Elephants are the largest land mammals on Earth. Wild elephants can be found in 50 countries, 13 of which are in Asia and 37 in Africa.

The number of wild Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) is between 35,000 and 50,000, while the number in captivity is around 16,000. The number of wild African elephants (Loxodonta africana) at present is between 470,000 and 630,000.

The main threat to their continued survival is poaching for ivory and the loss of habitat. Ivory trade is illegal today, but it has not been completely eliminated. Therefore some elephant populations remain endangered, while some populations are now stable and growing.

There are several Differences Between African and Asian Elephants, their size, shape of ears and so on.

If all elephants look the same to you, read on and have a closer look with us!

1. Ears

TOP 10 Differences Between African and Asian Elephants

Photograph taken by Little Big Boy

If you put an African and an Asian elephant next to each other, the first difference you would probably notice is the ears. African elephants have large ears – often referred as ‘Africa shaped’. Their ears cover their shoulders. They need larger ears as the tiny capillaries help to release heat on the hot and treeless African plains. Asian elephants have smaller, round shaped ears because they live in slightly cooler climates in the jungle.

2. Trunk

TOP 10 Differences Between African and Asian Elephants

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The trunk is actually a long nose used for smelling, breathing, drinking, trumpeting and also grabbing things. It has around 100,000 different muscles. Asian elephants have more rigid trunks with less rings, while their African relatives have more rings so their trunk is less rigid.

The trunk of the African elephant  is equipped with two fingerlike features, which help them to really grasp onto leaves and grasses. Asian elephants use their single finger to grab food, which they then squeeze into their mouths.

3. Head

TOP 10 Differences Between African and Asian Elephants

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The head of the African elephant is smooth, with no humps on the forehead while Asian elephants have a distinctly humped skull. In fact they have two humps on their forehead.

Did you know that the Elephants are among the

10 Critically Endangered Species facing extinction?

4. Height

TOP 10 Differences Between African and Asian Elephants

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There is a significant difference between the hight of the elephants on the African and Asian continent. Asian elephants are 2 to 3.5 m (6.6 to 11.5 ft) and African elephants grow much bigger and taller. An elephant bull’s shoulder height can reach 3.96 meters (13.0 ft).

5. Weight

TOP 10 Differences Between African and Asian Elephants

Photograph taken by Ben Cranke

Naturally there is a difference in their weight too. African elephants weigh between 8800 – 15.400 lb, Asian elephants weigh 6600 – 13.200 lb. The largest elephant ever recorded weighed about 24.000 lb (11.000 kg). To sustain their massive bodies elephants consume up to 300 pounds (136 kg) of food in a single day. They mostly roots, grasses, fruit, bark and leaves.

6. Skin

TOP 10 Differences Between African and Asian Elephants

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African elephants have looser and more wrinkled skin and the colour is darker, more consistent. Also they have less hair than the Asian elephants, which are often freckled and have patches of de-pigmentation. Since elephants don’t have sweat glands, they have developed other methods to help them cool down. The wrinkles create more surface area and they also capture water when the elephant bathes and holds it longer, providing the elephant with evaporation over a longer period of time.

7. Tusk

TOP 10 Differences Between African and Asian Elephants

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Tusks are continuously growing front teeth, usually they grown in pairs but not always. African elephants have heavier tusks 50-79 kg (110-175 lb) tusks and the Asian elephants have lighter ones 41-50 kg, 90-110 lb. Because ivory is so valuable to some humans, thousands of elephants are being killed each year for their tusks. According to recent research 70 percent of the illegal ivory heads to China, where ivory is a cultural symbol and pound can worth as much as $1,000.

8. Back

TOP 10 Differences Between African and Asian Elephants

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Observing an elephant from the side there is another obvious difference one can notice. African elephants have dipped back and the tallest point of their bodies is at shoulder. While Asian elephants have arched backs and they tallest part of their body is at this arch.

9. Toenails

TOP 10 Differences Between African and Asian Elephants

Photograph taken by Lin Ru

African elephants sometimes have fewer toenails on both their front and hind legs. On their forefeet they have 4 toenails and the hind feet 3 toenails, while Asian Elephant have 5 on the front and 3 on their hind legs.

10. Breeding

TOP 10 Differences Between African and Asian Elephants

Photograph taken by Ross Couper

Perhaps surprising but it is true that African and Asian elephants can’t be interbred. The only known crossbred calf was born in Chester Zoo in 1978 and was named Motty. Motty died after 12 days and his body is preserved as a mounted specimen at the Natural History Museum, London.

Elephants have a long pregnancy, almost 22 months. That is longer than any other mammal. Elephants usually give birth to one calf every two to four years. Elephant babies at birth weigh around 90 kg (200 pounds).

See Also: Top 10 Differences Between the 5 Rhino Species

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