Most experts recognize three types of elephants: two African and an Asian elephant. But which of the three is the biggest?
And how big is the largest elephant ever recorded in the world?
There are some distinctive features between different types of elephants. Three important things are size, ear shape and tusks. Elephants will use their fangs for digging, lifting, gathering food and defending. Likewise, people are right-handed or left-handed, elephants have a dominant side. You can tell by looking at the tusks. Wear on the tusk will be visible on the dominant side.
Elephants are vegetarians. Their diet consists of herbs, fruits, leaves, bark, and roots. They consume 16-18 hours of food each day, eating 300-350 pounds of food. A female elephant gives birth to one calf every four to five years. The calf will remain in the herd for many years and will be looked after by the entire herd. Females will continue to remain in the herd into adulthood, but males will leave the herd at puberty.
As a highly intelligent species, elephants can solve problems and display emotions such as empathy and grief. They will take care of others in their flock, care for the young, the weak, or the wounded, protect them, and heal. Meeting elephants from other herds, they greet each other with their trunks, raising them high or inserting them into each other’s mouths as a greeting.
Below you will find a list of the largest elephants in the world. We will first analyze which species and subspecies are the largest, and then we will detail the largest elephant that ever lived!
# 3 Biggest Elephant: Asian Elephant (The largest elephant)
An adult Asian elephant grows from 6.6 to 9.8 feet in height, weighs 4,500 to 11,000 pounds, and will live to be 60 years old. These elephants have small and round ears with one finger-shaped part that helps them pick up objects. Male elephants usually have large tusks, although some males have much smaller tusks. Smaller canines are called carcasses and cannot always be seen outside the mouth. Asian female elephants do not raise tusks.
Elephants travel in matriarchal herds. Usually they have six or seven females, the eldest leads the herd. They can communicate up to 2 miles away by making low sounds. As a highly social species, elephants sometimes meet with other herds. The matriarch, or the eldest woman in the herd, is responsible for remembering the best places for food, water, and shelter. She will also teach young elephants in the herd to communicate.
As herbivores, their favorite foods are bananas, rice and sugarcane, as well as pasture on grass and trees. They will always be close to a water source.
In Asian culture, the elephant is considered an important cultural symbol. There are fewer than 50,000 Asian elephants and three subspecies of Asian elephants. They are Indian, Sumatran and Sri Lankan.
# 3.3 Largest elephant subspecies: Sumatran (Sumatran maximum sleeves)
The Sumatran elephant usually has brighter skin with fewer depigmented spots. In males of the Sumatran elephant subspecies, the tusks become shorter, and the tusks of the females are barely noticeable. They live on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia.
Perhaps the most social of the elephant species, Sumatran elephants form herds of 20-35 elephants. Like other species of elephants, males leave the herd when they reach puberty, while females remain in the herd. The young females then take on the role of babysitting the younger elephants. Communication is essential. Elephants will keep in touch to protect the integrity of their herd.
# 3.2 Largest elephant subspecies: Indian (Elephas maximus indicus)
The Indian elephant lives in pastures, dry deciduous forests, moist deciduous forests, and the evergreen and semi-evergreen forests of Asia, moving frequently. They don’t like to stay in one place for more than one or two days.
Outside the country, they travel in herds of up to 20 elephants. Unlike some other elephant species, males join herds.
Human activities and agricultural development have prevented these elephants from abandoning their previous seasonal migratory habits. Some of them raided farms, settlements and plantations that were in their original range.
The Indian elephant was semi-domesticated and used in the logging and tourism industries. In the past, they were used as war animals.
# 3.1 Largest elephant subspecies: Sri Lankan (Elephas maximus)
The Sri Lankan elephant is the largest of the Asian species, with the largest individuals reaching over 12,000 pounds! A distinctive feature of the Sri Lankan elephant is the absence of pigmentation on the ears, face, trunk and abdomen of the elephant.
Human development has limited the elephant’s migratory habits. They inhabit the island of Sri Lanka around open grasslands, woodlands, open savannas, marshes and lake shores.
An adult African elephant grows 8.2 to 13 feet in height, weighs 5,000 to 14,000 pounds, and can live to be 70 years old. Large ears, very similar to the shape of the continent they inhabit, are the hallmark of the African elephant. Males and females develop large canines with two finger-like parts that help them to lift objects.
The African elephant is larger than its Asian counterparts; it is the largest animal on earth. Found in Africa, these elephants find their homes in 37 countries. They use their trunks and fangs to communicate and handle objects. Big ears are used to radiate excess heat. Their fangs will grow throughout their lives.
African elephants also travel in herds. Mothers and their babies will live together in the herd for many years. At best, men will remain in loosely coupled relationships. They prefer a secluded lifestyle. African elephants are considered endangered due to fewer poachers looking for their ivory tusks and reduced food sources. There are currently between 400,000 and 500,000 African elephants.
There are two types of African elephants: the savanna, or forest elephant, and the forest elephant.
# 2 largest species: forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis)
The forest African elephant subspecies is the smaller of the two subspecies. They have a slightly smaller, oval shape, and their tusks are straighter and downward. With a maximum height of 8-10 feet and a weight of 2-5 tons, this elephant lives in the dense forests of Gabon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Cameroon and the Central African Republic in Central Africa and Cote d’Ivoire. Liberia and Ghana in West Africa.
This subspecies is considered critically endangered: over the past ten years, 60% of the population has died due to poachers looking for their ivory tusks. It is difficult for this species to reproduce fast enough to compensate for this population loss because they do not reach sexual maturity until they are 23 years old. Bearing also takes about two years. Experts say it will take over 80 years to recover 60% of the loss if poaching stops now.
No. 1 African elephant species: Savannah or bush elephant (Loxodonta africana)
The largest of the two African elephant species is the savanna elephant. They are distinguished by their large ears and legs. The front legs of the savanna elephant are longer than the hind legs. The savanna elephant calls eastern and southern Africa its home, specifically Botswana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Namibia, Mozambique, and South Africa.
They also travel in family herds, with an average of 10 mothers and their young. Males follow them only during the mating season. Sometimes herds are united into larger clans, consisting of several hundred people.
The savanna elephant has 40,000 to 120,000 muscles and tendons in its trunk and can lift 400 pounds. They will use their trunks to lift objects or draw water into the trunk and then blow into their mouth to get drunk, or blow on their back to cool off.
Male elephants will use their tusks to spar with other males for mating rights, and males with the largest canines tend to produce more offspring. Poachers are looking for elephants with the largest tusks in order to get more ivory. As a result, mating males have smaller canines. The unfortunate consequence is that the offspring will have fewer or no fangs.
Bonus: the largest elephant in the history of sighting
Millions of tourists see the largest elephant ever recorded each year. That’s because the specimen is in the rotunda of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History!
The elephant was named “Henry” and is 13 feet tall. He was shot to death in 1956 in Angola and transferred to the Smithsonian Institution in 1959. At 24,000 pounds, Henry is the largest elephant ever recorded.