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Table of Contents
Find out more about these amazing animals by reading the facts below or alternatively, you can download our comprehensive worksheet pack to utilize within the classroom or home environment.
- Elephants are the largest existing land animals.
- Elephants are also highly intelligent animals.
- They have complex emotions, feelings, compassion, and self-awareness (elephants are one of the very few species to recognize themselves in a mirror).
- Elephants are social. Multiple family groups come together to socialize.
- Females (cows) live in family groups called a herd. A group can consist of one female with her calves or several related females with their offspring.
- These groups do not include bulls and are usually led by the oldest cow, who is known as the matriarch.
- Males (bulls) leave the family group when they reach puberty and may live with other males or sometimes alone.
- Adult bulls usually only interact with family groups when looking for a mate.
- Calves are always the center of attention in family groups and they rely on their mothers for up to three years.
- Elephants can live up to 70 years in the wild.
- They communicate by sound, sight, smell, and touch.
- Elephants also use infrasound and seismic communication over long distances.
- Elephants appear to show empathy for dying and dead family members.
Species and Distinctive Features
Three living species are currently recognized:
- The African bush elephant and the African forest elephant.
- African elephants have larger ears, more wrinkled skin, and a concave back.
- They also have a sloping abdomen and two finger-like extensions at the tip of the trunk.
- Forest elephants have more rounded, smaller ears and thinner and straighter tusks than bush elephants.
- The Asian elephant
- Asian elephants have a convex or level back, smoother skin, a horizontal abdomen that sometimes sags in the middle, smaller ears, and one extension at the tip of the trunk.
- The Asian elephant also has bumps on the back of its head.
- Distinctive features of all elephants include:
- A long proboscis called a trunk. The elephant uses the trunk for bringing food and water to the mouth, for breathing, and for grasping objects.
- Tusks. These are derived from the incisor teeth and serve both as weapons and as tools for moving objects and digging.
- Large ear flaps, which assist in maintaining a constant body temperature as well as in communication.
- Massive pillar-like legs to carry their great weight.
- Tough but sensitive skin.
- Elephants are the largest living terrestrial animals.
- African bush elephants are the largest species. Males stand 10 ft 0 in – 11 ft 0 in (304 – 336 cm) tall with a body mass of 5.7 – 7.6 short tons (5.2 – 6.9 t). Females stand 8 ft 1 in – 8 ft 11 in (247 – 273 cm) tall with a body mass of 2.9 – 3.9 short tons (2.6 – 3.5 t).
- Male Asian elephants are usually about 8 ft 7 in – 9 ft 6 in (261 – 289 cm) tall at the shoulder, and 3.9 – 5.1 short tons (3.5 – 4.6 t) whereas females are 7 ft 6 in – 8 ft 3 in (228 – 252 cm) tall at the shoulder and 2.5 – 3.4 short tons (2.3 – 3.1 t).
- African forest elephants are the smallest species of elephant, with males usually being around 6 ft 10 in – 7 ft 7 in (209 – 231 cm) tall at the shoulder and 1.9 – 2.5 short tons (1.7 – 2.3 t).
- Male African bush elephants are about 23% taller than females, whereas male Asian elephants are only around 15% taller than females.
- The skeleton of the elephant is made up of up to 351 bones.
- The vertebrae are connected by tight joints, which limit the backbone’s flexibility.
- African elephants have 21 pairs of ribs, while Asian elephants have 19 or 20 pairs.
- An elephant’s skull is resilient and strong enough to withstand the forces of head-to-head collisions.
- The back of the skull is spread out and flattened, which creates arches that protect the brain.
- The skull also contains air cavities (sinuses) that reduce the weight of the skull while maintaining strength.
- Elephants’ field of vision is compromised by the location and limited mobility of the eyes.
- Elephants can see well in dim light but not very well in bright light.
- Elephant ears have thick bases with thin tips.
- Large ear surfaces contain many capillaries, and more heat can be released.
- African bush elephants live in the hottest climates and therefore have the largest ear flaps.
- Elephants can hear very low frequencies.
- The trunk, or proboscis, is a fusion of the nose and upper lip.
- The trunk is elongated and specialized.
- It contains up to 150,000 separate muscles, with no bone and little fat.
- Elephant trunks have multiple functions, including touching, grasping, breathing, smelling, and are also used in making sounds.
- The animal’s sense of smell is well developed and up to four times better than that of a bloodhound.
- The trunk is powerful and able to twist and curl, which allows it to collect food and wrestle with other elephants.
- It can lift up to 770 lb (350 kg) but can also be used for delicate tasks. An elephant can wipe an eye and clean an orifice with its large trunk and is also capable of cracking a peanut shell without breaking the seed.
- Elephants can suck up food and water both to spray in the mouth and to spray over their bodies.
- When going underwater, the elephant uses its trunk as a snorkel.
- Elephants usually have 26 teeth.
- The incisors are known as tusks.
- The teeth it chews with are replaced up to six times in an elephant’s lifetime.
- Old elephants often die because they can no longer eat food after their final set of teeth has worn down.
- The tusks of an elephant are modified second incisors in the upper jaw.
- They replace the deciduous milk teeth at 6–12 months of age and grow continuously at about 7 in (17 cm) a year.
- The dentine is known as ivory.
- Much of the tusk can be seen outside, and the rest is in a socket in the skull.
- Tusks serve many purposes. They are used for digging for water, salt, and roots, and they are used for moving branches and trees to clear paths and also for debarking trees.
- When fighting, elephants use their tusks to attack and defend and also to protect their trunk.
- In earlier times, elephant tusks weighing more than 200 lb (over 90 kg) were common, though it is rare today to see any over 100 lb (45 kg).
- An elephant’s skin is generally very tough, at 1 in (2.5 cm) thick on the back and parts of the head.
- The skin around the mouth and inside of the ear is considerably thinner.
- Elephants typically have gray skin, but African elephants look brown or reddish after wallowing in colored mud.
- As elephants mature, their hair darkens and becomes thinner and sparser. However, dense concentrations of hair and bristles remain on the end of the tail and chin and the areas around the eyes and ear openings.
- Although tough, an elephant’s skin is very sensitive. Elephants need to take regular mud baths to protect the skin from insect bites, burning, and also loss of moisture.
- After bathing, the elephant enjoys using its trunk to blow dust onto its body. This dries into a protective crust.
- The brain of an elephant weighs as much as 10 – 12 lb (4.5 – 5.5 kg) compared to 4 lb (1.6 kg) for a human brain.
- The heart of an elephant weighs 26 – 46 lb (12 – 21 kg).
Habitat, Feeding, and Breeding
- Elephants are found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.
- They are found in different habitats, including forests, savannahs, deserts, and marshes.
- They are herbivorous, which means they eat plant material.
- They stay near water when possible.
- Gestation typically lasts around two years, the longest pregnancy of any mammal.
- Calves are born 33 in (85 cm) tall and weigh around 260 lb (120 kg).
- Typically, only one young is born, but twins do sometimes occur.
- The newborn is unsteady on its feet for the first few days, but by the age of two weeks, the calf can walk more firmly and has more control over its trunk.
- Calves rely entirely on milk from their mother for nutrition for their first three months, after which they start to use their trunk to drink water and begin to forage for vegetation.
- Adulthood starts at about 18 years of age in both sexes.
- Elephants have long lifespans, reaching 60 – 70 years of age.
Work & Relationship with Humans
- Elephants have been working animals for many centuries and are still used in modern times.
- In 2000, there were approximately 16,500 working elephants in Asia.
- These animals are captured from the wild when they are 10–20 years old.
- At this age, they can be trained quickly and easily and will have a longer working life.
- Asian elephants perform tasks such as moving logs to rivers and roads, hauling loads into remote areas, transporting tourists, and leading religious processions.
- Elephants are used in circuses as they can be trained to perform tricks.
- Elephants are hunted for their ivory, which is used for piano keys, billiard balls, and decorative ornaments. Their meat is also sold as bushmeat.
- Elephants and humans often come into conflict because of habitat destruction through farming and deforestation. Elephants can raid crops and destroy the livelihoods of locals, while humans can destroy or reduce their natural habitat.
- In Hinduism, the elephant is a sacred animal.
This bundle contains 10 ready-to-use Elephant Worksheets that are perfect for students who want to learn more about Elephants which are the largest land-living mammals and are direct descendants of the mammoths and mastodons from the Ice Age 10,000 years ago. They are known as pachyderms, meaning thick-skinned animals.
Download includes the following worksheets:
- Elephant Facts
- Draw Me Elephant
- Fact or Myth
- The Forefathers – Word Search
- Elephants and Woolly – Compare and Contrast
- The Anatomy
- The Herd – Coloring
- The Lion and the Elephant
- Answer Key
Frequently Asked Questions
Are elephants big?
Yes, elephants are very big. They are the largest living land mammal.
What is special about elephants?
Elephants are highly intelligent animals with emotions and self-awareness.
How do elephants drink?
Elephants use their trunks to help them drink. They suck water part of the way up their trunk and then use their trunks to squirt the water into their mouths.
Are elephants smart?
Elephants are exceptionally smart creatures. They have the largest brain of any land animal.
What do elephants do all day?
Wild elephants spend most of their days either looking for food, eating, or taking mud and sand baths.
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Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.