Herd of elephants walking in single file


Elephants are represented by three living species: Asian, African forest and African bush. As the largest living mammals in the world, healthy adults have no natural predators, though the calves have plenty to fear from lions and tigers.

The elephant's distinctive trunk is very versatile and can perform the functions of hand, foot and nose. Their large ears also play an important role in regulating body temperature. Elephants are very intelligent animals and highly social, living in groups led by the oldest female, or matriarch. Adult males are relatively solitary only coming together in loose bachelor herds.

Did you know?
An elephant’s skin is so sensitive that it can feel a fly landing.

Scientific name: Elephantidae

Rank: Family

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Map showing the distribution of the Elephants taxa

The shading illustrates the diversity of this group - the darker the colour the greater the number of species. Data provided by WWF's Wildfinder.

Explore this group

Prehistoric life

Mammoths Mammoths
For hundreds of years, mammoth bones found in Europe were thought to be the bones of giants. Around 300 years ago they were identified as belonging to elephants which caused more confusion.

Elephant size range

A graphic illustration comparing the size of elephant species compared with humans, from largest to smallest: Songhua River mam

A comparison of elephant size in relation to humans - from the 5m tall, 17 tonne Songhua River mammoth to the 2m tall, 900kg pygmy mammoth.

When they lived

Discover the other animals and plants that lived during the following geological time periods.