Elephant Definition | Characteristics & Facts



Elephant Definition

An elephant is a large and intelligent mammal belonging to the family Elephantidae and the order Proboscidea. Elephants are characterized by their massive size, distinctive trunk, long tusks (in some species), and large, fan-like ears.

General Characteristics & Facts of Elephants


Shoulder Heights of up to 10 to 13 feet (3 to 4 meters). Weigh between 5,000 to 14,000 pounds (2,268 to 6,350 kilograms).


One of the most remarkable features of elephants is their long, muscular trunk.


Both male and female African elephants, and some male Asian elephants, have tusks.


Elephants are highly intelligent animals with complex social behaviors. They demonstrate problem-solving abilities, exhibit self-awareness, and show empathy towards other elephants and even other species.

Social Structure

Elephants are herd consists of related female elephants and their offspring. Male elephants usually leave the herd when they reach sexual maturity and may form small bachelor groups or become solitary.

Herbivorous Diet

They primarily eat plant matter belonging to herbivores. Their diet consists of a variety of vegetation, including grasses, leaves, bark, fruits, and roots. An adult elephant can consume large amounts of food daily to sustain its energy needs.


Elephants have relatively long lifespans. African elephants can live up to 60 to 70 years in the wild, while Asian elephants have a lifespan of around 50 to 60 years. Elephants in captivity may have longer lifespans due to access to healthcare and proper nutrition.

Conservation Status

Elephants are considered vulnerable and endangered species due to habitat loss, poaching for ivory, and human-elephant conflicts. Conservation efforts are in place to protect and preserve elephant populations and their habitats.

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Elephant Physical Characteristics:

  1. Size:  African elephants can reach heights of up to 10 to 13 feet (3 to 4 meters) at the shoulder and weigh between 5,000 to 14,000 pounds (2,268 to 6,350 kilograms). Asian elephants are slightly smaller, ranging from 6.6 to 9.8 feet (2 to 3 meters) in shoulder height and weighing between 4,000 to 11,000 pounds (1,814 to 4,990 kilograms).
  2. Body Shape: Elephants have a robust and stocky build with a large, rounded body. They have four sturdy legs that support their massive weight.
  3. Trunk: One of the most distinctive features of an elephant is its long, muscular trunk. The trunk is a versatile appendage formed by the fusion of the upper lip and nose.
  4. Tusks: Both male and female African elephants, and some male Asian elephants, possess tusks. Tusks are elongated incisor teeth that grow continuously throughout the elephant’s life.
  5. Ears: Elephants have large, fan-shaped ears that are distinctive and easily recognizable. The ears play a crucial role in thermoregulation, helping to dissipate heat and cool down the elephant’s body.
  6. Teeth: Elephants have a unique set of teeth, including large molars for grinding tough plant material.
  7. Tail: Elephants have a long tail that ends in a tuft of coarse hair. They use their tails for various purposes, such as swatting insects, signaling aggression or excitement, and providing balance while walking or running.
  8. Feet: Elephants have large, padded feet with thick skin and toenails. Their feet are designed to support their immense weight and provide stability on various terrains, including soft ground and rough surfaces.

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Scientific Classification of Elephant

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Proboscidea

Family: Elephantidae

Key Locations of Elephant

  • African Elephants
  • Asian Elephants

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Elephant FAQs

What Does Elephant Eat the Most?

  • Grasses
  • Leaves
  • Bark
  • Fruits
  • Vegetation
  • Roots and Tubers
  • Bamboo

How long do elephants live?

Elephants have a long lifespan, with an average life expectancy of 60 to 70 years in the wild.

Do elephants live in groups?

Yes, elephants are highly social animals and live in complex social structures. African elephants typically live in large herds consisting of related females and their offspring, led by a matriarch. Male elephants may either live in bachelor groups or roam solitary. Asian elephants also exhibit social behavior, with females and their young forming tight-knit family groups.

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