African vs Asian elephants – 7 visual differences

Elephants are the largest of all terrestrial animals. They are herbivore mammals that are found on the continents of Asia and Africa, thus generally classified as African vs Asian elephants.

However, the African elephant is a genus comprising two species, the African bush elephant and the African forest elephant. The Asian elephant, on the other hand, is a species comprising four subspecies, the Indian elephant, the Sri Lankan elephant, the Sumatran elephant, and the Borneo pygmy elephant.

There are some visual differences between the two cousins. This article lists 7 of them.

An African elephant
An African elephant
A herd of Asian elephants
A herd of Asian elephants

African vs Asian elephants- 7 visual differences


By looking at the ear size, you can easily tell whether you are watching an African or Asian elephant. African elephants have relatively larger ears. The contour of their ears roughly makes the map of Africa. Their large ears help them dissipate heat by working like a fan. Asian elephants, too, have large ears, but not as large as African elephants.


Both male and female African elephants have large tusks, whereas only male Asian elephants can have large tusks. Female Asian elephants may have barely visible tusks, known as tushes. Sometimes even male Asian elephants, especially in Sri Lanka, are not able to develop tusks due to a genetic disorder.


African elephants have two fingers at the end of the trunk, whereas Asian elephants have only one.


African elephants have a more rounded head shape while Asian elephants have a twin-domed head.

head shape of African elephants
the more rounded head of an African elephant
head shape of Asian elephants
twin domed head of an Asian elephant


African elephants have straighter or concave-shaped backs, whereas Asian elephants have convex-shaped backs.


The skin of Asian elephants is smoother than that of African elephants. African elephants have more wrinkled and grayish skin than Asian elephants.


African bush elephants are the largest among all elephant species, followed by Asian elephants. Male African bush elephants are taller than 3 meters and can weigh more than 8 tonnes. African forest elephants are smaller than most Asian elephants but can still weigh more than 4 tonnes.

A herd of African bush elephants
Image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay


Are elephants endangered?

Yes, every elephant species is classified as a threatened species.

Are African bush elephants larger than African forest elephants?


How many elephants are there in India?

Around 28,000 (estimated) (2023)

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