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The differences between the African and Indian Elephant

Updated on April 5, 2012
Note the difference between the skin type and colouration of these elephants. The African having the darker more wrinkled skin.
Note the difference between the skin type and colouration of these elephants. The African having the darker more wrinkled skin.

Elephants and the main differences between African and Indian.

There are three definite species of Elephant, The African Bush, African Forest and The Indian(Asian ) Elephant.They are classified as Pachydermata.

The name Elephant has its origins in the Greek language where it meant "ivory" or "elephant"

In the African genus there are 2 different living species, in the Indian(Asian) just 1 , but this is divided into 4 subspecies.

However they are all known to have diverged from common ancestry some 7.6million years ago.

They main and noticeable differences are these:- Ear size, African Elephants have much bigger ears. African elephants have a concave back, Indian Elephants do not.

In Indian Elephants only the male grows tusks, and the Indian Elephant is generally hairier. Also the Indian Elephant is smaller.

All elephants have trunks but again there is a difference with the African Elephant having 2 "fingers" at the end whereas the Indian(Asian) only has one.

The Indian Elephant has 5 toes on its front feet and 4 on its back feet. however the bigger African Elephant has 4 toes on the front and 3 on each of its back feet.

African Elephant

The African Elephant genus Loxodonta is divided into 2 subspecies, African Savanna E(Loxodonta Africana) and African Forest(Loxodonta Africana Cyclotis), and is found in 37 countries throughout the African continent.

However these two subspecies could breed successfully though it isn't usual as their ranges differ and the terrain they inhabit.

Savanna Elephants are the largest of all elephants, maybe not the heaviest but certainly the tallest.This elephant can reach heights of 13ft at the shoulder(male), and weigh in at around 3,500 kilograms. They can be found in grassland, marshes and lake shores ranging from South of the Sahara.

Forest Elephants are smaller and rounder than their savanna cousins but not necessarily lighter. they also have thinner tusks.They can grow to heights of around 10ft at the shoulder(again male), but can weigh in at around 4,500 kilograms. There is far less known about this subspecies as there are environmental and political obstacles making studying them difficult, but there is a concern among conservationists that their numbers maybe relatively low and in the endangered category. Their range is the dense African rainforests of Central and Western African Continent.

African Elephants

A young bull at the beginning of "must", this is when elephants are at their most dangerous. Mating season.
A young bull at the beginning of "must", this is when elephants are at their most dangerous. Mating season.
Two youngsters sparring for fun
Two youngsters sparring for fun
A family group at a waterhole. Families are always led by a Matriarch.
A family group at a waterhole. Families are always led by a Matriarch.

Indian (Asian) Elephants

The Asian Elephant (Elephas Maximus) has 1 Living species subdivided into 4 subspecies. Altogether there about 60,000 worldwide this includes captive animals and in the wild the numbers are the decline because of habitat destruction and poaching.

Of the identified subspecies the Sri Lankan elephant is the largest and they solely inhabit the island of Sri Lanka, where their numbers are thought to be only no higher than 4500.The male of this subspecies has very large cranial bulges and both male and female have larger areas of depigmentation(pink patches) than their cousins. Although their numbers are low thankfully the Elephant Orphanage of Pinnewala, Sri Lanka is playing a huge role is protecting this subspecies from extinction.

Indian Elephants are another subspecies of the Asian and the most numerous. They have a light grey skin, but do not suffer with so much depigmaentation. They prefer heavily forested areas , or at least areas very close to woodland. It is only the male who will grow full tusks, this is the same with all Asian Elephants, but the females do grow tushes.

One but last of the subspecies is the Sumatran Elephant. Confined to the island of Sumatra, it has possibly only 3000 surviving animals in this subspecies.Smaller than its Indian cousin it inhabits forested and partially wooded terrain.

The last member of the Asian Elephant genus is the Borneo Pygmy Elephant. Although, smaller and tamer than its relatives its has quite large ears for its size and longer tail and straighter tusks than its other asian cousins.


Indian (Asian) Elephants

Family group again as with African Elelphants the groups are headed bythe oldest female.
Family group again as with African Elelphants the groups are headed bythe oldest female.
Indian elephants dressed up for a grand ceremony
Indian elephants dressed up for a grand ceremony

There are similarities!!.

All elephants can communicate with sound or actions, they are a highly intelligent animal, hence being used in circuses and to entertain crowds at zoos with their games. yes, they do love to play.In Asian cultures they are revered and worshipped and considered symbols of wisdom.

Elephants can also cry, laugh and they grieve when a member of their family or even a close friend dies.They also have a special greeting ceremony when an old friend returns after a log absence.

It must be said that 80% of what wild elephants eat is returned to the soil as highly fertile, barely digested manure. They are also extremely good at locating water and digging for it.

Basically Elephants are an important part of the ecosystem, and it is only habitat destruction and of course poaching for their ivory that is causing concern for their numbers worldwide.

Elephants reach puberty at 13-14 yrs old and can continue to have offspring until they are 50 yrs old.The gestation period is 22months and maybe a little longer for the African Elephant, the newborn arriving at a healthy 230 lbs.

It seems to me that these huge and intelligent animals are basically great for our planet and although they can go on the rampage and , yes, have killed and maimed people, they still need to be helped to live their lives to the full and keep on doing what Elephants do.

They love to play!!
They love to play!!
And are highly Intelligent.
And are highly Intelligent.

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    • clairemy profile image
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      Claire 4 years ago

      it is so good to see People are still Reading what I have written, thankyou and i am happy that you enjoyed the article.

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      Happpy person 4 years ago

      This was great and very informative ;)

    • clairemy profile image
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      Claire 4 years ago

      Thankyou very much. I don't have time to get on very often, so to see a comment left is uplifting!

    • teacuppigs profile image

      Karen 4 years ago from Utah

      I love elephants!!! Great hub

    • clairemy profile image
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      Claire 5 years ago

      Read below. :))

    • clairemy profile image
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      Claire 5 years ago

      Firstly, You have given me the title for my next hub, which will be about Camels.....

      Secondly ,I have taken note of everything you have said, however I am sitting here giggling, you are funny.

      Thirdly, yup, camels kick sideways, but I did not know that elks or moose fell in love with truck horns.

      Thankyou for helping Easter Monday pass with a smile.

    • Lawrence Da-vid profile image

      Lawrence Da-vid 5 years ago

      Clairemy! If you get to that "no man's land" contact "Achhamed Congolia Razoullie The Last" and see if "clyde, the one humper" is available. I found out the hard way that right guard deodorant cannot cover up camel slime. Nor can preparation H Help the "fanny" and above all, I did discover that a camel can kick sideways...who would know? Since "clyde" was not the first 4 legged tick breeder to slime me, I stay away from Northern Montana where Bullwinklette hangs around. Who would know that a "big truck" is in no way preventing a moosette from giving a head hanging out the window dozing....a good wet tongue slime kiss.....took an hour of good washing to rid my head and hair from moose slobber....not to mention another hour getting back to sleep....and NOTE....do not ever blow truck airhorns at a moose. they either take it as a love call or a threat and will attack....so will western elk.

    • clairemy profile image
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      Claire 5 years ago

      Sounds like you have led a pretty full life!!

      Well, camels here I come.

    • Lawrence Da-vid profile image

      Lawrence Da-vid 5 years ago

      Go for it claremy....When I was over in no-mans-land #1, at the urging of several "buddies" I found myself strapped to the hump of "Clyde" for a "joy ride" into the sunrise. After a few miles of this disagreeable creature, and then being slimed by it....."Clyde" the vicious was headed toward "home" sans rider.

    • clairemy profile image
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      Claire 5 years ago

      So I have been told, and so i have seen first hand..............maybe I should do a hub on camels??, or maybe you??;)

    • Lawrence Da-vid profile image

      Lawrence Da-vid 5 years ago

      I am! He He. Never tried getting close to an elephant let alone, attempt riding one. From what I've read about them, they're one of the most intelligent animals on this planet. Loyal, and if treated properly, extremely friendly.

    • clairemy profile image
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      Claire 5 years ago

      doubtless most of us can.................but who is talking about camels?

    • Lawrence Da-vid profile image

      Lawrence Da-vid 5 years ago

      Hey!....not to be sarcastic, but! I can tell the difference between a one and two humper camel. And how to avoid being slimed by one.