5 Ways Elephants Are Just Like Us

Elephants are literally awesome. They’re the world’s largest land animals now living. The African species stands between 8 and 13 feet tall and weighs 5,000 to 14,000 pounds. The Asian elephant stands about 6.6 to 9.8 feet tall and weighs 4,960 to 12,125 pounds. The largest elephant ever recorded was shot in Angola in 1956. This male weighed about 24,000 lb, with a shoulder height of 13 feet.

Elephants may be a lot bigger than humans, but they are actually a lot like us. Here are 5 ways elephants are just like humans:

1. Elephants Mourn Their Dead By Grieving

Photo Credit: iStock

Just as humans have wakes and funerals, so elephants have their own rituals surrounding death. Anthropologist and author Barbara J. King explained on NPR how a group of elephants expressed grief over the passing of Eleanor, the matriarch of a family in Kenya:

“When Eleanor died, a female called Maui, from [another] elephant family, hovered over her body, pulling on and rocking over it. During the next week, elephants from five different families came to the body. Some individuals seemed motivated only by curiosity. But the behavior of others… clearly involved grief.”

2. Baby Elephants Love to Play

Photo Credit: iStock

So maybe this one isn’t so surprising, but baby elephants, just like human babies, love to play and have fun! And this particular baby seems to be smiling!

3. Elephants Love Their Tools

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Elephants show an amazing ability to manipulate tools, often using their trunks as we use our arms and hands. Grasping sticks with their trunks, they are able to swat flies or dig watering holes. They can also make appropriate tools by breaking longer branches into shorter ones. Researchers observed this behavior in eight of 34 adult wild elephants in Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka, India.

4. Elephants Understand Foreign Languages

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Well, not all humans understand more than one language, and probably not all elephants do either, but some elephants can understand foreign languages. Some wild elephants can discern the languages humans are speaking, such as the those of the Masai group in Kenya (who occasionally kill elephants) and Kamba group (who don’t pose as much of a threat). Scientists experimented by playing recordings of Masai men speaking; they found that elephant herds were about twice as likely to retreat than if they heard the voices of Kamba men.

5. Elephants Love to Look at Themselves in the Mirror

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Elephants can recognize their own reflection, showing self-awareness seen before only in humans, great apes and bottle nose dolphins. U.S. researchers made this discovery by studying the behavior of Asian elephants in front of a tall mirror. One of the animals repeatedly touched a white cross painted on her forehead — a classic test used to assess mirror self-recognition in children and apes. Perhaps they will soon by taking selfies, too!

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Lyn Sellars
Lyn Sellars2 years ago

This is such a good article...For those who think that elephants are just great big 'DUMBO' animals that have no intelligence or personality....Think on read this....These are people sophisticated ones at that...Not only their brain ability is far superior than you might think but their bodies are extremely deft at the daintiest actions that seem impossible to an animal of that size...Their trunks are made up of about 40000 muscles are capable of the most intricate gentle operations....The elephant is a wonderful, fascinating, gentle soul who deserves our utmost respect......

Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson2 years ago

This is a worthwhile article. Thank you.

Gina Caracci
Gina Caracci3 years ago

Bless their beautiful souls! LOVE elephants!!
They MUST be protected...hope to see some selfies soon..lol

Mandy H.
Mandy H3 years ago

Although I knew the first and second but I didn't know the other three. I adore elephants I think they're beautiful, although intimidating to stand next to (I'm short,157cm or 5ft 2inches). That said I've also seen guinea pigs mourn their dead. When Nellie died her cage mate (Trinket) was very upset, Trinket lifted up Nellie's left back foot by her toe nail and then she lifted her right back foot again by the toe nail. After that she tried licking her nose (Nellie never liked other piggies going near her nose or eyes) and then as a last result she had a small nibble on her ear. Their ears are sensitive and a nibble to the ear would make her get up, it's similar to a paramedic pressing their nail into the base of your nail and your cuticle to check how responsive you are (cause that bloody hurts). My other guinea pig Pumpkin never liked Nellie, they were separated because Pumpkin would start fights, Pumpkin did the same thing Trinket did when I showed her Nellie's body. For the next week or so both Trinket and Pumpkin were depressed, they didn't eat as much and didn't behave normally. It might not be a long grieving period, although some guinea pigs get so depressed after their cage mate dies that they starve themselves because they don't eat when depressed but It is no doubt a morning period.

Teresa W.
Teresa W3 years ago


Fi T.
Past Member 3 years ago

Then, why can't their survival and life be respected as well?

Mike H.
Mike H3 years ago

Thanks elephants are awesome

Charlene Rush
Charlene R3 years ago

Most of us recognize that elephants mourn their dead and have great memories, which isn't mentioned, but I didn't know about the mirror business.
That'a quite informative.