28 C
New York
Friday, June 21, 2024

5 Physical Features that Make the African Elephant the World’s Largest Living Land Animal

The African elephant is the largest surviving land mammal on the African continent and all land animals, with substantial body parts.

This land mammal has two species which include African savannah and African forest. Both species exhibit enormous length, height, and a considerable weight ranging from 1,800 kg and 6,300 kg.

Read more to discover the physical features that make African elephants are considered the world’s largest living animal. 

The features are as follows:

1. The size of its ears is incredible  

Among the significant features that make African elephants the largest land animal is their ears.

Their ears, especially that of African savanna elephant, grows six feet long and four feet wide.

The African elephants have the most prominent ears among all the living mammals, which are more significant than the Asian elephant.

The weight of African elephants’ ear

The weight of a single ear of an African elephant comprises thousands of blood vessels and is more than one hundred pounds.

What an African elephant uses the ear to do

Their ear’s large exterior part helps keep the African elephant chilly in the radiating African sun.

It serves as a form of communication since the flapping of the ears can be a sign of either joy or violence.

The shape of the African elephant ears

The ear of an African elephant, which grows 1.82m and 1.21 wide, has the shape of the continent of Africa.  

2. A wide implausible trunk 

Another feature that puts the African elephant in the classification as the largest land mammal globally is its wide trunk also called proboscis or nose.

The trunk is close to eight feet long, with a diameter of 15 centimeters at the tip, and the nostril measures two inches in diameter.

Sum-up of the weight of its trunk 

The mass of an African elephant’s trunk is one hundred and forty (140) kg, containing up to 12 liters of water.  

Why is the trunk of an elephant heavy?

An elephant trunk is so heavy because it has eight major muscles on both sides and 40,000 mighty muscle bundles in all.

The trunk is so rigid that it can push down trees and lift a seven-hundred thousand pounds load without stress.

Importance of an elephant’s trunk 

The elephant’s trunk, which extends the upper lip and nose, serves functions like breathing, sensing, drinking, smelling, communication, defense, etc.

There are two fingerlike features at the end of their trunk, and its purpose is to assist in grabbing small items.  

How the trunk of an elephant works

First, an elephant’s trunk is prehensile, and it works according to the specific movements of the muscles within.

About 40,000 internal muscles control the movement of the African elephant’s trunk and the proboscis nerves, which assist them in moving their trunk in any desired direction.

3. Heavy tusk

An additional reason why the African elephant is considered the largest globally is its long and heavy tusk.

The tusk of an African elephant is usually 2 meters (6 feet) in length, and it grows in layers with the inside layer as the last produced.

Weight of the African elephant’s tusk

The weight of the tusk of an African elephant varies from male to female, and the mature male tusk weighs from 50 to 79kg, while the grown female tusk weighs between 18 and 20 kg.

Difference between male tusk and female tusk

The only notable difference between the male and female tusk is that the tusk of a male continually thickens as it lengthens while the female tusk grows long and slim.

Significance of an elephant’s tusk

Apart from protecting the trunk, elephant tusk has a variety of purposes like gathering food, digging, defense, and stripping bark from trees to eat.

Does African elephant’s tusk grow forever?

Unfortunately, the African elephant grows no more than one rootless set of tusks all through its lifetime.

Akin to human baby teeth, an elephant tusk cannot re-grow but grows in length so far it’s not damaged.  

4. It has a huge head

The 4th physical characteristic that makes the African elephant the largest animal in the whole world is the big head.

The skull or head of an elephant is six inches thick, and it primarily supports the substantial weight of its tusk.  

Weight of the head of an African elephant 

The massive head of an African elephant consists of the skull, jaw, trunk, tongue, brain, ear, and other features.

The total massive weight of an African elephant head is 400kg.

5. Huge columnar legs 

African elephants are large animals that, of course, require big legs and feet that range from 15 – 19 inches in length and width, respectively.  

The heavy four sturdy pillar-like legs and long forelimbs are one of the reasons the African elephant is categorized as the largest animal worldwide.

The essential functions of the African elephant’s huge legs

The African elephant has a weighty body mass, prominent features, and huge legs that support the massive body.

Though the legs are 2 – 3 times less mechanically efficient due to their size, they provide maximum support, helping them for braking and accelerating.

A quick look at the African elephant 

African elephants are the largest animal globally, with huge tusks, elongated trunks, and big flat ears.

The bodyweight of male savanna elephant range from 4000 – 6,300 kg, female bodyweight 2,400 – 3500kg, and a shoulder height of 13 ft for male with 8.5 ft for female.

As for forest elephants, the bodyweight for both males and females is 2700 -6000kg, while the shoulder height for a male is 9 ft and the female 7.9ft.  

The African elephant has distinguished characteristics that separate the male from the female include the head shape, width of the forehead, tusk size, and back (saddle vs. straight back).

It has creased skin covered with papillae, and bumpy skin covers the area that needs a lot of movement.

At birth, calves do not have tusks; instead, it has temporary premaxillary incisors, and the dental formula for African elephants is 1/0, c 0/0, p 3/3, m 3/3.

The African elephant’s reproduction breeds all year round with no cyclic differences, and bulls know when cows are ready to mate through the scent in their urine.

The gestation period here is 22 months, no breeding season, a breeding interval of once every 3-9 years, and average offspring of two.

The regular pace is 6km per hour as they are slow-moving creatures but can run approximately 24 km/hr.

Classification of African elephant

Scientific name: Loxodonta

Class: Mammalia

Genus: Loxodonta

Family: Elephantidae

Subfamily: Elephantinae

Phylum: Chordata

Kingdom: Animalia

Order: Proboscidea

Phylum: Chordata

Interesting facts about African elephants

Though we’ve elaborated on the physical characteristics, the African elephant has some other remarkable facts that one needs to know, and they include:

  • They are the largest animal in the whole world.
  • One can easily differentiate the African elephant and Asian elephant through the shape of their ears.
  • Its trunks are the most sensitive in their body, and it has hard to believe skills.
  • Another interesting fact is that their tusks serve as teeth.
  • They have skin whose thickness is 2.5cm.
  • African elephants are always eating.
  • Their form of communication is vibration.
  • The calves can stand after 20 minutes of birth.
  • The African elephants never forget things quickly because the area of the brain associated with memory is significant.
  • Lastly, the African elephants and other kinds decrease by 90% due to tusk trading.

Is the African elephant the largest land animal?

The African elephants are the world’s largest land animals and are way more significant than Asian elephants.  

Why are African elephants important?

African elephants, the largest mammal, play a significant role in the ecosystem by trampling on the forests and grasslands, creating water holes, and making room for smaller species.

Why is the elephant the largest?

Elephants are the largest because they are huge, thereby producing lots of heat and also have a capable way of taking care of it. 

Why is the African considered a keystone species?

The African elephant is one of the keystone species that maintain the biodiversity of where they live.

They dig for water when the climate is hot and dry, also leave dung filled with seeds wherever they live.


African elephants are the largest animals living on earth, with unique physical characteristics that no other land mammal exhibits.

The African elephants are gentle, intelligent creatures that humans should protect to remain part of the ecosystem.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Stay Connected


Latest Articles