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Difference Between African and Asian Elephants

Before now, chances are high that you probably didn’t know that elephants are ecosystem engineers. Despite their massive size, these animals are renowned for maintaining biodiversity in the wild. Since elephants are native to only Africa and Asia, it makes plenty of sense to differentiate between both species. This piece will highlight the meaning, similarities, and differences between an African and Asian Elephant. 

What is an African Elephant?

The African Elephant is renowned as the largest land animal on earth. It’s clear that they are larger than their Asian counterparts and have differently shaped ears. Further research has revealed two species of African elephants – the Savannah and Forest Elephants. 

You’d do well to note that the African Savannah Elephant is considerably larger and found around the plains of Sub-Saharan Africa. On the other hand, the Forest Elephant is found in the forests of Central and West Africa. According to information released by The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Savannah elephants are considered endangered, while forest elephants are critically endangered.

Also known as ecosystem engineers, these animals are crucial to the survival of the ecosystem of the African continent. During the dry season, they dig up waterbeds with their tusks and create watering holes for other animals. Their dung is also rich in seed helping to propagate different plants across the environment. 

What is an Asian Elephant?

While considerably smaller than their African cousins, Asian elephants are the largest land mammals on the Asian continent. This elephant skin is gray but some parts lack any pigmentation. However, this phenomenon is due to the unique nutrition, genetics, and habitat of the Asian Elephant. 

The Asian elephant has a genetic modification in front of its trunk, which is popularly known as a ‘finger.’ This modification aims to boost precision using the trunk for feeding, smelling, sorting, dusting, touching, sound projection, etc. Furthermore, the mammal has six sets of teeth, which are found in the skull at birth. 

Possible Similarities Between African and Asian Elephants

There are only a few similarities between African and Asian Elephants. Both elephant species have muscular trunks, which they use for smelling, communication, breathing, drinking, grabbing, and eating. They also have similar anatomical makeup. 

Difference Between an African and Asian Elephant

Upon close examination, it’s clear that African and Asian elephants are pretty distinct. Because of their unique genetic properties, they can’t be interbred. African elephants are considerably larger and have darker skin than their Asian cousins. Additionally, African elephants have a sloping teeth pattern, while Asian elephants have a compressed, ‘Diamond-tooth’ pattern. You’d also note that African elephants live up to 70 years, while Asian elephants only live about 50. 

African vs. Asian Elephant: Comparison Table


Elephants are fascinating beasts. There are two major species of this animal – African and Asian elephants. The African elephant is renowned for its towering size, large ears and dark skin. However, Asian elephants have a smaller frame, rounded ears and grey skin. Go through this piece to learn the differences between both species.


What are the main differences between Asian and African elephants?

The African and Asian elephants differ in terms of their physical size, the shape of their ears and the color of their skin. The African elephant is considerably larger, has larger ears and a dark, wrinkled skin. On the other hand, the Asian elephant is relatively smaller, has relatively rounded ears and grey skin, 

What is the primary difference between Asian elephants and African elephants?

The primary differences between African and Asian elephants are their physical size, skin color, weight, lifespan, teeth profile and ear size. 

Are African elephants more aggressive than Asian elephants?

African elephants are considerably more aggressive than their Asian cousins. As a result, Asian elephants are often used to drag wood, as a circus animal and as a war carriage. 

Can an African elephant breed with an Asian elephant?

The African and Asian elephants possess clear genetic differences. Hence, they are not interbred. The only case of interbreeding between both species occurred at the Chester Zoo in 1931. This progeny only lived 10 days. 

Do elephant tusks grow back if cut off?

Elephant do not grow back when they are cut off. An elephant’s tusks are essentially its teeth. So losing them can be a death sentence. Elephant tusks are often cut off by poachers interested in selling it on the black market. 

What are the 3 types of elephants?

There are three species of elephants worldwide including African Savanna, African Forest and Asian elephant. African and Asian elephants have distinct characteristics and genes. 

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1 Comment

  1. Hi I am just writing a post about Thai elephants and I would like to reference this very good article African vs Asian Elephants.
    Thank you,

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References :

[0]Comparing Elephants. (n.d.). Retrieved February 9, 2024, from https://www.honoluluzoo.org/wp-content/uploads/Comparing-elephants.pdf

[1]Stoeger, A. S., & Shermin de Silva. (2014). African and Asian Elephant Vocal Communication: A Cross-Species Comparison. 21–39. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-7414-8_3

[2]How many muscles does an elephant’s trunk have? And 6 other elephant facts. (n.d.). World Wildlife Fund. https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/what-s-the-difference-between-asian-and-african-elephants-and-10-other-elephant-facts

[3]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MAC9fd4df2c-asian-elephant/

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