By Jarrod Heil

World Animal Day: Elephant Facts You May Not Know

You’ve probably seen them at the zoo. You may have been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them in their natural habitat in either Africa or Asia. Either way, you probably like them. That’s because, like humans, elephants are mammals.

They're the epitome of gentle giants. For World Animal Day on October 4, we’re celebrating Universal’s favorite animal: the elephant.

Elephants, which are the world’s largest land animal and herbivore on the planet, are known for their wailing trunk, floppy ears, wrinkled skin and, Although elephants are classified by two species, Asian and African, they can actually be broken down into six different subspecies:

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African species

1. Bush/Savannah

2. Forest

Asian species

3. Sri Lankan

4. Indian

5. Sumatran

6. Borneo

Due to poaching, African elephant populations have decreased from a few million at the turn of the 20th century to about 575,000. In the same time span, Asian elephant populations have decreased from 100,000 to about 37,500.

Extremely intelligent creatures, let’s take a look at elephant facts you probably didn’t know!

  • 1. Elephants can run up to 25 miles per hour. However, they remain the only mammal on earth that can’t jump. They always keep one leg on the ground - even when running.
  • 2. African Bush Elephants can weigh up to 14,000 pounds and its trunk alone can tip the scale at 400 pounds.
  • 3. To maintain that weight, they need to consume about 300 to 400 pounds of grass, leaves, bamboo, roots, bark and other plants each day and can spend up to 16 hours a day eating. They also drink 30-50 gallons of water each day.
  • 4. Elephants’ brains are the largest in the animal kingdom, and 3 to 4 times larger than the human brain.
  • 5. Although the average lifespan is 50-70 years, the oldest known elephant lived to be 86.
  • 6. Their hair growth reduces over time and, unlike many mammals, actually helps keep them cool in hot weather.
  • 7. An elephant’s skin is over an inch thick but extremely soft in places, thanks to its wrinkles, which hold in moisture from mud baths to work as a softener.
  • 8. They have feelings such as self-awareness, compassion and grief due to large front cortexes in their brain similar to the cortexes in humans’ brains.
  • 9. Herds of African Elephants roam through 37 different countries on the continent.
  • 10. They take family seriously and form tight bonds with a herd of up to 100 elephants that are made of related offspring.
  • 11. Seasonal migratory animals, elephants rely on their memory to locate food and water supplies they’ve been to in the past.