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How much do you know about the Elephant?

Updated on November 8, 2013

Elephants belong to the Elephantidae family, which consists of two main species - the African elephant and the Asian elephant. One way to tell them apart is that african elephant ears resemble the shape of Africa. Here is some more information to help you understand their physical characteristics better.


The skin s approximately 1 inch or 2.5 cm thick and is covered with medium to light brown or gray hair. Elephants roll in mud to generate heat, as well as protect themselves against harmful insects and sun rays. African elephants can use their large ears in order to provide ventilation and regulate temperature, especially during warmer months.Trunk


This is the most distinct feature of elephants - their elongated trunk - a combination of the upper lip and the nose. The tusk of the elephant is often referred to as the longest nose, as it could go up to 8 feet in length. The elephant's trunk has more than 40,000 muscles and is used for feeding, drinking, interaction with other elephants, defending, as well as for sensory purposes.


The tusk or the ivory of the elephant is another unique characteristic, though it is nothing more than their second upper incisor that grows continuously. The tusks of African elephants can reach 10 feet and weigh approximately 200 pounds. As for the Asian elephant, the length and weight of the tusk differs between genders. The females typically have shorter tusks than males, but on average they can also reach 10 feet long and weigh as much as 90 pounds.



The teeth of the elephant were developed to allow them to cut and properly shred vegetation. Elephants have 28 teeth in a lifetime - two second upper incisor teeth, two milk precursors for their tusk, 12 molars and 12 premolars.


These mammals are herbivores and they eat about five percent of their total body weight each day. They feed for nearly 16 to 18 hours per day but only 40 percent of all foods are actually digested. Elephants have a highly varied diet and it includes multiple types of plants. These herbivores prefer feeding on leaves, grasses, fruits and soft barks and on average; they drink approximately 30 to 50 gallons of water daily.

Sexual Features

Adult male elephants are referred to as the "bull", while its female counterpart is called the "cow". There are a few distinctions between the sexual features of females and males, which can make things challenging when it comes to identification. Female elephants are usually distinguished by their pronounced forehead and teats. Bulls have internal testes as well.

Elephant in Kenya



The males mature between 12 and 15 years old. Female elephants, on the other hand, mature at the age of 11. The mating of normally starts when both elephants are around the age of 20. Before mating, males will first spray smelly urine to attract their compatible females. Sometimes, the mating signal is done through the noise of mating sounds.


The period of time a female elephant is pregnant is 22 months, which is the longest gestation period for animals on land. The calves are born one at a time and the interval between each birth may be up 2.5 years or 4 years.


After birth, the calf is nearly blind. To start exploring its environment, it normally nspects using its trunk or relies on the herd to get by. On average, a calf weights 220 to 265 pounds and is approximately 2.5 feet tall. Young elephants suckle for 2 years and continue to live with their mother for many more years.

Young Elephant


Life Expectancy

Elephants can live for 70 years with the oldest elephant on record living for 82 years. Despite this long lifespan and peaceful existence, it is unfortunate that elephants are considered endangered. Both Asian and African elephants are listed as endangered species due to their declining population.

Poaching for ivory and loss of habitat are the main reasons why the population of elephants has been decreasing.


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