Elephant, the largest land-dwelling mammal. Elephants are found in Africa and Asia, primarily in forests and savannas. They can be domesticated and have been used as draft animals and circus performers.
Elephants are 5.3 to 13 feet (1.6 to 3.9 m) high at the shoulder, and usually weigh 6,000 to 14,000 pounds (2,720 to 6,350 kg). Males are larger than females. Elephants have thick, leathery skin that is wrinkled. The skin ranges in color from gray to brown and is covered with sparse, bristly hair.
The elephant has a long, thin tail with a tuft of hair at the tip. It has short, broad feet that are columnar in shape. The elephant has a massive head and a short, thick neck. It has small eyes and large, fan-shaped ears. The ears are thin; they cool the elephant by releasing body heat, especially when the elephant flaps them.
Perhaps the most distinctive feature of an elephant is its trunk, a flexible, tubelike extension of the nose and upper lip. It can be up to 10 feet (3.1 m) long. The trunk tapers to a small opening at the tip. The elephant's diet consists of grass, bark, roots, leaves, and fruit. The elephant uses its trunk to pull up bunches of grass or break off leaves from twigs. It then thrusts the food into its mouth. To drink, the elephant draws water into its trunk and then squirts the water into its mouth. It also uses the trunk to toss mud or dirt on its back, which helps cool the elephant. When alarmed, the elephant makes a trumpeting sound by blowing through its trunk.
The elephant has tusks, elongated incisor teeth that extend outside the mouth and grow throughout life. The tusks can be up to 11.5 feet (3.5 m) long and are curved slightly upward at the tip. The tusks are used to uproot trees and shrubs and to fight other elephants.
|Interesting facts about elephants|
|The skin of an elephant is gray and wrinkled. An adult elephant's skin measures up to 1 1/2 inches (3 centimeters) thick and weighs about 1 short ton (0.9 metric ton). However, it is surprisingly tender. Flies, mosquitoes, and other insects can bite into the skin.|
|An angry or frightened elephant can run at a speed of more than 25 miles (40 kilometers) an hour for a short distance. On a long journey, a herd of elephants travels at about 10 miles (16 kilometers) an hour.|
|An elephant uses its trunk as a hand. The trunk can carry a 600-pound (272-kilogram) log or an object as small as a coin. Elephants also breathe and smell with their trunks.|
|Elephants love water and frequently bathe in lakes and rivers. They are excellent swimmers. An elephant gives itself a shower by shooting a stream of water from its trunk.|