Today is Elephant Appreciation Day — here are 18 surprising facts about elephants

Today is Elephant Appreciation Day — here are 18 surprising facts about elephants
baby elephant
A newborn Asian elephant.Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
  • Elephant Appreciation Day is September 22.

  • To celebrate, we picked 18 fun facts about the largest land mammal.

  • For example, they "hug" their trunks to say hello to each other.

An elephant's trunk weighs 400 pounds, but it can pick up things as small as a single grain of rice.

elephant trunk hat
Tourist Nicki Kelk gets her hat taken off her head by a baby elephant at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang, Thailand.Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Elephants use their trunk for everything! Drinking, eating, smelling, and communicating are all done by the trunk.

Elephants can recognize themselves in the mirror. They join humans, apes, and dolphins as the only animals with self awareness.

elephant orphanage nairobi
They can see themselves in a mirror.Chris Weller/Business Insider

"This would seem to be a trait common to and independently evolved by animals with large, complex brains, complex social lives and known capacities for empathy and altruism, even though the animals all have very different kinds of brains," researcher Dana Reiss told LiveScience.


They are afraid of bees. Farmers even use beehives to deter elephants from coming onto their land.

An elephant with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background.Volodymyr Burdiak/Shutterstock

Some farms in Asia and Africa are using bees instead of life-threatening electric fences, the New York Times reported.

Elephants can have babies until they're 50 years old.

elephant mom and baby
A 3-day-old elephant plays with his mother in their enclosure at the Zoological Garden in Berlin, Germany.Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Similarly to humans, giving birth at that age is rare, but some elephants have even given birth in their 60s.

Elephants are pregnant for 22 months — it's the longest gestation period of any mammal.

baby elephant
A new baby Asian elephant is seen beside an adult on July 28, 2009.Matt Dunham/AP Images

And their menstrual cycle lasts from three to four months, as opposed to the 28-day cycle in humans. That means they only have the possibility of getting pregnant three or four times per year.

Elephants are born blind.

elephant baby
A baby Asian elephant, born only two days before, gets used to his wobbly legs while exploring his enclosure in Berlin.Sean Gallup/Getty Images

They also suck their trunks for comfort, like humans suck their thumbs.

They also weigh up to 260 pounds at birth.

baby elephant
A 5-month-old orphaned elephant called Tembo plays with his keeper in Mkomazi, Tanzania.Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Imagine giving birth to that.

The oldest elephant lived to be 86.

An elephant in Assam, India.Anuwar Ali Hazarika/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

His name was Lin Wang, and he was drafted into the Japanese army during World War II.

They "hug" their trunks to say hello to each other.

elephants hugging
A caretaker looks on as 7-year-old elephant Laxmi rubs trunks with her daughter, 13-month-old Rani.Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

Elephants, they're just like us.

Elephants have no need for mascara — their eyelashes can be up to 5 inches long.

elephant eye closeup
An elephant eye.Anupam Nath/AP Images

In fact, they have the longest eyelashes of any animal in the world.

They are extremely emotional creatures — elephants even grieve lost family members.

elephant herd
A herd of Asiatic wild elephants gather at a national park in Minneriya, Sri Lanka.Chamila Karunarathne/AP Images

When a mother loses their baby, they've been known to go through a depressive state, and even drag the body of their baby along behind them for days.

The elephant's closest living relative is the hyrax, which resemble "a large guinea pig with a grouchy-looking overbite."

A rock hyrax.Nicole Kwiatkowski/Shutterstock

Elephant, rock hyraxes, and manatees all "descend from a common hoofed ancestor," according to The Dodo.

African bush elephants are the largest land animals in the world — they can weigh up to 14,000 pounds.

african safari
An elephant walks at the Pafuri game reserve in Kruger National Park, South Africa.Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

That's 7 tons.

They're the only mammals that can't jump — even when they're running, elephants always have at least one foot on the ground.

circus elephant balacing
They can balance on two legs, though.General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

They're just too heavy — plus, they stand on their tippy toes.

Elephants can be trained to fight fires by carrying crews and equipment into remote areas, like they did in Indonesia in 2015.

elephants fire fighting
Forestry officials ride on the back of elephants as they patrol an area affected by forest fire in Siak, Riau province, Indonesia.Rony Muharrman/AP Images

In Indonesia, they helped carry crews and equipment through difficult terrain, Business Insider reported.

They use their trunks as snorkels when they swim.

elephants swimming
An elephant swimming.Matt King/Getty Images

They know how to swim naturally. According to Wild Animal Park, "The only mammals that have to learn to swim are humans and the primates."

They can spend 16 hours a day eating.

elephant eating
An elephant eating grass.Bene_A/Shutterstock

Sounds like the life.

Elephants yawn.

Baby elephant
A 3-week-old elephant calf in a herd.Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

You can watch a video that shows an elephant yawning here.


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