21 Facts To Take You Inside The Life And Mind Of An Elephant

Published July 30, 2021
Updated August 13, 2021

Elephants may be known for their long memories, but these 21 elephant facts prove there is more to these majestic animals than you think.

From their impressive physicality to their extraordinary memories, it’s not much of a surprise that elephants have historically been objects of both popular fascination and even religious devotion.

With that in mind, here are a few elephant facts that cover Earth’s biggest land animal from top to bottom:

Elephant Facts
Elephants sometimes use their tusks in fights, but they're generally peaceful creatures. Most of the time, they use their tusks for digging, lifting objects, gathering food, and stripping bark to eat from trees. Elephants also have a dominant tusk, similar to the dominant hand a human uses to write. Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

Elephant Trunk Trivia
An elephant's trunk is actually a long nose containing more than 100,000 muscles. Alexander Koerner/Getty Images

Elephants Sense Of Smell
African elephants may have the best sense of smell in the animal kingdom; they can detect water sources from up to 12 miles away.Biju Boro/AFP/Getty Images

Interesting Elephant Facts
Elephants get warm very easily, so their huge ears work like fans which they use to cool down. Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

Elephants Self-Awareness
Like dolphins and primates, elephants have shown signs of self-awareness, able to recognize themselves in a mirror. Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images

How Elephants Greet Each Other
Elephants are social animals: They greet each other by stroking or wrapping their trunks together. Chris Jek/AFP/Getty Images

Elephants Cooling Down
Elephants not only can swim, they're pretty good at it, too. It probably helps that they use their trunk as a snorkel. Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images

Asian Elephant
Asian elephants were once domesticated for battle, but are now captured for use in the tourism and entertainment industry. As you might guess, they are currently classified as an endangered species. Ishara S. Kodikara /AFP/Getty Images

African Elephant
According to the World Wildlife Fund, there may have been as many as three million African elephants in the early 20th century. Due to poaching, there are now around 470,000. Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

How Long Elephant Pregnancy Lasts
Female elephants are pregnant for 22 months, the longest gestation period of any mammal.Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images

Elephant Bath
Researchers at the University of Sussex found that elephants can identify a person's gender and age purely based on the sound of his or her voice. Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images

Cow And Calf Elephants
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found that elephants can identify one another as friends, family members, or strangers based on how they smell. Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

Elephant Sunscreen
Elephants have their own "sunscreen," and spray their bodies with sand to protect themselves from the sun.Money Sharma/AFP/Getty Images

Interesting Facts About Elephants
Female elephants live in herds, with the oldest female elephant leading the group. Males leave their family around age 12 to form their own all-male groups.Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

Elephant Grazing
Elephants have big appetites and tiny sleep needs: Even though African elephants consume 160 liters of water and 300 kilograms of food a day, they only need to sleep three or four hours.Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

Elephant Memories
Elephants really do have incredible memories: Scientific American reported that elephants can remember droughts and other extreme weather conditions, which allows them to return to places where they know there will be food or water. They can also remember elephants they've met in the past, and keep track of up to 30 other members of their family. Tony Karumba/ AFP/Getty Images

Skincare Regimen Elephant Facts
Elephants maintain a strict skincare regimen. They take regular mud baths to retain moisture and protect from the harsh sun and insect bites.Tony Karumba/ AFP/Getty Images

Asian Elephant Learned To Imitate Human Speech
A 2012 study found that an Asian elephant named Koshik figured out how to imitate human speech -- in this case Korean -- as a way to bond with his human trainers. Lakruwan Wanniarachchi /AFP/Getty Images

Elephants In Hinduism
Elephants hold a sacred place in Eastern religious mythology. The Hindu god Ganesh is depicted as a man with an elephant's head, and according to another story, Buddha was reincarnated as a white elephant with six tusks. Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

How Elephants Comfort One Another
A study from the National Primate Research Center observed elephants comforting their distressed friends by stroking their trunks.Lakruwan Wanniarachchi /AFP/Getty Images

Elephant Tusks
Daniel Hayduk/AFP/Getty Images


Enjoy these interesting elephant facts? Next, watch this angry elephant charge Arnold Schwarzenegger's jeep. Then, see these incredible examples of animal camouflage in the wild.

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