Africa. A mud bath is often followed by a complete dusting of their bodies with loose sand or dirt adding additional protection. In the cooler months the mud bath can add extra warmth to the body while in the hotter summer months it helps keep their bodies cooler.
Often elephants will spray water or mud behind their ears with allows the circulating blood to cool them down even faster as an elephant can pump all its blood through its ears every twenty minutes.
During my latest trip to Kruger National Park in South Africa I was able to observe individual large elephants, including one large tusker, and at least two groups of female elephants with babies having a great time wallowing in the mud or spraying themselves with dust after coating their bodies with mud. It is great fun watching the ritual.