While massive animals roamed the earth long before humans inhabited it, elephants are the closest thing we get to the mammoths of the ancient world.
By comparison, elephants are smaller than their prehistoric counterparts. But make no mistake: They’re nowhere close to puny by today’s standards!
These animals are the largest land mammals on the planet. Fortunately for us, they’re also herbivores.
Elephants aren’t always the human-friendly creatures people imagine them to be, but they’re primarily considered gentle giants. Intelligent enough for complex emotions and complex social hierarchies, elephants are some of the most fascinating creatures around.
We know that they’re big, but how strong are elephants?
Before we get into the specifics, let’s talk about why elephants are so strong in the first place.
Of course, the most significant factor is the animal’s gargantuan size! There are three distinct elephant species. The largest and heaviest is the African Savannah.
Also known as the African Bush, this elephant can get three to four meters tall. That’s over 13 feet in height for the tallest specimen!
In terms of weight, these behemoths can weigh anywhere between five and eight tons!
African Forest elephants are slightly smaller. They rise to heights of around three meters, or just shy of 10 feet.
Fully grown, the forest species can weigh as much as five tons.
Finally, we have the Asian elephant. While smaller than the African varieties, these guys are still big! Asian elephants can get about 10 feet tall and tip the scales at six to seven tons.
For all elephant species, males are usually the bigger and stronger of the bunch. However, females don’t trail that far behind.
Strength & Calories
Next to the animal’s size, its diet plays a big part in its strength. Some people incorrectly assume that herbivores lack muscle. That’s not the case.
While they eat nothing but plant-based material, elephants are constantly snacking. They can spend up to 16 hours a day eating as much as 300 pounds of food daily.
Those enormous meals give the mammal a never-ending supply of calories to reach peak strength.
Understanding Elephant Strength
Elephants have brute strength that most animals can’t even get close to replicating. They’re not the strongest animals in the world, but pound for pound, they are the strongest land creatures to roam the earth.
There are a few different ways to measure strength, and these animals impress on all fronts.
An elephant’s ivory tusks are more robust than most realize. Because they were often used for delicate furniture accents and jewelry decades ago, many assume that the tusks are brittle. However, that’s not the case.
Tusks are nothing more than overgrown incisors. They continue to grow throughout an elephant’s life, and you can use them to determine the age of a giant.
Tusks grow on both male and female African elephants. However, males are the only ones to get them for the Asian species.
Elephants use tusks for a variety of things. They use them for defense, tearing down trees, removing bark, and more. The curved teeth go through a lot of pressure. Luckily, they’re built to handle it.
Tusks can handle up to 14,000 PSI of applied force. That’s 14,000 pounds per square inch of bending force!
Here’s a video of an elephant showing it’s strength by tearing down a tree.
Most people don’t even think about the possibility of an elephant bite!
Good news: They don’t bite humans or living things. But they do have to masticate the grasses, roots, and shrubbery they feed on all day long.
There’s not much concrete information about an elephant’s biting force. But, researchers have studied the eating habits of these giants and observed how they chew through seeds, nuts, and other hard materials.
Despite their plant-based diet, elephants need strong chewing power to turn those fiber-rich snacks into a pulp they can easily digest.
The average biting force of an elephant is about 2,200 PSI.
For perspective, that’s roughly 13 times stronger than a human. It’s more forceful than ferocious predators like jaguars and lions, too!
Elephants don’t rely on their strong bite force to protect themselves. They have their tusks and trunk for that!
The tusks will do much of the defensive work, and they have the potential to pierce would-be predators. But one of the most effective weapons elephants has is their trunk.
The trunk is a multi-functional body part. Not only do elephants use it for eating, but it also acts like an arm. There are more than 150,000 muscles in the trunk alone. Needless to say, it’s pretty intense! But how strong?
An elephant can use the trunk as a weapon for striking. They can apply as much as 6,000 pound-feet of strength when they do.
How Much Can Elephants Carry?
Here’s where elephants show off their strength the most. Throughout history, elephants have served a similar role to donkeys and horses today.
They carried heavy loads, transported goods, allowed people to ride on their backs, and even assisted during times of war.
It’s not so common to see that anymore, but that doesn’t mean modern elephants are less capable than their ancestors.
These giants can hold a surprising amount of weight on their backs and with their trunks.
The trunk can carry over 700 pounds on its own. As mentioned earlier, this essential elephant appendage has over 150,000 muscles. These animals rely on their trunk for everything, and they often use them to move logs, transport food, and more.
It’s tough enough to move trees like an agile crane arm. Yet, it’s also nimble enough to crack open nuts and do more delicate tasks.
Another way elephants display their strength is by carrying heavy loads on their back. These animals can carry about 2,000 pounds. For perspective, that’s about the same weight as a compact car!
Needless to say, elephants are capable animals that don’t shy away from proving their strength when necessary.
The figures we provide are a rough estimate of a healthy adult elephant. However, an animal’s true capabilities depend on many factors.
Age and overall health can impact an elephant’s lifting prowess for better or worse. Some more vital male elephants can often lift more than 2,000 pounds on their back, making the mammoth power even more impressive!
Generally, elephants can lift about 10 percent of their weight on their hind legs alone. If it’s lying down, many elephants can lift nearly 50 percent of their weight.
It all depends on how the animal supports the weight they’re carrying and its overall body condition.
Elephants might have a reputation for being gentle, slow, and straightforward. However, they are so much more than meets the eye.
Africa and Asia’s roaming colossi are stronger than most realize, carrying thousands of pounds on their back and hundreds with their trunk.
When push comes to shove, elephants are some of the beefiest creatures in the animal kingdom, beating out even ferocious predators in terms of brute strength and carrying capacity.