Mazlan has an affinity for insightful facts that he loves to share with others.
Interesting Facts About Elephants
An elephant is one of my favorite animals and I am sure it is yours too.
Gentle Giants of the Animal Kingdom
Despite being the world's largest living land animals they are peaceful and gentle animals. They have captured the heart of almost everyone and any stories and facts on elephants will be listened to with curiosity. They are also one of nature's fascinating creatures - have one of the largest brains, longest gestation period (longest pregnancy), sensitive and emotional creatures with sensitive skins, large ears, but poor eyesight.
Facts Based on National Geographic
Asian elephants are mostly found in India, Sri Lanka, and the countries in Southeast Asia. The African counterparts are found in the African continent area of East Africa, South Africa, West Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa. There are two distinct species of African elephants - the forest-dwelling elephants (scientific name, Loxodonta cyclotis) and the Savannah elephants (Loxodonta africana). Asian elephants (scientific name, Elephas maximus) have three separate species – the Sri Lankan, Indian, and Sumatran.
Asian elephants are also slightly smaller than their African cousins, which are 13 feet tall, and also heavier at between 5,000 to 14,000 lbs. based on records from National Geographic.
The following information on elephants is unique to Asian elephants but African elephants do share some of the traits.
Children's Bedtime Stories
Share these fifteen elephant fun facts with your children during mealtime, when driving them to school or when out shopping. You can even use the information and make up your own story for their bedtime story.
- Elephant egg?
- Can elephants fly?
- Are elephants scared of mice?
- Are elephants smart?
- Can elephants swim?
- Do elephants have weak backs?
- Elephant eyelashes, the most beautiful?
- The elephant trunk is also a hand, voice, etc?
- Elephant feet are very sensitive?.
- Elephant dance?
- War elephant, the ancient war machine.
- Elephant dung coffee, seriously?
- Elephant festivals with elephant football matches and more.
- Elephant mahouts - the rider, trainer, and keeper.
- Elephant sanctuary for the badly treated elephants etc.
Elephant Egg Omelet?
When I studied in the UK in the early '70s, I used to tell my British friends that in our village we had elephant egg omelet for breakfast. It tasted great and the serving was big enough for the whole village. They actually believed me!
Of course, an elephant does not lay eggs and there is no elephant egg omelet either. Elephants are mammals and do not lay eggs.
Try this story on your kids or your drinking friends. I am not surprised if they believed you.
Elephants Can Fly?
If you grew up with Disney's Dumbo you probably think elephants can fly.
No, they do not fly. Their ears and body are not designed to be airborne like Boeing's Jumbo.
If only this is true then they can fly away from their cruel owner! We will read more on this, later.
Elephant Cartoon Character
This loveable animal is also a popular character featured in animated movies. My personal favorites are Dumbo, Horton, Mr. Snuffleupagus, Colonel Harthi and all the Jungle Patrol elephants in The Jungle Book.
Who are your favorite elephant characters?
Elephants Are Scared of Mice
This is another misconception and wrong information that was ingrained in our minds. Nope, an elephant is not afraid of mice. You see that only in the movies, actually in cartoon films to be exact.
It has been said that elephants are the kings of the jungle and have no natural enemies. So, there is no reason for them to be afraid of mice!
Several studies were conducted to ascertain this and many of these findings busted the myth that elephants are scared of mice.
How Smart Are Elephants?
Elephants are among the most intelligent animals on land. Elephants raised in captivity have shown to understand more than forty human commands.
Do you know that elephants can recognize themselves when seen in mirrors? They know it is their reflection and not a reflection of others. Only species that show complex identification and sociability are able to do this. This shows how intelligent they are.
This is due to the shape of the elephant's brain which is similar to humans and dolphins. Studies have proven that this brain shape can analyze complex commands.
Elephants Can Swim
Despite being big and bulky, elephants are good swimmers. In fact, they can swim underwater like a submarine without having to go up for air for a long period.
Do you know why?
They use their truck to go above the water surface for fresh air!
Can Elephants Jump?
Unfortunately, they cannot jump or gallop. They don't have a flexible ankle and their bones are pointed downwards. Hence they don't have the “spring” to push off the ground to jump and must have at least one foot on the ground.
Elephants Have Weak Back
Being big and bulky does have its side effects and it is probably due to these that elephants have very weak backs. They cannot carry heavy weights, at most, only 220 lb. (100 kg).
Truth About Elephant Riding
When you see elephants paraded with rattan or sometimes steel seats which can weigh up to 100 lb., please do them a favor. Do not go for the ride. You may weigh 100 lb. and your husband or wife another 100 lb. These in total will be in excess of what they are capable of carrying.
The correct way to ride an elephant is on its neck, not on the back.
Elephants, like camels, have long eyelashes to protect their eyes from the blowing sands, dust, and dirt, and they are actually pretty!
Elephant Eyelashes Length
These eyelashes can measure up to an incredible 2.5 inches in length. Besides being practical, it makes the elephant look cute and pretty!
An elephant is also the only animal with three eyelids. They have the usual lower and upper eyelids. The third eyelid, which moves vertically across the eye, will protect the eye when feeding and bathing in the water or even in sand.
The best part of the elephant anatomy is their long trunk, which is like a fusion of the nose and upper lip. Besides being a long nose, it is also a hand, an arm, a voice, a hose all rolled into one. It also has up to 40,000 muscles! Their nostrils, at the tip of the trunks, can smell water as far away as 12 miles away.
and function in breathing, smelling, and drawing water in to squirt into the mouth
Elephant Trunk Uses
The elephant will use its trunk to stroke and caress its baby or mate. To explore new areas for food and will use it in defense when fighting with other animals.
Elephants make sounds with their trunks to communicate with other elephants sub-sonically over great distances, and trunks together as a way to say hello.
The elephant trunk is super strong, can tear trees to shreds, and can lift weights up to 550 pounds (250 kg). This is like lifting five Justin Bieber!
It is also super sensitive. It can pick up a small object like a needle with ease, which can be difficult even for some of us.
Elephant Ivory Tusks
Elephant's ivory tusks are actually their massive teeth and are much sought after. The illegal ivory trade together with habitat loss, are the biggest threats to the elephant populations.
Despite having a hard sole to walk over rough terrain, elephant's feet are actually very sensitive. It can detect seismic vibrations such as earth movement and movement of other animals.
This special sensory function is also present in most animals, not just elephants.
This is how many animals escaped and survived the tsunami that claimed many human lives when it ravaged several Asian countries in 2004.
Suffer From Sore Feet
In some Asian countries, elephants were hunted, caught, and trained for logging activities. When they are not logging, the elephants are taken to the cities to do tricks or beg for food.
This will earn additional income for the mahout but it is no fun for the elephant. Walking on the hot tarmac surface in busy cities can be painful on the elephant's soft and sensitive feet.
When you see elephants swinging from side to side and trumpeting, they are not dancing or singing. This is not a sign of happiness or joy either.
They are actually displaying their fear or anger, or when they are depressed.
War Elephants Facts
Many years ago, elephants were war machines and fought in many battles. They were trained for conflicts and guided by people to trample over the enemies.
They were in fact terrifying and formidable tanks and would smash through many barricades and break the enemy lines.
They were also revered by cultures in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia as Gods and have certain status symbols.
Elephant Dung Coffee
You have heard of civet dung coffee; the partially digested coffee beans, eaten and defecated by the civet.
This 'processed' coffee bean is then picked and brewed as civet coffee. It is expensive and can retail at US$30 a cup.
This is old news. The latest news is elephant dung coffee.
It is produced the same way as the civet dung coffee but it is more expensive at US$50 a cup. This is the most expensive coffee so far!
It is available only at Thailand's Anantara hotels in Thailand and its branches in the Maldives.
In Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, elephants have been revered for many centuries and are the ancient symbol of culture and religion. They will hold special festivals and celebrations in honor of this great animal.
In Thailand, the Annual Surin Elephant Round-Up Festival will start with a special breakfast spread for these elephants. There will be other activities including elephant football matches and the highlight of the show is the medieval battles. This is the battle where both sides will ride their elephants and fight each other.
These elephant festivals are also held in Kerala and Jaipur, India.
Despite being a revered animal the elephant in countries like Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, is put to use for logging activities.
Mahout Elephant Relationship
Mahouts will train young elephants and develop lifelong relationships with their beloved animals. In fact, the actual training for both the mahouts and the elephants starts at their respective young ages.
For the mahouts, it will be when they learn to walk and talk. Their parents take them to the elephants and let them interact with each other.
A young mahout, after the training and supervision, will finally work with a young elephant once he reaches 15 years old.
They are usually from poor families and their livelihood depends on income from the timber industry. They will be paid according to the number and length of timbers pulled from the jungle.
Out of desperation, the mahout will overwork their beloved elephant to earn more, for their growing families.
Keeping and maintaining an elephant is not cheap and some mahouts will sell their 'pets' to raise more cash.
Overworked and Overused
The new owner, which is usually a businessperson, has no emotional and special relationship with this new 'acquisition'. They will hire unemployed mahout to overwork this elephant to raise as much money as possible.
Although elephants are capable of pulling heavyweights such as timber, they can only do this to a certain extent. They also have weak backs.
At the end of the day, the elephant will be too tired to do anything including copulation, which will result in a lower birth rate among the domesticated working elephants.
There are several organizations such as UNESCO and World Wildlife Fund, WWF, that have set up centers to save elephants that were badly treated, those that were rescued from their cruel owners, and elephants that were displaced from their natural habitat due to over-foresting or development.
How You Can Help
You can help by not buying any elephant products such as ivory and hide. You can also help by adopting a baby elephant or made donations (your time or money) by visiting these sites:
More Fun Facts on Elephants
Here are more fun facts about elephants.
What Are Elephant Babies Called?
Elephants give birth every four to five years and a baby elephant, called a calf, is about 3 feet tall and weighs 250 pounds when born. They are born blind and rely on their trunks and mothers to help them find food such as their mother's milk and mud baths. Do you know that a calf also sucks its trunk just like our own babies suck their thumbs!
How Long is Elephant Pregnancy?
The African elephant has a gestation period of 22 months and the Asian elephant has between 18 to 22 months.
What Do You Call a Group of Elephants?
The family group is called a herd or a parade with about six to twelve elephants in a family.
What Do Elephants Eat?
Elephants are herbivores, spend all day eating and their food sources are leaves, branches, grasses, and fruits. The African species love to break tree saplings and strip them of the leaves. Rather than destroying the habitat, the Asian elephant prefers bamboo, palms, tree bark, and grasses to tree saplings. They even eat the thorny durian whole!
How Long Does an Elephant Live?
African elephants can live for about 60 to 70 years while Asian elephants live up to about 48 years.
Where Do Elephants Live?
The Asian elephants live in the tropical and sub-tropical forest areas while the African elephants live and roam a wide range of habitats including the savannas (bush), the rainforests, and the desert areas.
Where Do Male Elephants Go When They Leave the Herd?
Male elephants leave the herd when they reached puberty at about 12 to 15 years old to join other groups of bachelors. They stay together and look for food, water, and when they are ready for breeding at around the age of 30, they look for female elephants.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Mazlan A
Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on October 16, 2012:
@Om and teaches12345 The elephant omelete story still works even today. When I have visitors from overseas, they were eager to try the omelete but they did asked if it is an offence to eat such dishes!
Dianna Mendez on October 15, 2012:
I am still laughing at your elephant omelet joke. I almost believed it as well. I have learned so much from your post. I hate that these animals are overworked. They should be allowed freedom or lesser work. I can't understand how coffee processed in the manner mentioned would be even a bit desirable. But, there are worst things I suppose. Voted way up!
Om Paramapoonya on October 14, 2012:
Thanks for these fun facts. It was a fun read. I love your elephant egg omelet story. Hilarious!