7 Elephant Facts You've Never Heard Of

7 Elephant Facts You've Never Heard Of

Elephants are one of the mostly widely persecuted animals on earth. And while poaching across the elephants' range continues to negatively impact elephants in some areas, as Ivan Carter, host of Carter's War on the Outdoor Channel has experienced, certain countries have thriving populations, thanks to solid conservation efforts, many of which are funded by revenues produced by controlled sport hunting. Here are some elephant facts you may not be aware of.

1. Size Matters

The elephant is the largest terrestrial creature currently inhabiting the planet and is also the world's largest game animal. In Botswana, southern Angola, northern Namibia, and western Zimbabwe, a mature bull can exceed seven tons (14,000 pounds). That is nearly 30 times larger than an elk, and as much as 100 times larger than a human.

2. All In The Family


Although mature bulls are generally solitary or in the company of other bulls, elephants are herd animals in a matriarchal society. The basic unit is a family group, typically led by the grandmother and including her grown daughters and their offspring. This unit may range from 10 to a couple dozen, and they remain together almost constantly, rarely separated by more than 50 yards.


Elephant ivory grows very slowly at first, and also slowly with age, but in his 20s and 30s, a bull can put on several pounds of ivory per year. Photo credit: carterswar.com


Two or three family groups may roam together in a looser association, and sometimes elephants will form into herds into the hundreds during migration or times of stress. Bulls will be seen in such large gatherings, but they rarely join a family group unless one or another female is in season. Large gatherings are temporary primarily because of requirements for food and water.

3. A Jumbo Appetite

An elephant must consume about six percent of its weight in forage daily over 500 pounds. Given a choice, they are highly selective feeders, but in hard times they will eat almost any plant material.


4. All About Breeding

Mating can occur at any time of the year. The gestation period is 22 months, with single calves the norm and twins possible. Longevity is based on tooth wear, but the average lifespan is into the 60s. Although elephants are slow breeders, they are steady producers. In the wild and absent unusual factors, an elephant herd can be expected to grow at four to five percent per year. Countries with herds in excess of 100,000 elephants can experience fairly dramatic growth in a relatively short time.

Weighing in at a massive 6,000-10,000 pounds, the elephant is one of the largest mammals on the planet. It's also one of the most misunderstood. Photo credit: carterswar.com


5. What's In The Trunk?

Although eyesight is poor, elephants have superb hearing and an unexcelled sense of smell. But the trunk isn't just for smelling! The tip has two prehensile "fingers" that can grip small objects. And the trunk is also used as a breathing tube while crossing deep water.

6. Tuskonomy

An elephant's tusk grows throughout its life but not at the oft-stated "one pound per year." Elephant ivory grows very slowly at first, and also slowly with age, but in his 20s and 30s, a bull can put on several pounds of ivory per year.

The heaviest known elephant tusks were taken on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in 1886. Still in the British Museum, they weigh 226 and 214 pounds. No other elephant is known to have exceeded 200 pounds on either tusk.

7. Elephants Are Not Endangered

Elephants are difficult to count across the vastness of Africa, but the most conservative estimates place total numbers at about 600,000. More generous estimates suggest as many as a million. Either way, although locally threatened in many areas, the African elephant is not and never was "endangered."

Recommended for You

Steiner Predator AF Binoculars: Putting The Porro Back in Quality Binoculars Optics

Steiner Predator AF Binoculars: Quality at the Right Price

Joe Arterburn - May 28, 2019

Steiner Predator AF Binoculars: Putting The Porro Back in Quality Binoculars

Check out these top choices for building out your reloading bench. Ammo

Roll Your Own: Best Reloading Supplies

David Draper - April 19, 2019

Check out these top choices for building out your reloading bench.

A record crowd of more than 67,000 people fell upon the halls of the Sands Expo & Convention SHOT Show

HUNTING's Booth Babes of SHOT Show 2014

David Draper - January 21, 2014

A record crowd of more than 67,000 people fell upon the halls of the Sands Expo & Convention

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 12: High Plains Elk

David Draper teams up with Fred Eichler to hunt elk on the high plains of southern Colorado.

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 10: Snowbound Chamois

Host Brittany Boddington gets more than she bargained for on what turned out to be a grueling, snowbound and extremely physical hunt for chamois in Romania's Carpathian mountains.

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 16: Cedar Break Bucks

Kevin Steele treks to the cedar breaks and coulees of north-central Nebraska for a shot at a big prairie whitetail.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

If you're spending time in the outdoors where you might encounter bears, carry one of these guns. Survival

Which Firearm Is Best for Bear Defense?

Larry Case - July 11, 2018

If you're spending time in the outdoors where you might encounter bears, carry one of these...

Didn't draw? Here are five great places you can make a last-minute mule deer hunt. North America

5 Great Last-Minute Public-land Hunts

Joseph von Benedikt

Didn't draw? Here are five great places you can make a last-minute mule deer hunt.

Many of the states in our glorious nation provide great hunting, but only a few have the whitetail North America

Top 10 Trophy Whitetail States

Joseph von Benedikt - December 18, 2017

Many of the states in our glorious nation provide great hunting, but only a few have the...

See More Stories

More Stories

Is there any fall activity more enjoyable than a good ole' bonfire? Just imagining gathering around Stories

Redneck Bonfire Really Lights Up a Party

Awesome Rednecks - September 16, 2013

Is there any fall activity more enjoyable than a good ole' bonfire? Just imagining gathering...

For hunters, September is the start of our season. The kickoff month to the big show. Of course, Stories

It's Time to Recruit More Hunters

Mike Schoby - September 12, 2016

For hunters, September is the start of our season. The kickoff month to the big show. Of...

 PETA has more high-profile celebrity dollars rolling in these days than the collection plate at Stories

HUNTING's Sexiest Meat Eater 2013

PH Online Editors - July 17, 2013

PETA has more high-profile celebrity dollars rolling in these days than the collection plate...

See More Stories

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.