How to Tell the Difference Between African and Indian Elephants

Elephants of all types have many similarities. For example, they are all large in comparison to other land animals, they all have trunks, and they all are herbivores, living entirely on plants. However, if you look closely, there are differences. Millions of years ago, 350 different species of elephant roamed the Earth's continents. Today, only two continents have elephant populations: Africa and Asia.
Africa is home to two elephant species: the savannah elephant (also known as the bush elephant) and the forest elephant. The Asian elephant consists of three subspecies. These are the Indian elephant, the Sumatran elephant and the Sri Lankan elephant.

Examine the ears. African elephant ears are very large, nearly covering their shoulders. Their ears also resemble the shape of Africa. Asian elephant ears are small by comparison, just barely touching their shoulders.

Look at their toes. Asian elephants have five toes on their front feet and four toes on their back feet. African elephants may have either four or five toes on their front feet, and three toes on their back feet.

Investigate the tusks. Asian elephants have smaller tusks than African elephants. Asian elephants have two round bulges on their forehead. African elephants do not.

Look at the skin. Asian elephants have a rounded back and their skin is smoother than African elephants.African elephants have dark grey skin. Asian elephant skin tends to be a lighter grey colour, sometime even having pink spots in places.

Note the animal's size. African elephants are larger than Asian elephants. Male African savannah elephants are the largest land animals in the world. One African elephant was measured at 13 feet 2 inches (4.01 meters) tall. The heaviest African elephant weighed about 6804 Kilogram (6,600 kilograms). The largest Asian elephant is the Indian male. They are around is 10 feet (2.7 to 3.2m) tall at the shoulder and can weigh as much as up to 3.63kg (3,600kg). One extra-large Indian elephant was 10 feet 8 inches (3.3m) tall.

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About the Author

Ingrid Hansen has been published in "Twin Cities Business" magazine, the "Murphy Reporter," "Twin Cities Parent" magazine and the "Southwest Journal" newspaper. She has also written more than 30 non-fiction books for the K-12 library and education market, and has been a subject matter expert and a course designer for online college curriculum. She teaches English Composition at a local college, and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Hamline University.