The Brain
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Did you know?

  • The brain of the elephant is larger than any other land mammal and it is located in the back of the skull well away from the forehead.
  • Elephants are born with 35% of the mass of the adult brain
  • The elephant is among the more intelligent animals
  • The brain weight of the bull African elephant is 4.2-5.4 kg
  • The brain weight of the cow African elephant is 3.6-4.3 kg
  • Brain development in elephants is similar to that of humans.

African Baby Orphan Copyright 2001 by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust While the brain of the elephant is the largest in size among the land mammals, it actually only occupies a small area at the back of the skull.  However, in proportion to the size of the body, the elephant brain is smaller than the human brain. Despite this, the elephant is one of the only animals along with all apes (including ourselves), sperm whales and a few other creatures who has a large brain relative to body size.

"Brain size gives a rough measure of mental flexibility--some say intelligence--and large mammalian brains are associated with complex sociality" Katy Payne In Silent Thunder

Remarkably, the size of the bull African elephant can weigh 4.2-5.4 kg and the cow's as 3.6-4.3 kg.  However, this difference in brain size between the sexes is not related to intelligence.  Behavioural studies of elephants illustrate very intelligent actions from female elephants, that are equal or surpassing those of the male elephants. Remember, brain size without relation to body size is not generally that helpful. Given the fact that cows are generally smaller to bulls, the overall difference in mass in inconsequential. Also, the brain and consciousness of the cow is much different than that of a bull; they are reared and interact with their mothers in very different ways right from birth and while the females form a very close knit bond with each other which is constantly maintained, the males are more nomadic.

Interestingly, the growth and development of the elephant's brain is similar to that of mans.  Both the elephant and man are born with small brain masses.  The mass of the new-born elephant's brain is 35% of  that of the adult, while Mans is 26%.  Thus, there is considerable growth and development as the calf grows up.  As the mass of the brain increases, so does the learning ability of young elephants.

Not surprisingly, evidence gathered from both anatomical details, as well as from behavioural studies, suggest that the elephant is a very intelligent animal. :)


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