Elephant Facts
Elephant Facts

65 Extraordinary Elephant Facts

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published September 13, 2019Updated January 11, 2024

Iconic, magnificent, and an important keystone species, elephants hold a special place in the place of human history and hearts. Not only do elephants have complex social structures and elephant brains, they also have many unique features, such as their adorable long trunks, floppy ears, and incredible communication skills. Yet, tragically, even though they play a vital role in the world's ecosystem, their population has plummeted. Find the answers to important questions here, such as are elephants endangered? Where do elephants live? What do they eat? We hope you enjoy getting up close and personal with the world's largest land animal with these interesting elephant facts.

  • African elephants are 8–13 feet tall, weigh between 5,000 and 14,000 pounds ( 2268 kg - 6350 kg) and live up to 70 years.[7]
  • Elephants eat up to 300 pounds of roots, grasses, fruit, and bark a day. In human terms, that is akin to eating 1,200 hamburgers.[7]
  • Elephant herds are led by an older female and usually consist of 6 to 20 elephants, although much larger herds have been observed.[7]
  • Female elephants stay with the same herd their entire lives. Males only remain with the herd until they are 12 to 15 years old. Male elephants then either join a "bachelor" herd or they live alone.[7]
  • Mali elephants migrate farther than any other type of elephant. They typically travel between 280 and 435 miles every year, which is like walking from New York City to Washington, DC.[7]
  • Elephants can drink up to 60 gallons of water a day.[7]
  • Elephants sleep standing up.[7]
  • Hyrax Fact
    The cute little hyrax is the elephant's closest relative; they even have little tusks
  • As a species, elephants have few living relatives. These relatives are hyraxes, manatees, and dugongs.[5]
  • A newborn elephant weighs about 200 pounds (90 kg) at birth and is about 3 feet tall.[7]
  • Elephants can make over 25 different sounds, and each sound has its own meaning.[7]
  • Elephants use their feet to detect sound vibrations through the ground. They can feel the movements of other herds up to 20 miles away.[7]
  • Elephants can weigh as much as 7.5 tons, which is more than two large SUVs.[7]
  • Elephants can run as fast as 25 miles an hour and can travel up to 120 miles in one day.[7]
  • Elephants favor their left or right tusk, much like we favor our right or left hand.[7]
  • Elephants can make low, loud sounds that other elephants can hear from over 6 miles away.[7]
  • Female elephants are pregnant for 22 months, which is almost two years.[7]
  • Over 1,000 elephants once roamed through Mali. Now there are fewer than 400.[7]
  • Elephants have a more developed hippocampus than any other animal (including humans), which could explain their advanced emotional awareness.[9]
  • Elephants love reunions. They recognize one another after years and years of separation and greet each other with wild, boisterous joy. There's bellowing and trumpeting, ear flapping and rubbing. Trunks entwine.

    - Jennifer Richard Jacobson

  • An elephant's tusks grow throughout its entire life.[7]
  • In some places on an elephant's body, its skin can be one inch thick.[7]
  • In May 2009, a severe drought dried up the water sources for Mali elephants. A group called Save the Elephants built an emergency water tank for the thirsty elephants and helped save many elephant lives.[7]
  • There are two types of elephants: Asian and African. An African elephant has very large ears, while an Asian elephant's ears are smaller. An African elephant has two fingers at the end of its trunk; an Asian elephant does not.[2]
  • The elephant's wrinkly skin helps keep the animal cool by trapping moisture in the folds.[2]
  • An elephant can drink 35 gallons (159 L) of water per day. That is like drinking 1,120 cans of soda.[2]
  • While lions and crocodiles will kill baby elephants for food, they usually will not fight with an adult elephant.[2]
  • Hindus worship Ganesha, the elephant god of wisdom and good luck.[2]
  • African elephants are the largest land mammal on Earth.[7]
  • Elephant size fact
    Elephants also have the largest brains of any land animal: 11 pounds (5 kg)

  • Three modern elephant species exist today: the African savanna elephant (bush), the African forest elephant, and the Asian elephant. African elephants appeared between 4 to 6 million years ago, while modern Asian elephants surfaced between 2 and 4 million years ago.[5]
  • There are three subspecies of Asian elephants: Indian, Sri Lankan, and Sumatran.[5]
  • Until recently, scientists believed that African forest elephants and African savanna elephants were the same species, but DNA testing has proven otherwise.[5]
  • In 1979, there were 1.3 million elephants in Africa. Today, there are approximately 400,000.[5]
  • Wild adult elephants eat 220–440 pounds (100–200 kilograms) of food every day.[5]
  • Over millions of years, the nose and upper lip of ancient elephants fused and extended to become a trunk.[5]
  • An elephant's nostrils run along the interior of its trunk.[5]
  • Elephants have just four teeth at a time: one upper tooth and one lower tooth on each side of their mouths. They don't have any teeth in the middle.[5]
  • Elephants actually walk on their tip toes. Behind their toes is a mass of soft tissue called a digital pad that acts as a shock absorber.[5]
  • While an elephant's skin looks rough, it can detect the gentle touch of a finger. In the wild, elephants will cover their skin with dirt or mud to protect their skin from the sun or insect bites.[5]
  • Elephants are among the world's most social animals.[5]
  • Male and female herds migrate separately.[7]
  • Elephant Migration Fact
    However, not all elephants migrate

  • Elephants may stand by the body of a dead relative or visit the elephant's bones and spend time touching or even burying them.[5]
  • Elephants love to play in the water, and the buoyancy helps relieve pressure on their joints.[5]
  • Even though an elephant's trunk can weigh up to 400 pounds (181 kg), it is nimble enough to pick up a single grain of rice.[9]
  • At $50 a serving or $500 a pound, Black Ivory Coffee is the most expensive coffee in the world. It is made from beans that have been consumed by elephants and then collected from their waste.[9]
  • When "Elephant Whisperer" Lawrence Anthony died, a herd of elephants he had worked with traveled to his house to mourn him.[1]
  • Researchers have documented elephants displaying grief, compassion, and humor. They have been known to rescue trapped dogs or even bury a deceased human.[9]
  • After an elephant trampled a woman and her two-year-old son to death, it covered them with leaves and twigs.[3]
  • Thomas Edison once executed an elephant with electricity to prove Tesla's AC current was dangerous.[6]
  • Topsy Fact
    The elephant's name was Topsy. She was labeled as a "bad" elephant, and her owners had initially planned to hang her. Hers was the first filmed animal death in history.

  • Female elephants can have babies until they reach about 50 years old. They usually give birth once every two-and-a-half to four years.[9]
  • In addition to greeting and hugging each other with their trunks, elephants also use their trunks to swat smaller elephants as a form of discipline.[9]
  • The oldest elephant on record was Lin Wang, an Asian elephant who lived to the age of 86. She died in February 2003.[9]
  • In response to premature elephant deaths in circuses, 16 countries have banned the use of elephants and other wild animals in those venues.[9]
  • While elephants can move forward and backward, they cannot run. They are too heavy to lift all their legs off the ground.[9]
  • Like humans and apes, elephants can pass the mirror test, which means they can recognize themselves in a mirror.[2]
  • Elephants can get sunburned.[9]
  • Over 90% of African elephants have been killed in the last century.[10]
  • The WWF estimates that around 100 elephants are killed every day for their ivory.[10]
  • African elephants have the best sense of smell in the animal kingdom. Elephants have around 2,000 genes alone that are dedicated to smell. Humans have around 400.[4]
  • There have been documented cases of a blind elephant leading a herd. Being blind did not hinder a member of the herd from being an effective leader.[8]
  • Elephants have long eyelashes to help protect their eyes from sand and other debris.[8]
  • Elephants and mice
    Elephants don't like getting swarms of ants or bees in their sensitive trunks
  • Even though elephants have no natural predators, they are terrified of both bees and ants. Some African farmers line their fields with beehives as a natural elephant repellant.[9]
  • Elephants use infrasonic sounds below the threshold of human hearing to communicate long distances.[8]
  • Elephants can smell water up to 12 miles (19.2 km) away.[8]
  • An elephant's trunk can lift over 550 pounds (250 kg) and can detect even the slightest touch.[8]
  • Elephants have pacinian corpuscles in the soles of their feet that help them detect seismic vibrations of the earth. Scientists believe that this helped many elephants survive the 2004 Asian tsunami.[8]
  • Elephants are natural swimmers and love being in the water. They even use their trunks as snorkels.[2]
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