Elephant species

In the past there have been  far more than a hundred elephant species - all of them extinct now,  except for  three species living until today:


AsiaN ElePHant

(Elephas Maximus)

Lives in Asia.

Distinctive Features:

Ears: Small, India-shaped

Spine: Arched

Head: With two domes on top

Lower lip: Pointed, long

Tusks: Only on males

Trunk:  Only one "finger" for grasping

Skin: rather smooth

Height: Bulls  max. 3 m


Number of individuals living today: 

Approx.  40,000 Asian Elephants living in the wild, plus approx.  15,000 in captivity.


This species is divided into 4 subspecies:

- Asian Elephant (sometimes referred to as  the "Indian Elephant") (Elephas Maximus Indicus): Living all over Asia.


- Sri Lankan Elephant (Elephas Maximus Maximus): Living on the island Sri Lanka only. Largest of the Asian elephants. Males often do not grow tusks.


- Sumatran Elephant (Elephas Maximus Sumatranus): Living on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo only. Second smallest of the Asian elephants.


- Borneo Elephant (Elephas Maximus Borneensis): Living on the island of Borneo only. Smallest of the subspecies. Sometimes referred to as a pygmy elephant.


African bush elephant

(Loxodonta Africana)

Lives in Africa.

Distinctive Features:

Ears: Very big, Africa-shaped

Spine: Curved downwards

Lower Lip: Rounded, short

Tusks: On males and females. Mostly curved

                straight forward and upwards

Trunk: 2 "fingers" for grasping

Skin: Wrinkly

Females have their first calf in the average age

                of 12.

Every  3 - 4  years they have another baby.

Biggest elephant species

Height: Bulls up to 3,50  to  4 m

Number of individuals living today: Approx. 400,000


DESERT ELEPHANTS existing in Mali and Namibia are not a separate species but are bush elephants especially adapted to life in the desert.


Forest Elephant

(Loxodonta Cyclotis)

Lives in Africa: Only in the central-african forests.

Distinctive Features:

Ears: Rounded

Tusks: Mostly curved downwards to the ground

Females get their first calf in the average age of 23.  Every 5 - 6 years they have another baby.

Looks rather similar to the bush elephant, but is smaller.

Height: Up to 2,60 m

Photo: Facebook, source unknown
Photo: Facebook, source unknown

Number of individuals living today: Estimations between  45,000 and 80,000


Possibly there is a 4th elephant species: The so-called Dwarf Elephant (Loxodonta Pumilio), which also lives in Africa. But as  this elephant could be observed on rare occasions only, it is unsure if it is only a particularly small subspecies of the forest elephant.



This website mainly deals with the elephants of Africa (bush elephants and forest elephants).