Why Do Elephants Have Trunks?

The elephant uses its trunk in more ways than any animal uses any part of its body.

elephant calf

The trunk is both amazingly strong and very delicate. With it, an elephant can pull down a mighty tree or gently take a peanut from a child’s hand.

The elephant smells, drinks, and feeds itself with its trunk. No animal has a better nose, and the elephant depends heavily on its sense of smell. When an elephant does find food, it lifts up the food with its trunk and brings it to its mouth.

An elephant does not, however, drink through its trunk. Rather, it sucks up the water through the trunk and then squirts it into its mouth, swallowing with a loud, gurgling sound.

Elephants also use their trunks to give themselves showers. Though elephants belong to the group of mammals called pachyderms, which means “thick-skinned,” actually their skin is very tender.

Even though their skin is 1-inch thick, elephants have no layer of fat under their skin, so they are very sensitive to cold and to extreme heat. On hot days, elephants cool off by giving themselves a shower with their trunks. An elephant’s trunk can hold one and a half gallons of water.

Elephants can also feel the shape of objects with their trunks, as well as determine whether these objects are hot or cold, rough or smooth. A mother elephant guides her babies along with her trunk, and also uses it to caress her mate.

Trunks are also used in fighting. Here, the elephant grasps its enemy with its trunk and then uses its tusks as a weapon.

The elephant’s trunk has no bones, but does have 40,000 different muscles!