Elephants are one of the most beautiful creatures on the planet. These affectionate giants are recognised for their exceptional memory and social disposition, making them one of the most appealing species on the planet.
So, how much do you know about the world’s elephants?
We introduce you to six different types of elephants that currently live on the planet in this article. We’ll also discuss the many extinct types of elephants and share some fantastic fun facts to help you better understand these fascinating creatures.
List of the 6 Types of Elephants
Eleks are frequently classified as African and Asian elephants in this manner. There are two living species in the African elephants, while Asian elephants are divided into four living subspecies.
There are also 32 extinct elephant species and two extinct elephant genera, all of which roamed the Earth at various times in the past.
We’ll take a deep dive into the fascinating world of pachyderms and clue you in all of the different types of elephants that exist, both living and extinct, so you can show off your new knowledge to your friends.
Let’s get to it!
1. Subtribe Loxodontina (African Elephants)
The Loxodontina subtribe is the first on our list. The genus Loxodonta, which includes all African elephants, is the only one in this subtribe.
There are currently two living (i.e., surviving) elephants species within this genus, as well as one extinct (i.e., dead) elephant species. Here is what you should know:
1.1 African Bush Elephant (Loxodonta africana africana)
The world’s largest land mammal is the African bush elephant (also known as the African savanna elephant). The African bush elephant is a hefty mammal, with an average adult height of up to 24 feet (7.3 m) and a maximum weight of about 11 tons (10,000 kg).
It lives in a variety of diverse habitats, from deserts to savannas, and is one of the most adaptable elephants on the planet. The African bush elephant is one of the most widely distributed elephant species on the planet, with sightings in almost every country in Africa.
The African bush elephant, which is one of the longest-lived creatures, may survive up to 70 years in the wild. These elephants need to consume roughly 350 pounds (159 kg) of fruits, bark, grass, and leaves every day to keep their long lifespan going.
Female and juvenile African bush elephants live in matriarchal herds that are organized into groups. As a result, the group is led by an older woman who assists with navigation and leadership.
Tusks are visible on all adult African bush elephants, making them a target for poachers throughout the years. The IUCN has classified the species as vulnerable.
1.2 North African Bush Elephant (Loxodonta africana pharaonensis)
While some experts think it is a separate species, the North African bush elephant (also known as the Carthaginian elephant) is an extinct subspecies of the African bush elephant.
Although its range may have stretched down to the coast of contemporary-day Eritrea, this elephant was thought to survive practically fully in the north of the Sahara desert. The North African bush elephant was not particularly tall, with an average height of around 8 feet (2.5 meters) compared to the extant subspecies of elephants that exist today.
During the Punic Wars against the Roman Republic, Carthage famously employed the North African bush elephant. In actual fact, Hannibal used these elephants to cross the Alps and the Pyrenees on his way to invade what is now Italy.
The North African bush elephant, on the other hand, was exterminated by the time the Roman Empire fell. Elephants were thought to be used in Ancient Rome’s circus games as part of the entertainment. Thousands of elephants were slain as a result of these games, ultimately causing the species to go extinct.
1.3 African Forest Elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis)
The African forest elephant is the smaller relative of the African bush elephant, and it is one of two surviving species on the continent. The rainforests of central and western Africa, particularly in the Congo Basin, are home to these elephants.
The African forest elephant and the African bush elephant are relatively easy to tell apart, despite the fact that both species may be found on the continent of Africa. With an average adult height of roughly 10 feet (3 meters) and a weight of roughly 5 tons (4,500 kilograms), the African forest elephant is the smaller of the two.
Tusks of the African forest elephant are also straight, with the exception of a small upward inclination. Tusks on some of the world’s largest adult males can practically reach the ground, in fact.
This species has 5 toenails on each front foot and 4 on each of its back feet, which is another distinguishing characteristic. The African forest elephant may live to be around 60 to 70 years old, similar to the African bush elephant.
Throughout history, however, the African forest elephant has been widely sought. The species is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN, and it is believed that over 60% of all these gorgeous creatures have been poached in the last decade.
2. Subtribe Elephantia
Both Eurasian and mammoths elephants belong to the subtribe Elephantia. The subtribe Elephantia currently has only one living species, which is divided into three or four geographically different subspecies.
2.1 Genus Elephas (Eurasian Elephants)
The only surviving elephant species in the subtribe Elephantia is Elephas maximus, which belongs to the genus Elephas.
The Asian elephant is the common name for this species, which is divided into four subspecies. Yet, some researchers believe that the Borneo elephant is not a distinct subspecies, so you may hear people claim that there are only three subspecies of Asian elephants.
2.1.1 INDIAN ELEPHANT (ELEPHAS MAXIMUS INDICUS)
The Indian elephant, like its name implies, can be found in India and the surrounding areas of south-central Asia. It is also regionally extinct in Pakistan, although having a natural range that includes Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia.
The Indian elephant is significantly smaller, weighing around 5 tons (4,500 kg) and standing about 11 feet (3.3 m) when compared to its African bush elephant cousins. While grazing on grasses, leaves, roots, and tree bark for approximately 19 hours a day, it is known to eat.
The tropical and subtropical woods, as well as some meadows, are home to the Indian elephant. The Indian elephant, on the other hand, has become endangered due to habitat fragmentation and poaching.
Poaching of male Indian elephants has skewed the gender balance of the Indian elephant population, as only males have tusks. Just about 20,000 to 25,000 of these elephants are still living in the wild today.
2.1.2 SRI LANKAN ELEPHANT (ELEPHAS MAXIMUS MAXIMUS)
The Sri Lankan elephant is only found on the island of Sri Lanka, as its name suggests. It was first described as a distinct subspecies by Carl Linnaeus in the eighteenth century, and it is recognized as a subspecies of Asian elephant.
The elephant of Sri Lanka is mostly seen in the island’s drier regions. With an average height of about 8 to 10 feet (2.4 to 3 m), it is smaller than both African elephant species. The combined weight of these elephants is about 3.5 tons (3,100 kg).
Female and juvenile Sri Lankan elephants live in groups of roughly 12 to 20 individuals, with the oldest female as the matriarch. Tusks are also found in some male Sri Lankan elephants, although this is unusual.
Unfortunately, the elephant species of Sri Lanka is deemed to be endangered. The population has decreased by around 50% over the last century, according to estimates. The subspecies is endangered by severe habitat loss and fragmentation, despite the fact that about 35% of its habitat is protected.
2.1.3 SUMATRAN ELEPHANT (ELEPHAS MAXIMUS SUMATRANUS)
Only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra does the Sumatran elephant, a rare subspecies of Asian elephant, live. With an average height of barely 7 feet (2.1 meters) and a weight of barely 5 tons (4,500 kg), it is one of the smallest elephants in the world.
On Sumatra, these magnificent elephants used to be common. The IUCN has classified them as critically endangered, making them one of the most endangered subspecies of elephants.
Sumatran elephants are expected to only number around 2,500 by 2021. Outside of protected habitat zones, the great majority of their range is open to development, resulting in a significant population decrease. Habitat destruction is a major factor in the Sumatran elephant population decline, although poaching, particularly for ivory and palm oil plantations, is a significant contributor.
The Borneo elephant (Bornean elephant or Borneo pygmy elephant) is a subject of significant debate since it is the final subspecies of Asian elephants. Others believe it is a distinct subspecies that only lives on Borneo, while others believe it is not.
Regardless, genetic research shows that the elephants could have been isolated on the island much earlier than previously thought, despite widespread myth that they were brought to the island by then Sultan of Sulu in the seventeenth century. In reality, the Borno elephant has been separated from other Asian elephant populations for at least 300,000 years, according to genetic research.
The Borneo elephant is now recognized as one of the world’s smallest elephants. With barely around 1,500 individuals left, it is considered to be one of the most endangered elephant species.
2.1.5 EXTINCT SPECIES IN THE GENUS ELEPHAS
There are a number of extinct species in addition to the 3 or 4 living subspecies of Elephas genus. While some resided in Africa and others in South and Central America, the majority of these species resided in Eurasia.
The genus Elephas has a number of extinct species:
- Elephas maximus rubridens (Chinese elephant)
- Elephas maximus asurus (Syrian elephant)
- Elephas beyeri
- Elephas celebensis (Sulawesi dwarf elephant)
- Elephas hysudricus
- Elephas iolensis
- Elephas planifrons (Southern mammoth)
- Elephas platycephalus
- Elephas recki
- Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) antiquus (Straight-tusked elephant)
- Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) creticus
- Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) creutzburgi
- Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) chaniensis
- Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) cypriotes (Cyprus dwarf elephant)
- Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) ekorensis
- Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) falconeri (Maltese pygmy elephant)
- Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) mnaidriensis
- Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) melitensis
- Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) namadicus (Asian straight-tusked elephant)
- Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) naumanni (Naumann’s elephant)
2.2 Genus Mammuthus (Mammoths)
The Mammuthus genus, which includes nine extinct species of mammoths, is an defunct genus. These animals, although being larger and covered in fur than their modern counterparts, were aesthetically similar to current elephants.
The 9 known species within this genus include:
- Mammuthus africanavus (African mammoth)
- Mammuthus columbi (Columbian mammoth)
- Mammuthus exilis (Pygmy mammoth)
- Mammuthus imperator (American mammoth)
- Mammuthus lamarmorae (Sardinian dwarf mammoth)
- Mammuthus meridionalis (Southern mammoth)
- Mammuthus primigenius (Wooly mammoth)
- Mammuthus subplanifrons (South African mammoth)
- Mammuthus armeniacus (Steppe mammoth)
Mammoths are thought to have vanished about 18,000 years ago during the termination of the last major glaciation. While the majority were discovered in Africa and Eurasia, several of them managed to cross the Bering Strait land bridge and enter North America.
Mammoth bones and relics may now be seen in museums all across the globe.
3. Other Extinct Elephant Species
There are a few more extinct elephant genera and species that don’t quite fit in either the subtribe Loxodontina or the subtribe Elephantia, in addition to all of the living and extinct elephant species listed above.
During the Pliocene and Miocene, two species, Primelephas gomphotheroides and Primelephas korotorensis, are thought to have existed. While they possessed four tusks, which is unusual for their present cousins, they were expected to resemble current elephants much.
The genus Stegotetrabelodon and Stegodibelodon contained the other extinct elephant species. Although it is thought that they existed in both Africa and Eurasia during the Miocene and Pliocene, little is known about these species.
The categorization system for elephants is fairly intricate, despite the fact that there are now just six different types (including species and subspecies) surviving on Earth.
Elephants are animals with developed nerve cords, namely a spinal cord, and belong to the kingdom Animalia and the phylum Chordata. Elephants belong to the Mammalia (mammals) and Proboscidea (order) classes as well.
The order Proboscidea only has one living member: elephants. They are all part of the Elephantidae family, which is arranged in that order.
Notwithstanding this, the majority of elephant genera and species have died out. Only two genera, Elephas and Loxodonta, have living species at the moment.
Elephants, on the other hand, are commonly divided into subtribes, depending on who you ask. Within the Loxodontina subtribe, the genus Loxodonta is the sole genus. Meanwhile, alongside the genera Mammuthus, Stegotetrabelodon, and Stegodibelodon, the Elephas genus is classified in the subtribe Elephantina.
Elephants, like other species, are classified based on genetic similarities, despite the fact that most of the species in a given genus are found in geographically similar areas. As a result, genetic testing is used to determine whether or not species should be separated or combined.
Elephants Conservation Status
Although elephants are one of the most well-known and charismatic animal species on the planet, all current elephant species are classified as endangered, vulnerable, or critically endangered.
In fact, both Asian and African elephants are on the verge of extinction. Habitat degradation and poaching are the biggest dangers to the elephant throughout its range. In Africa, the biggest danger is poaching for the ivory trade, while in Asia, it is habitat destruction.
Despite the gloomy facts about elephant conservation across the globe, there is reason to believe that elephants will survive.
The demand for ivory has been reduced significantly as a result of recent restrictions on domestic and international ivory sales, which has helped to reduce the effect of poaching. Elephants have benefited significantly from stronger safeguards, as well as effort to protect important elephant habitat on both continents.
Elephant Fun Facts
Are you an elephant enthusiast? Here are a few of the most interesting elephant facts you should know:
1|Elephant Calves Can Stand Up With 20 Minutes Of Birth
Baby elephants can stand upright on their own within 20 minutes of taking their first breath, as incredible as it may sound. Baby elephants are already running through the savanna like old pros before they see their first sunset, while we humans can barely hold our heads upright for the first six months of our lives. That’s quite the show of strength.
2|Elephant Tusks Are Actually Teeth
Amazingly, elephants’ tusks aren’t horns, but teeth! Dentine, one of the main tissues found in human teeth, is used to make ivory (the material in elephant tusks). Like our teeth, an elephant’s tusk is encased in enamel!
Elephant teeth are so big that no one knows why. Elephant tusks are thought to have originated as a way for elephants to dig holes, harvest food, strip bark from trees, and carry weights. They’re sometimes utilized for self-defense as well.
Elephants, like humans, are either right-handed or left-handed, and the tusk of an elephant is generally “right tusked.” By comparing which tusk is more worn down, you may usually tell if an elephant has a favorite tusk that they use for varied jobs. Nobody would have suspected.
3|Want To Identify An Elephant Species? Check Out Its Ears
You may use a basic technique to determine whether an individual is either an Asian or African elephant, despite the fact that each species and subspecies of elephants has its own unique features.
Of course, if you’re in Africa, you can be confident that you’re seeing an African elephant. If you’re in Asia, it’s the same thing.
Nonetheless, you simply need to look at the elephant’s ears if you’re simply viewing a picture of one.
African elephants are said to have considerably bigger ears than Asian elephants, which resemble the continent’s form. Asian elephants, on the other hand, have tiny ears that are typically spherical. That is how it works!
4|An Elephant’s Trunk Can Contain Around 2 Gallons Of Water
The appendage of an elephant is quite remarkable. The trunk of an elephant is able to suck up 2 gallons (8 liters) of water at the same time, not only because it has about 150,000 different muscle units.
Wait until you hear this: An elephant’s trunk is one of the most sensitive and dexterous appendages of any mammal, which is even more impressive.
A single peanut has been observed being picked up by several elephants, the shell being blown away, and the peanuts being devoured with their tusk! To do that, we’d need a pair of hands in most cases.
In addition, while swimming, elephants may use their trunk like a snorkel. How appealing!
To some of the most frequently asked questions about elephants, here are our answers:
What Kind Of Animal Is An Elephant?
Because it has fur, mammary glands, and gives birth to live young, an elephant is a mammal. The Elephantidae family, which belongs to the Mammalia order Proboscidea, is home to all elephants.
How Much Do Elephants Weight?
Elephants range in weight from around 2 tons (1,800 kg) to 11 tons (10,000 kg). Adult male African bush elephants average around 2.8 tons (2,500 kg) in weight, while Borneo elephants (also known as Borneo pygmy elephants) weigh the least at around 2.8 tons (2,500 kg).
How Long Do Elephants live?
In the wild, elephants have a lifespan of about 70 years. They are long-lived creatures. African bush elephants and African forest elephants are known to live up to 60 to 70 years, although some Asian elephants only survive about 50 years.
Elephants in captivity, on the other hand, have significantly shorter lives than free-roaming elephants. In reality, an African elephant’s captive median life expectancy is 17 to 20 years, which is less than a third of the life expectancy of a wild elephant.
What Do Elephants Eat?
Elephants are vegetarian herbivores that depend on plants for food. While you can occasionally see them foraging for roots during tough times, the majority of elephants prefer to snack on flowers, leaves, grasses, fruits, shrubs, and bark.
Elephants need to consume between 200 and 600 pounds (90 and 270 kg) of food every day due to their huge size. They will also consume around 50 gallons (190 liters) of water every day!
Which Animals Are Pachyderms?
The word pachyderm may be used to describe a wide range of animals, however the word is often employed to describe elephants. In reality, all non-ruminant mammals with hooves were classified as pachydermata at one time. Elephants, rhinoceroses, tapirs, and horses were among the creatures on display.