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Elephants are amazing animals with many unique features. They are large mammals of the family Elephantidae and the order Proboscidea. Three species are currently recognized: the African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana), the African forest elephant (L. cyclotis), and the Asian elephant (Elephas maximuss).


All elephants have several distinctive features, the most notable of which is a long trunk or proboscis, used for many purposes, particularly breathing, lifting water, and grasping objects. Their incisors grow into tusks, which can serve as weapons and as tools for moving objects and digging. Elephants' large ear flaps help to control their body temperature. Their pillar-like legs can carry their great weight.Elephant ears radiate heat to help keep these large animals cool, but sometimes the African heat is too much. Elephants are fond of water and enjoy showering by sucking water into their trunks and spraying it all over themselves. Afterwards, they often spray their skin with a protective coating of dust.

Species Differences

African and Asian elephants look the same at a glance, but if you look closer they are very different. An African elephant’s trunk is equipped with two “fingers,” which allow it to really grasp onto leaves and grasses before bringing them to its mouth. Asian elephants use their single finger to curl around food, which they then squeeze up into their mouths. It is said that you can tell where an elephant comes from by looking at the size of his ears. African ears are like a map of Africa and Asian ears are smaller like the shape of India. African ears are much bigger and reach up and over the neck, which does not occur in Asian elephants.

Elephants in Movies

There are some famous elephants found in movies that almost anyone would recognize. The above left picture shows Dumbo, an elephant who can fly. He is the star of the animated 1941 Disney film, Dumbo. On the above right is another popular animated movie elephant, Horton, from Horton Hears a Who. Horton Hears a Who was originally a book by Dr. Seuss.

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