Any of three ungulate species in the order Proboscidea (family Elephantidae), characterized by their large size, long trunk, tusks, massive legs, large ears, and huge head. All species are grayish to brown, with sparse, coarse body hair. The trunk is used for breathing, drinking, and reaching for food. Elephants eat grasses, leaves, and fruit. The African savanna, or bush elephant (Loxodonta africana), of sub-Saharan Africa, is the largest living land animal, weighing up to 16,500 lbs (7,500 kg) and standing 10–13 ft (3–4 m) tall at the shoulder. The African forest elephant (L. cyclotis) is smaller. The Indian elephant (Elephas maximus), of South and Southeast Asia, weighs about 12,000 lbs (5,500 kg) and stands about 10 ft (3 m) tall. Elephants live in habitats ranging from thick jungle to savanna, in small family groups led by old cows. Most bulls live in bachelor herds. Elephants migrate seasonally. They may eat more than 500 lbs (225 kg) of vegetation daily. All species are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).
Asian elephant (Elephas maximus).—E.S. Ross
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on elephant, visit Britannica.com.
Seen & Heard
What made you look up elephant? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.