With their prominent size, long trunks, and tusks you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of, elephants are truly magnificent creatures. But how much do you actually know about them? Read on to find out some little-known facts about these amazing animals!
1. They’re Big. Really Big.
Elephants are the largest land animals in the world. African elephants can grow from 8.2- 13 feet, and weigh between 5,000 and 14,000 lbs. The largest elephant ever recorded was a male African elephant at San Diego Zoo. He was 13 feet tall from feet to shoulders, and weight 24,000 lbs! Their brains are 3 or 4 times the size of a human brain and their skin is an inch thick. The huge size of elephants means that they are the only mammals who can’t jump.
2. They Have The Longest Pregnancies
Elephants can reproduce from around 13-20 years old, but they rarely have more than 4 children in a lifetime. Male elephants are called bulls, female elephants are called cows, and the children are called calves. Elephants have the longest pregnancies of any animal in the world- around 22 months! When the calf is born, it will be around 3 feet tall and weight around 200lbs. Elephants also spend the longest time feeding from their mothers; they are not ready to be weaned until they are 2-3 years old.
3. Their Tusks Are Incredibly Useful…
Elephants’ tusks act as their incisor teeth, however they also have other uses. They can be used for defense, lifting, digging for water, digging for roots in the ground, and pulling bark of trees to heat. Like humans, who can be left- or right-handed, elephants also prefer to use one tusk over the other.
4. …And So Are Their Trunks!
An elephant’s trunk can grow up to 6.5 feet long, and is thought by some scientists to contain 100,000 muscles! In addition to lifting food and drinking water, elephant trunks can sense the size, shape, and temperature of an object. Elephants’ trunks also have another use. Elephants can swim, and in deep water they use their trunk to breathe, similar to snorkels used by humans.
5. They Are Social And Sensitive Creatures
Elephants are highly intelligent animals, and can express compassion, self-awareness, and grief. Elephants often play together and sometimes show affection through a “hug”- wrapping their trunks together. When a friend has been away for some time returns, they hold “greeting” ceremonies to welcome them back to the group. Elephants are also extremely caring creatures. If a baby elephant complains, the entire family will go over to touch and caress it. Elephants also pay homage to their dead, gently touching their skulls and tusks with their trunks and feet, and will stand still for several minutes when passing a place where a loved one has died.