Elephant Facts for Kids and Grownups
How much do you know about elephants? These incredible creatures are endlessly iconic and well-loved by almost everyone.
We have the trivia goods about this large, fascinating land animal. If you've ever wanted to know how an elephant trunk functions or what an elephant eats, check out the fun facts below.
There Is More Than One Species of Elephant
There are three different elephant species — the African Savannah (Bush) elephant, the African Forest Elephant, and the Asian elephant.
They’re Really, Really Big
Elephants are the largest land animals in the world. An African elephant can weigh between 5,000 to 14,000 pounds and stand between 8 feet and 13 feet.
The largest elephant on record weighed about 24,000 pounds and was 13 feet at the shoulder. Elephants are also among the strongest animals in the world, although some smaller animals are actually stronger for their size.
An Elephant’s Ears Tell Their Story
One way you can tell one species of elephant from another is by looking at their ears.
African elephants have ears shaped like the African continent.
Their Asian counterparts have smaller ears shaped like India.
Tusk Size, Age and Sex
It is true that elephant tusks never stop growing — the bigger the tusks, the older the elephant.
Male and female African elephants grow tusks, but only males of the Asian species have them.
There Are Tuskless African Elephants
Tuskless African elephants are becoming more common, but this isn't a good thing.
This once rare genetic trait is evolving into something more common due to poaching. About 35,000 elephants are killed for their tusks annually.
Females with this genetic mutation can survive. Males, however, die in the womb.
The African Forest Elephant: Species or Subspecies?
The African forest elephant used to be a subspecies of the African savannah (bush) elephant, but it is no longer. It separated from the species between two to seven million years ago.
Forest elephants are smaller than bush elephants, with hairy trunks and rounded ears.
Elephants Love to Chow Down
Elephants have big appetites. They spend up 18 hours a day feasting on grass, plants and fruit.
Big Meals Mean More Energy
Elephants graze for such a long time each day because they digest little of what they eat.
The more they consume, the more nourished they are and the more energy they have for moving from place to place.
An Indian Elephant's Stomping Grounds
The Indian elephant can be found in 10 countries in Southeast Asia, but the majority live in India around the foothills of the Himalayas, and the states of Odisha, Jharkhand, and Karnataka.
The Largest Asian Subspicies
The Sri Lankan elephant is the largest of the Asian species, reaching 11.5 feet tall and weighing between 4,400 and 12,100 pounds.
Elephant Salt Miners
Kenya's Mount Elgon National Park has elephants that work. They use their tusks to find salt in the park's underground caves.
After feeling their way around using their trunks, they break the salt they find with their tusks and eat it.
The Most Critically Endangered Subspecies
Of all the Asian subspecies, the Sumatran elephant is the most endangered. It has declined in numbers by 80 percent over the last 30 years, and there are less than 3,000 left.
No Jumping for Joy
An elephant is the only mammal that lacks the ability to jump. Nevertheless, they are surprisingly quick. When they run, the can reach a top speed of 25 miles per hour.
The Intricacies of an Elephant’s Trunk
An elephant’s trunk weighs up to 400 pounds and has about 150,000 muscles.
They use their trunk for many things, including breathing, drinking, grabbing , smelling and trumpeting.
The fingerlike features they have inside their trunks allow them to be extremely nimble. They can even pick a blade of grass.
Tusk Size Matters
Some Asian elephants have considerably smaller tusks than African elephants do. They are called "tushes" and reach just a few inches long.
Wrinkles Are a Good Thing
Sure, their skin is wrinkled, but it keeps them healthy by holding moisture.
Elephants love to bathe in the mud. When they do, its moisture remains in their fold and wrinkles and softens their skin.
Elephants Have Sensitive Skin
An elephant's skin is thick but full of nerve endings, which makes it extremely sensitive.
They use touch to greet other members of their herd by wrapping their trunks around other elephants or tapping them.
Calves Stand Up Almost Immediately
Twenty minutes after birth, an elephant calf is on its feet. It begins walking within an hour.
Within two days, it can keep with the other elephants in the herd.
They Lend a Helping Tusk
Elephants have been known to display compassion and empathy. When an elephant shows distress, the others respond by calling and touching them in consolation.
They also sometimes coordinate with other elephants to help.
A Long-Distance Call
An elephant can communicate over long distances using their trunks and feet, which allow them to emit a low rumble over great distances.
Science suggests this may be how they find mates.
Grieving the Dead
Elephants have a grieving process. They gently touch a dead elephant's body using their feet and trunks.
If they see an area where a member of the herd has died, they stop and pay their respects silently for several minutes.
A Highly Intelligent Animal
Elephants are extremely smart and possess a variety of feelings and emotions.
They are also like humans in that they are not born with survival skills.
They learn these from the older elephants in the herd.
All elephants have familial bonds that run deep. Herds are run by females with the oldest at the top of the hierarchy, and each herd can have eight to a hundred elephants in a group. Calves are raised by the entire herd.
Male elephants usually go off on their own or befriend other males when they are between 12 and 15 years old.
They Are Always on the Move
To eat, elephants migrate seasonally, looking for areas where they remember finding food and water in previous seasons. This is where the term "elephant memory" comes from.
They are usually on the move at night, which helps them avoid poachers and other potential threats.
Elephants Tiptoe When They Walk
Despite the size of their feet, elephants do not use their whole foot when they walk. They instead put their weight on their outer toes.
They Have Great Reach
An elephant's trunk can reach up to 20 feet.
This helps them snorkel, making them one of the only animals that can do so.
They simply extend their trunk out as they cross a body of water.
They Hate Bees, Which Is a Good Thing
Because elephants are afraid of bees, conservationists have used that fear to their advantage.
They place beehives near farms to keep them from foraging. This, in turn, minimizes the threat from humans.
Elephants take in up to 50 gallons of water a day, using their trunks like a straw. To swallow it, they squirt it into their mouths.
During the long, dry summer, they’ll dig for water with their feet, trunks and tusks until they reach it.
Doing this also helps other animals find a watering hole after they move on.
The Current Population
Elephants are rapidly dwindling in population. There were millions of African elephants and 100,000 Asian elephants at the turn of the last century.
Today, there are only 700,000 African elephants and 32,000 Asian elephants in the wild.
Their Threats Are Numerous
Poaching, habitat loss, and conflicts with humans are the biggest threats to elephants.
However, climate change is also rapidly becoming an issue. As their territory gets hotter and drier, poor foraging conditions are increasing.