Elephants are interesting animals. Their size is awesome, and their strength is incredible. They are intelligent and affectionate beings. Amazingly, even with their large size, they can walk silently. You might not even notice them passing by!
Fast Facts: Baby Elephants
- Gestation period: 18 - 22 months
- Birth weight: about 250 pounds
- Height: about 3 feet tall
- About 99% of calves are born at night
- Calves are born with curly black or red hair on their foreheads
- Calves drink about 3 gallons of milk a day
Facts About Baby Elephants
A baby elephant is called a calf. It weighs about 250 pounds at birth and stands about three feet tall. Calves can't see very well at first, but they can recognize their mothers by touch, scent, and sound.
Baby elephants stay very close to their mothers for the first couple of months. The calves drink their mother's milk for about two years, sometimes longer. They drink up to 3 gallons of milk a day! At about four months old, they also begin eating some plants, like adult elephants, but they continue to need as much milk from their mother. They keep drinking milk for up to ten years!
At first, baby elephants don't really know what to do with their trunks. They swing them to and fro and sometimes even step on them. They will suck their trunk just as a human baby might suck its thumb.
By about 6 to 8 months, calves begin learning to use their trunks to eat and drink. By the time they are a year old, they can control their trunks pretty well and, like adult elephants, use their trunks for grasping, eating, drinking, bathing.
Female elephants stay with the herd for life, while males leave to begin a solitary life at about 12 to 14 years of age.
Elephant Babies Coloring Page (Print the PDF): Color this picture while you review the facts you've learned.
Species of Elephants
For many years scientists thought that there were two different species of elephants: Asian elephants and African elephants. However, in 2000, they began classifying African elephants into two distinct species, the African savanna elephant and the African forest elephant.
Elephant Vocabulary Worksheet (Print the PDF): Discover more about elephants by with this vocabulary worksheet. Look up each word in a dictionary or online. Then, write the correct word on the blank line beside each definition.
Elephant Word Search (Print the PDF): See how well you remember what you learned about elephants. Circle each word as you find it hidden among the letters in the word search. Refer to the worksheet for any terms whose meaning you don't remember.
African savanna elephants live in the area of Africa below the Sahara desert. African forest elephants live in the rain forests of Central and West Africa. The elephants that live in the African forest have smaller bodies and tusks than those that live on the savannas.
Asian elephants live in the scrub and rain forests of Southwest Asia, India, and Nepal.
Elephant Habitat Coloring Page (Print the PDF): Review what you've learned about elephant Habitats.
Distinguishing Between Asian and African Elephants
There are many similarities between Asian and African elephants, but there are simple ways to distinguish one from the other. African elephants have much larger ears that seem to be shaped like the continent of Africa. They need large ears to cool off their bodies on the hot continent of Africa. Asian elephant's ears are smaller and more rounded.
African Elephant Coloring Page (Print the PDF)
There is also a distinct difference in the shape of Asian and African elephants' heads. Asian elephants' heads are smaller than an African elephant's head and have a "double-dome" shape.
Both male and female African elephants can grow tusks, though not all do. Only male Asian elephants grow tusks.
Asian Elephant Coloring Page (Print the PDF)
The Asian elephant is smaller than the African elephant. Asian elephants live in jungle habitats. It's entirely different than the deserts of Africa. Water and vegetation are more plentiful in the jungle. So Asian elephants do not need wrinkled skin to trap moisture or large ears to fan their bodies.
Even the trunks of Asian and African elephants are different. African elephants have two finger-like growths on the tip of their trunks; Asian elephants only have one.
Elephant Family Coloring Page (Print the PDF): Do you think you can tell African and Asian elephants apart? Are these African elephants or Asian elephants? What are the identifying features?
Elephant Diet Coloring Page (Print the PDF): All elephants are plant eaters (herbivores). Adult elephants eat about 300 pounds of food a day. It takes a long time to find and eat 300 pounds of food. They spend 16 to 20 hours a day eating!
Updated by Kris Bales