The main difference between Indian and African elephant is that African elephants are heavier and bigger than Indian elephants and have long tusks and large ears.
Generally, the weight of an African elephant is around 4,000 to 7,000 kilograms, but an Indian elephant weighs only around 3,000 to 6,000 kilograms. When looking at the height, the highest point of an African elephant is on its shoulders, where it reaches about four meters. On the contrary, an Indian elephant’s highest point is on its back. In addition, to these distinct outward features, there are several physical and behavioral differences between these two species of elephants.
Key Areas Covered
1. Indian Elephant
– Definition, Features, Appearance, Behaviour
2. African Elephant
– Definition, Features, Appearance, Behaviour
3. Similarities Between Indian and African Elephant
– Outline of Common Characteristics
4. Difference Between Indian and African Elephant
– Comparison of Key Differences
Elephant, Indian Elephant, African Elephant
Indian Elephant – Definition, Features, Appearance, Behaviour
Indian elephants are a sub-species of Asian elephants with the scientific name Elephas maximus indicus. These elephants are herbivorous mammals. They are classified under “mega-fauna” animals due to their huge build.
Indian elephants have large ears, although they are quite small compared to the ear size of the African elephant. Similar to African elephants, Indian elephants also use these ears to communicate with other elephants and to regulate their body temperature. Most significantly, the Indian elephant has a more curved spinal structure than the African elephant. Furthermore, the skin color of an Indian elephant takes a greyish-black shade similar to the skin tone of the African elephants.
Moreover, only a small percentage of male Indian elephants have tusks. Female Indian elephants hardly have tusks. Even if they do have tusks, those tusks do not grow beyond their mouth. Further, the female Indian elephants gain their full weight at the age of 25-30, whereas the males attain their full weight at the age of 35-45.
African Elephant – Definition, Features, Appearance, Behaviour
African elephants are the largest living mega-fauna on earth. The scientific name of the African elephant is Loxodonta. Their long tusks and huge ears make them outwardly distinct from the Indian elephants. Both male and female African elephants can have long tusks, which grow up to eight feet long. An African elephant usually grows over 13 ft. African elephants have an average weight of 4,000-7,500kg.
The skin of an African elephant takes a gray shade and is very thick, similar to the skin of the Indian elephant. Just like Indian elephants, African elephants also frequently lie around in the mud to moisturize their skin.
African elephants’ ears are huge in size. They help the elephant to regulate the body temperature. These ears are full of blood vessels. Therefore, once the elephant flaps its ears, the blood vessels get cooled, and consequently, heat is released from the body. This environmental adaptation is significant for the survival of these animals, who usually inhabit warmer and dried-up eco-systems within the continent of Africa.
Similarities Between Indian and African Elephant
- Indian and African elephants belong to the scientific family
- Both the species are mammals, homeotherms, and herbivores.
- Indian and African elephants generally have very tough and thick skin.
- To support their body weight, both species have limbs structured more vertically under the body.
- Both species of elephants can move forward and backward. However, they are unable to gallop, jump, or trot.
- These species have a long, prehensile trunk.
Difference Between Indian and African Elephant
Indian elephant is a mega-fauna that inhabits southern Asia, while African elephant is a mega-fauna native to Africa.
Indian elephants live in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Malay, Laos, China, Cambodia, and Thailand, while African elephants live in the rain forests of Central and West Africa, in sub-Saharan Africa, and the Sahel desert in Mali.
Both species of elephants are megafauna herbivores. However, Indian elephants mainly feed on the grass while a greater proportion of the African elephants’ diet consists of leaves of trees.
Indian elephants are smaller than African elephants. An adult male African elephant’s weight is between 4,000-7,500kg, but a fully grown Asian male weighs between 3000-6,000kg.
All male and female African elephants have tusks. However, only a small percentage of male Indian elephants have tusks.
Moreover, African elephant’s ears are larger in size and reach up over the neck. This is not visible with the Indian elephant’s ears, which are smaller in comparison.
African elephants have more rounded single dome heads, while Indian elephants have a twin-domed head with a notch in the middle.
The skin of the African elephant is more wrinkled than that of the Indian elephant.
Generally, African elephants have 21 pairs of ribs, while Indian elephants have 19 to 20 pairs.
In brief, the main difference between Indian and African elephant is that African elephants are bigger in size and heavier in weight than Indian elephants and possess long tusks and large ears. Furthermore, the African elephants’ skin is more wrinkled than Indian elephants’ skin, and the two elephant species also appear distinct in the shape of their head, back, and belly.
1. “Indian Asian Elephant: Species in World Land Trust Reserves.” World Land Trust, 6 Jan. 2020.
2. “African Elephant Species Now Endangered and Critically Endangered – IUCN Red List.” IUCN, 25 Mar. 2021.
1. “Reassure between Asian elephants – Plotnik et al 2014” By E. Gilchrist – Joshua M. Plotnik and Frans B.M. deWaal: Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) reassure others in distress. PeerJ 2, 2014, S. e278 (fig. 1) doi:10.7717/peerj.278 (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “African Elephant (188286877)” By Christian Sanchez – Imported from 500px (archived version) by the Archive Team. (detail page) (CC BY 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia