Social relationships between female zoo elephants were analyzed on three different zoo groups. Interactions were defined as either affiliative or agonistic. The most frequent interactions were found to be touching of the partner's mouth, genital sinus, face and trunk. The calf was the individual involved in most social interactions. Placing the trunk tip into the partner's mouth is a well known behaviour, the correlation between this behaviour and aggression was analyzed and a further function is suggested. Aggressive behaviour was analyzed and the hypothesis derived that rank order has to be established and is flexible in a non-kin group. The hypothesis that Asian elephant females may form special relationships was tested and confirmed. The following behaviour patterns were determined as indicators of a special relationship: Spatial proximity, partner-specific reactions to arousal and to vocalizing, and omission of agonistic behaviour. An experiment confirmed the hypothesis that the removal of one member of a special relationship from the enclosure would elicit more arousal behaviour in the respective partner.