What is an Elephant?
Looking for elephant facts? But before that, let’s answer the question – what is an elephant? It is a mammal, and it belongs to the elephantidae family.
Elephant is the largest land animal to exist on Earth today. Elephants are highly social animals, and they can live up to 70 years.
Big, sociable, majestic and intelligent, elephants can be rightly dubbed as the gentle giants of the animal kingdom. However, they may not always be gentle.
They can turn aggressive for a number of reasons. Unless of course an elephant is a mad one, it is very unlikely that this massive creature will suddenly attack a human for no reason.
In this article we will explore 94 brilliant elephant facts that will cover some incredible information about this majestic animal. Let us begin!
Classification of Elephants
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Proboscidea
- Family: Elephantidae
- Sub-Family: Elephantinae
Brilliant Elephant Facts: 1-5
1. Elephants are the largest land animals alive today. Some get confused and say that giraffe is the largest land animal but that is not true. Giraffe is the tallest land animal.
2. Currently, the two most widely recognized elephant species are: African Elephant and Asian Elephant.
3. Some experts argue that African Forest Elephants and African Bush Elephants are two distinct species but many others disagree.
4. African Elephants are geographically bounded inside the African continent and are mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa.
5. Asian Elephants are found in the continent of Asia and are primarily distributed in Southeast and South Asia.
Brilliant Elephant Facts: 6-10
6. Elephants belong to the order Proboscidea and family Elephantidae. The other members of the Proboscidea order include mastodons, mammoths, gomphotheres and deinotheres, all of which are now extinct.
7. African Elephants are bigger than their Asian relatives. Males of the African species are largest land mammals on this planet as of now.
8. Usually, the African Elephants grow anywhere between 8.2 feet and 13 feet at the shoulder. They can weigh anywhere between 5,000 lbs. (2,268 kilograms) and 14,000 lbs. (6,350 kilograms).
9. Asian variants are pretty smaller with their height restricted between 6.6 feet and 9.8 feet at shoulder. They usually weigh between 4,500 lbs. (2,041 kilograms) and 11,000 lbs. (4,990 kilograms).
10. In Africa while these gigantic mammals are mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa, they also have a significant presence in West African rainforests, Central African rainforests and Mali’s Sahel Desert.
Brilliant Elephant Facts: 11-15
11. In Asian continent, elephants are located in India, Nepal as well as rainforests and scrub forests of Southeast Asia.
12. Elephants are herbivores or vegetarians. They usually feed on roots, grasses, bark and fruits.
13. In order to get hold of roots and bark, they put their tusks at work. According to National Geographic an adult elephant eats up to 136 kilograms or 300 lbs of food in a single day.
14. On an average, elephants are known for spending up to 16 hours in a day eating. The food habits of elephants can vary depending on their location and the season. For example, Bush Elephants are known for feeding on grasses, leaves, shrubs, flowering plants and small to medium plants.
15. Forest Elephants on the other hand are known for feeding on bark, seeds, fruits, branches, twigs, leaves etc.
Brilliant Elephant Facts: 16-20
16. Asian Elephants on the other hand can either behave like African Bush Elephants or African Forest Elephants when it comes to eating. Asian Elephants are known for feeding on a wide number of plant species. Choice of plants however vary from one season to another.
17. Ears of African elephants are very large. Their ears are shaped like the African continent. Tusks are properly visible in both males and females of the African elephants.
18. Also, African elephants are known to have very wrinkly skins and swayed backs. One of the most characteristic features of the African elephants is that there are two finger-like structures at the end of their tusks.
19. The Asian elephants on the other hand have smaller ears, smoother skins and only males have visible tusks. At the end of their trunks, only one finger like structure is present. Instead of swayed backs, they have dome-shaped backs.
20. The large ears of elephants help to keep their bodies cool during warm days. They are known to wet their ears first and then flap them around to cool down the blood flowing through the numerous veins of the large ears. This in turn helps to cool down their large bodies.
Brilliant Elephant Facts: 21-25
21. Elephants live in groups that we call herds. A herd usually consists of all females and offspring. The females are usually all related. We call the herd leader as matriarch. A matriarch is the most experienced in the entire herd and is also usually the oldest.
22. A matriarch is bestowed with a number of responsibilities. One of them being teaching etiquette to the young ones. It is very necessary for the young ones to learn how to behave in the elephant society such as how to greet when they meet other elephants.
23. The other responsibilities of a matriarch include remembering the best places where the herd can take shelter, remembering how to avoid predators and also remembering how and where to find water and food.
24. The only males in a herd are those that are young. Once the males grow old enough and learn how to find food and shelter and how to fend of predators, they usually leave the herd mostly leave a solitary life. However sometimes, grownup males can come together to form what is known as a bachelor herd.
25. In a typical herd, it is not unusual to find a sister of the matriarch. That sister of the matriarch can stay in the herd along with her offspring. If a herd becomes too big, a group breaks off to form another herd but usually, the two herds will maintain a lose connection.
Brilliant Elephant Facts: 26-30
26. The adult males visit a female herd for a brief time frame usually for mating. Once the mating is over, they will usually leave. Male elephants take no responsibility in raising up the young ones.
27. A while ago we mentioned about elephant society etiquette. This is extremely important. Usually, an elephant with a lower rank will insert its own trunk into the mouth tip of another high ranking elephant to show respect. In order to greet an approaching elephant, the other one may simply hold out its trunk.
28. Coming to the trunk, it is very unique. It serves as both nose and the upper lip. There are absolutely no bones present in the trunk. There are two groups of 8 major muscles on either side of the trunk.
29. Though there are only 8 major muscles on each side, in total a typical trunk has 150,000 muscle fascicles (muscle fascicles are nothing but muscle portions).
30. A trunk of an elephant is a unique combination of strength and agility. It’s strength can be gauged by the fact that it can actually push down a whole tree using its trunk. On the other hand, if necessary, it can use its trunk to neatly pick up a single straw, displaying amazing agility.
Brilliant Elephant Facts: 31-35
31. What else? The trunk is used for a large number of activities like pushing, throwing, grabbing, picking up, touching, reaching out, wrestling, twining and even checking out the reproductive status of the opposite sex.
32. That’s not all! There are two nostrils at the end of the trunk which allow the elephants to breathe. The nostrils suck in air which pass through the trunk into their lungs.
33. Another important function of the trunk is to help the elephant drink. An elephant will usually suck in water using the trunk and hold it only half way up the trunk. Once that is done, the elephant will curl its trunk into its mouth and tilt its head a bit, allowing the water to freely pour into the mouth.
34. The long tusks of an elephant are actually teeth. They are the incisors. There are only two of these. There are no more incisions found in an elephant. These incisors are extremely useful. They use it for lifting things, digging food and even water and also for defending themselves.
35. Elephants are born with tusks but just in case of humans, they are milk teeth. They fall out within a year after birth. By that time the tusks grow only 12 inches in length.
Once the birth tusks fall out, the permanent tusks start growing by the time the babies grow 2 to 3 years of age. The tusks then continue to grow for their entire life.
Brilliant Elephant Facts: 36-40
36. The tusks of an elephant are very unique. On the outside there is an enamel coating. Underneath that coating is the much sought-after ivory with diamond pattern which is the cause for the distinctive shine found only and only in elephant ivory. Such luster is absent in tusks of sperm whales, walruses, warthogs and hippos.
37. Inside the mouth of an elephant are 4 large molars – one on top and one at the bottom on either side of the mouth. Each molar can weigh up to 2.3 kilograms or 5 lbs. The molars wear out over time and are pushed out by new ones.
The molars don’t grow straight up. If you have seen a production-like jaw, you will notice that the teeth of the jaw are pushed from back to the front. The exact same mechanism works inside the mouth of an elephant.
38. New molars are formed at least 6 times in the entire lifetime of an elephant. The last molars are not pushed out. They simply stay there, worn out and weak. This is the reason why the older elephants reach out for marshy areas where they can find soft plants that can go easy on their weak molars.
39. As far as defense mechanism of elephants is concerned, not many predators dare to attack elephants. They are too big. However, the young ones are in constant threat.
To thwart of the threats for the young ones, the adults will usually form a circle with each one of them facing outwards and the young ones standing in the center of the circle.
40. Before the adults form a circle, one of the adults will trumpet out a large call as soon it senses danger. This call alerts the other adults of the herd and they immediately act forming a defensive circle.
Brilliant Elephant Facts: 41 -45
41. Elephants are known to make a wide range of sounds. Many of these sounds are inaudible to human ears because of extremely low frequency.
42. One of the most interesting elephant facts is that they consider a strong and audible stomach growling as sign of everything being ‘okay’. They are not ashamed of this stomach growling as we humans.
43. The skin of an elephant is pretty thick in several areas of the body. Usually back of the elephant and parts of its head are blessed with thick skin which can be as thick as 1 inch. However, skin of the anus, inside the ears and areas around the mouth are pretty thin.
44. The elephant’s skin is loosely fit on its body. This is one reason why they look like wearing saggy stocking or baggy pants. This reason for loosely fit skin is to keep moisture trapped underneath the skin. This allows its massive body to stay cool.
45. The skin of an elephant is very sensitive to sunburns and touches. Because they are prone to sunburns, elephants are often found wetting their skin with water or rolling on dust and mud. That’s not really a game for them. Water, dust or mud actually work as their sunscreen.
Brilliant Elephant Facts: 46-50
46. As far as sexual behavior of elephants is concerned, the bull (i.e. the males) go into a state called musth, which is nothing but an increased level of testosterone. Musth is a temporal gland-secreted liquid which is seen running down from the side of a bull’s face.
47. In periods of musth, bulls’ behaviors change significantly. They become quite aggressive, keep waving a single ear, they rumble and they make marks. They use their tusks to pick at the ground and they may swing and hold their heads high.
48. The duration of the period of musth varies. For some it can be just a few days and for others, the period can last for 4 long months. Bulls in musth can usually get into minor sparring and display threats. However, it is not necessary that all bulls will be in musth. Some are non-musth bulls.
49. Elephants are polygynous by nature. This means, during its lifetime, a bull can mate with a large number of females. Their mating increases during wet seasons. Whether a female is ready to mate or not is signaled by pheromones released through urine as well as secretions from her vagina.
50. Mate-guarding is a typical behavior found among elephants. This simply means that males will guard the mating-ready females and fend off other males. Mostly musth bulls show this behavior and females happily seek such behavior. Females usually prefer musth bulls over non-musth males.
Brilliant Elephant Facts: 51-55
51. Copulation among elephants does not last for any more than 45 seconds. There is no pelvic thrust from males who usually mount the females from back. The penis of a male is capable of moving independently of the pelvic, which explains why pelvic thrusts are not seen.
52. Elephants are known to often get engaged in homosexual behaviors in both genders. Homosexual males mount each other for sexual stimulation while females usually make use of their trunks to masturbate one another.
53. A female elephant stays pregnant for 2 years. Once the baby is born, she will not mate for another 2-3 years. Elephants usually give birth during the wet seasons.
54. Newborns weigh around 120 kilograms and are usually 3 feet tall at the shoulders. Newborn calves are usually hairy. Their trunks are very short but their tails are long. Babies feed on mothers’ milk using their mouth and not their trunks. On an average, babies keep gaining about 1 to 1.3 kilos of weight every day during the first year of birth.
55. Newborns are nursed frequently during this period but they are also taken through social etiquette by the matriarch so that the babies can quickly establish their social ranking within the herd.
Brilliant Elephant Facts: 56-60
56. Though they are put under vigilant training very early in their life, baby elephants still enjoy a lot of play time. At the same time, they also keep learning how they can master their trunk and perfect the ear flaring. They also learn to walk properly. The most important thing they need to learn is to make all the four feet go in same direction.
57. Now here is one of the most interesting elephant facts. There were dwarf elephants during the Pliocene Epoch that happened between 5.33 and 2.8 million years ago. According to many experts, dwarf elephants existed even before the Pliocene.
58. Dwarfism in elephants during the Pliocene was a result of isolation that was caused by sea levels fluctuation frequently.
59. According to experts, they became dwarf because they were isolated in small island that did not have natural predators and also because food sources became very limited.
60. Scientists believe that dwarf elephants, back in those days, were found in areas that we today call Mediterranean islands (some of the islands), California’s Channel Islands and Indonesia. In fact skeletons of dwarf elephants have also been retrieved.
Brilliant Elephant Facts: 61-70
61. Did you know that apart from the Neanderthals and humans, elephants are the only living beings on this planet that have proper death rituals? Isn’t that pretty amazing. They actually dig shallow graves for their dead and cover the bodies with branches and dirt. They even mourn for days.
62. Not just that, particular elephant can actually show severe depression signs if it happened to be very close to the deceased elephant.
63. While elephants maintain death rituals for their herd members they also pay same respect to any lone elephant which ends up dying alone.
64. Elephants also tend for their sick and try to revive other peers who are on death bed. For sick, members of the herd will usually help them stand and bring food and water.
For those on death bed, the herd members will do the same. Also, once an elephant dies, other members of the herd will try to revive that elephant by giving food and water for some time.
65. Elephants are extremely intelligent. This intelligence comes from their massive 5 kg-brain which is full of complex folds. Of all land animals, elephants have the maximum number of complex folds. In case you didn’t know, number of folds in a brain is an indicative of intelligence.
66. Elephants are known to routinely display learning abilities, playfulness, self-awareness and cooperation. They can also use several tools. They have compassion, humor and grief as well.
67. When it comes to remembering and tracking multiple object in 3D space, humans are easily outwitted by elephants, thanks to their highly developed hippocampus (it is a region of brain), which gives them excellent spatial and emotional awareness.
68. There are various reports of elephants displaying altruism. In other words, they actually show selfless concern for other animals. According to various reports, elephants have been often spotted helping distressed dogs even though such acts have come for high costs.
69. Their massive ears are not just for keeping them cool or just a proportionately big body part. They are blessed with excellent hearing abilities to. They are capable of listening the trumpets of other elephants even at a distance of 8 kilometers or 5 miles.
70. Elephants are really scared of bees! Yeah, we are speaking about those tiny flying insects that are known for making honey and delivering really painful stings. Oh yes! They are also afraid of ants.
Fun Facts About Elephants: 71-80
71. There are only two mammals in this world that have chins. Yes, guess it right! Elephants and humans share this feature.
72. These massive animals are really small sleepers. They sleep for no more than 2 to 3 hours in a single day.
73. The most sought after body part of elephants – the tusks are really heavy. A single pair can easily weigh 200 kilograms or 441 lbs.
74. African elephants are really smart. They are capable of distinguishing human age, human gender and human languages that are usually associated with gender. In other words, they know how a dangerous man looks and sounds like.
75. Elephants have excellent sense of smell. They can smell water from a distance of whooping 12 miles.
76. When an elephant hears a human voice, it is capable of recognizing the human’s gender and ethnicity.
77. Their brains are really splendid. They can actually sense rain from a distance of 150 miles!
78. Though it is really the largest land mammal as of date, it has really tiny sperm. An elephant’s sperm is actually smaller than that of a mouse’s sperm.
79. When we point, we know that dogs can immediately and instinctively understand that. However, dogs aren’t the only ones! Even elephants have this instinctive understanding.
80. When it comes to reproductive anatomy, female elephants hold the record of having the longest among any land mammal. Did you know that a female elephant’s vagina is 1.3 meters inside its body?
Brilliant Elephant Facts: 81-94
81. Elephants have 40 copies of P53 gene which is responsible for coding the protein which suppresses cancer. We humans have only two copies! This is the reason why elephants don’t easily get cancer!
82. In Thailand, elephants eat black ivory beans and then they poop it out. The reaction in their gut gives distinctive early flavor to the beans. These beans are then plucked out from the dung after one day and is used to produce one of the most expensive coffees in the world!
83. In Africa, 96 elephants get killed every single day! This massacre is done mostly by poachers who go for the unique ivory tusks.
84. Elephants mourn for their peers but they are also known for mourning the death of humans. After the death of Lawrence Anthony – the famous elephant whisperer, a whole herd of elephants visited his house for mourning!
85. So wicked was Thomas Edison that just in order to prove that Nikola Tesla‘s AC current was inferior and dangerous, he brutally electrocuted an adult elephant!
86. In the whole of elephant kingdom, elephants are crowned as supreme when it comes to smelling sense. Not even dogs can compete with them.
87. The largest elephant on record till date was known as Jumbo. He was a bush elephant from Africa and was born in 1861, and then taken to French Zoo and then to a zoo in England.
Finally, he was sent to America where he died after being hit by a train at full speed. He died at the age of 24. Jumbo was 13 feet tall at the shoulder and weighed a staggering 10,886 kilograms or 24,000 pounds.
88. This massive elephant absolutely loves water. It loves to swim and it loves wrestling against the waves. Water’s buoyancy actually helps elephants to ease their joints.
89. In our previous article we mentioned that elephants have sensitive skin. But just how sensitive? Well, they can actually sense when a fly sits on their skin.
90. Elephants usually have a lifespan of 50 to 70 years. Only one Asian elephant named Lin Wang survived for 86 years!
91. Elephants are so heavy that they cannot take all four legs off the ground at the same time. This is why they cannot gallop, jump or trot. However, they are capable of moving backwards.
92. On land, elephants are definitely the biggest but put them in comparison to blue whales and elephants should die shame! A blue whale’s tongue is heavy enough to outweigh an adult elephant.
93. Elephants have sensory cells located in their feet, which allows them to detect seismic signals. Not just that ground vibrates, it produces a deep-pitched sound which can travel right through the front feet of an elephant and through the shoulder bones, into the brain allowing the elephant to actually hear the sound. Humans cannot hear that sound.
94. Elephants are very much capable of recognizing themselves in mirrors.