Fossil range: Pliocene–Recent
Asian and African elephants.
• See Classification
Elephants are large land mammals of the order
Proboscidea and the family Elephantidae. There are
three living species: the African Bush Elephant, the
African Forest Elephant and the Asian Elephant (also
known as the Indian Elephant). Other species have be-
come extinct since the last ice age, the Mammoths,
dwarf forms of which may have survived as late as 2,000
BC, being the best-known of these. They were once
classified along with other thick skinned animals in a
now invalid order, Pachydermata.
Comparative view of the human and elephant frames, c1860.
Elephants are the largest land animals. The ele-
phant’s gestation period is 22 months, the longest of any
land animal. At birth it is common for an elephant calf to
weigh 120 kilograms (260 lb). They typically live for 50 to
70 years, but the oldest recorded elephant lived for 82
years. The largest elephant ever recorded was shot in
Angola in 1956. This male weighed about 12,000 kilo-
grams (26,000 lb), with a shoulder height of 4.2 metres
(14 ft), a metre (yard) taller than the average male Afric-
an elephant. The smallest elephants, about the size of
a calf or a large pig, were a prehistoric species that lived
on the island of Crete during the Pleistocene epoch.
The elephant has appeared in cultures across the
world. They are a symbol of wisdom in Asian cultures
and are famed for their memory and intelligence, where
they are thought to be on par with cetaceans and
hominids. Aristotle once said the elephant was "the
beast which passeth all others in wit and mind". The
word "elephant" has its origins in the Greek ἐλέφας,
meaning "ivory" or "elephant".
Healthy adult elephants have no natural predat-
ors, although lions may take calves or weak indiv