What do Elephants eat?

What Do Elephants Eat

Elephants are the largest land mammals on the planet. They are the only species of the family Elephantidae and of the order Proboscidea which is not extinct yet, and have a life span that can go between 50 and 70 years.

Elephants, just like humans, live in families, where the youngest ones learn from their elders, and when there are little calves in the family, everybody helps out. Their natural development is also very similar to ours: they need milk during their first stage of life and will hit puberty around 12 or 13 years old, and their females will start having calves at around 15 years old.

As the largest land mammals on the planet, elephants need a lot of food to sustain themselves. In fact looking for food and water takes up almost all of their awake time. There are two types of elephants, African elephant (Loxodonta Africana) and the Indian Elephant (Elephas Maximus Indicus). Both types are herbivores, and do not digest food very well, which means that they need always to eat more to absorb the essential nutrients that they need.

African Elephants

African Elephant

The African Elephants are the largest elephants. They need to consume about 300 kg of food a day just to survive, while on average a human needs only about two kg of food per day. The also need about 200 lt of water each day. As previously mentioned elephants spend most of their time looking for food or water, well an African Elephant can spend about 16 hours of its day eating, drinking and then looking for more. Elephants can eat all types of grass, short and tall, and occasionally even aquatic plants, roots and lianas. Elephants also eat fruit, in fact during an entire season, an elephant can consume up to 29 different types of fruit.

Indian Elephants

Indian ElephantThe Indian Elephants are smaller than the African ones, and therefore need less food. Usually an Indian elephant would eat about 150 kg of food per day. Just like the African Elephants, the Indian elephants eat all types of grass, vegetation and fruit.  Indian elephants however also love to eat crops and sugar cane, which can result in disastrous results for the farmers, who could potentially lose almost their entire harvest.


Eating copiously amounts of food can indeed damage the teeth, however elephants do not have this problem. While most animals –and humans too- have baby teeth which will later be replaced by a set of permanent ones, elephants are polyphyodonts; which means that during their life time, for six times, they will grow new teeth. However their teeth do not grow vertically, just as for most mammals, but they grow horizontally, which means that they will just push away the old and over used ones.

As previously mentioned, elephants use most of their time eating and there are only two occasions which can push them towards not eating: sickness and the lost of a child. Not eating enough can ultimately lead to the death of the animal.

Elephants in general are not preys for any animals, however calves and sick elephants can be victims of large predators, such as lions

For More, watch this video on what elephants eat: