Last Modified 01/20/07

Elephant Reference

Part 1         Part 2

Elephant Reference



The following page is devoted to elephants and their differences, mainly just a quick guide for color and types.


Quick Compare modern elephants side by side:

Asiatic Elephant African Bush Elephant

Photo by Tom Moon

Photo by Tom Moon

Here you can see the key differences in elephant anatomy from the African to the Asian. Both of these are females from the San Diego Zoo.The largest male African elephant ever measured came in at 13 feet at the shoulder- unfortunately it seems that many miniature companies make their elephants this size, which is the outside extreme. The largest bull Asian elephants come in at around 11 feet at the shoulder. Asian females do not have exposed tusks.

More elephant info:


Some have the a notion that Asiatic elephants have shorter tusks than the Savanah elephant.

Ranjapur at the San Diego Wild Animal Park puts that myth to rest!








One thing that gets confused often is whether an elephant is Afrcian or Asian.  The modern concept is that the African elephant is bigger than an Indian or Asian beast. This is true, the African bush elephant is the largest land animal.

Ancient armies never used the large un-trainable African bush elephants, but used smaller African forest elephants which are now extinct in North Africa. A variety has been found in the Congo that is linked genetically with the smaller African elephants that were used by the Ptolemies, Nubians, Numidians, Carthage, and Rome.

The elephant to the left is an African bush elephant and shows the general traits of the African breeds. This gal lives at the San Diego Wild Animal Park (WAP), where I took these photos.  The side view here shows some key features of African elephants. Notice how her back sways up towards the rear hips. The large ears and the pointed or squared off forehead.  The trunk is more wrinkled than Asian elephants.



Here the gang is out for play.... showing   their swayed backs  and ear shapes.


This image shows the big Africans from the Wild Animal Park. This shot is from the Wild Animal Park's journal "Zoonews".


These are Asian elephants, grouped together.   This shows the size difference between the bull male and the cows. Note how the arch of the spine is higher towards the front on Asian elephants.  The male seems to be humming the tune "I'm in the mood for love".. but the ladies seem more interested in gossip :)


This shot shows off the head shape differences between the Asian breed and Africans above. This s a good place to note coloring. Elephants are brown or dark grey when wet, but they throw dirt all over themselves to protect their skin from bugs and the sun.  This leaves them in all sorts of mult-toned earth shades.  Depending on how the light is hitting them they will appear grey, brown or olive as their massive bodies reflect the green grass.

Note also how much less wrinkled the trunk is than the African variety.   The ears are much smaller and more floppy and folded, and with  distinctive shape difference from Africans.


Here is the big tusker at the WAP, he dispells the myth that Indian or Asian elephants have smaller tusks than African ones.  These are very impressive. Note, they are teeeth and not horns. It's sad that elephants in the wild will be extinct soon, too many people or too many people taking ivory illegally.

I was sad enough that these impressive animals were dragged into battles of men along with dogs, and horses, but now to see them slowly being rubbed out or pushed into zoos and preserves... oh well I can only hope I'm gone before the elephants are.

Recently one of the new African herd at the WAP had a baby in captivity (a rare event, but she was in gestation in a park in Africa and was goingto be culled). The new herd of seven elephants is very impressive to see.. I took some crappy phots that I will share eventually..hopefully I'll get some good ones soon!


This is a very tragic thing I saw on the internet, and felt it was relevant for wargamers.
This man has been killed by his elephant as it went berserk. Elephant handler is still one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet, and whatever happened to cause this event has cost this man his life. But I felt that even though it is kind of morbid, that is shows the massive power of the elephant and how it could literally toss soldiers around like rag dolls, as was described at the battle of the Hydaspes.


Of course this also explains why people and elephants don't get along on those frontiers where fields are raided and destroyed, and people are killed defending their food from animals forced off their usual lands by drought or population pressures. It sure shows the fear that such an animal could cause when one is only armed with a sword or pointy stick.

There's a few more differences between African and Asian elephants I'll get to another day.


African Forest Elephant:

The species of North African elephant use by Carthage, Rome, and the Ptolemaic Empire were smaller than the Savannah or Bush elephants known today.
This is noted in the description of the battle of Raphia by Ptolemy. This sub-species was thought to be extinct but in recent years scientists have rediscovered the smaller species in the Congo:


Other links:




Part 1         Part 2

Elephant Reference


    Created by Jeff Jonas 03/04