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Elephants 101

Updated on January 29, 2013
One of the elephants in Dublin Zoo.
One of the elephants in Dublin Zoo.

I love elephants! They are one of my very favorite animals, tying for first place in my heart with tigers.

This photo above is of one of the Asian elephants from Dublin Zoo.

Elephants are the largest land animals. The table below shows some of the differences between African elephants and Asian elephants.

African Elephants
Asian Elephants
Large ears
Small ears
Both sexes have tusks
Only males have tusks
Less hairy
More hairy

The African elephant is actually divided into two types - the African Bush elephant and the African Forest elephant.

The Asian elephant is a sister species to the now extinct Woolly Mammoth.

Elephants are mammals and have a gestation period of 22 months - that's a hell of a long time to be pregnant! (I could have 2 and a half babies in that time!)

They live to between 50 and 70 years of age, with the oldest on record being 82.

Elephants are famed for their memory and intelligence.

Fun fact!

The elephant's closest living relative is not the rhino or hippo as you might guess, but instead the humble hyrax - a small mammal found in Africa and the Middle East.

Elephants in the movies

Elephants have been the subject or have featured in many movies including:

Dumbo - about a baby elephant with rather large ears!

Water for Elephants - a recent movie with Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon about circus life and featuring Rosie the elephant.

Ele my Friend - set during the British Raj in the 1920s in India.

Whispers: An Elephant Tale - about a lost baby elephant.

Elephants in culture

In Asia, the elephant is a symbol of strength, wisdom and intelligence.

Throughout areas of India, elephants are used in place of machinery, for example to move heavy items like logs in the forest. They work with their mahoot (the person who 'drives' the elephant and looks after the elephant).

Alexander The Great used elephants in his army - to move heavy items.

The elephant is featured on the emblem of the Government of Kerala State in India. Most HIndu temples in Kerala own elephants.

The term 'pink elephant' is used to depict someone who is drunk or has hit their head and is seeing things!

The term 'white elephant' is used to denote something that is valuable but burdersome, particularly something that is expensive to upkeep. The term comes from old Siam where the King would gift a white elephant to those who annoyed him, knowing that the cost of upkeep of the elephant would ruin the man!


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