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

113 comments

Nicole Heindryckx
Nicole Habout a month ago

2.- I think that if we would more thoroughly compare the behavior of elephants with that of humans, in the past, we still would find other similarities. However, our society has changed so rapidly the last 200 years, since the industrial revolution, that most of us do not know or remember how our grand- grand- grandparents lived. In other societies, the history of our families were being told and told, nearly each evening, when everyone was together after all work was done, and than the stories were told... Now we only can find how the aristocracy and kings and queens lived in the 18th and 19th century, because It is hard to find a book in which daily live is described of "normal" working people, or small farmers...

Such similarities are great in number with the elephants, but I remember that some animals also let the baby of a sick or dead animal suckle. Our ancestors also did so, when for instance the mother died when giving birth, and there was someone in the family who also had a little baby, she just took over the job and raised 2 kids.

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Nicole Heindryckx
Nicole Habout a month ago

Pity this article is not up-dated. Since 2014 more "human" behavior was ascertained with wild elephants. F.i. : when a baby elephant is in trouble and can't get out of the water pool, and others see that the mom can't bring her calf on the ground, 2 or more other sisters / aunts go into the water, sit on their knees and push the little one upwards till he is standing on firm ground... We used to do that as well. But now, specially in big cities, when we see someone against a wall, pale and sweating, we just think "oh my God, another drunk !! " and leave him alone. Another thing : when a group of elephants finds the bones of a dead one, they stay together around the remains, touch and gently rock the bones, and only when all are ready, they continue their route. One could compare that to our 1st november remembering our deaths. Elephant cows leave the herd to give birth and rejoins the group when the calf can walk good enough to follow them. Some bush-people still do that. The mother leaves the village, gives birth to her child and rejoin her family some time later... The Matriarch is in charge and decides everything. I remember that in Italy, in rural areas, the mother lived with one of her children and she decided about what to eat, when to do this or that on the family farm, etc.. This is not so long ago...

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Glennis W
Glennis Wabout a month ago

An amazing story very interesting Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis Wabout a month ago

Great information and advice They must be well cared for too Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis Wabout a month ago

Very interesting story Adorable photos too Thank you for caring and sharing

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

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Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

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Lyn Sellars
Lyn Sellars3 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......

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Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson3 years ago

This is a worthwhile article. Thank you.

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Gina Caracci
Gina Caracci3 years ago

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

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