How Strong Are Elephants? [Strength Facts & Guide]

Two gray elephants
Magda Ehlers / Pexels

Elephants are the largest land mammals in the world. They are known for their massive bodies, long ears, and large trunks. These herbivores are gentle creatures that rarely display violent behavior. However, this doesn’t mean they are weak. In fact, the contrary is true.

Elephants are very strong animals that can lift about 770 pounds with their trunks alone. They can also carry over 2,100 pounds (1 ton) on their backs – about 21 times the human lift force. Elephants also have an impressive bite force of over 2,175 PSI. Despite their size and strength, these herbivores still have predators, including lions, crocodiles, and hyenas. 

Here are some elephant strength facts:

  • Elephant bite force: >2,175 PSI
  • Adult elephant trunk strength: 770 lbs.
  • Elephant trunk strike force: 6,000 lb.-ft./s
  • Elephant tusk bending strength: 14,067 PSI
  • Adult elephant weight: 4,000 to 16,000 lbs.

Elephant Strength

Elephants are herbivore animals, and most of their strength is the result of their size rather than an adaptation to the habitat.

Growing to a height of over 13 feet and weighing 14,000 pounds (7 tons) or more, elephants can crush most other animals with their weight alone. They also have incredible body strength and can carry over 2,100 pounds on their backs (about 15% of their total body mass) without significant effects on their musculoskeletal function.

An African elephant is slightly stronger than an Asiatic one due to its greater size. However, a baby elephant is much weaker than an adult. This makes elephant youngsters an easy target for predators.

The table below compares the differences in size between elephant males, females, and calves:

As the table shows, adult elephants are larger and heavier than all other land mammals. However, the calves are relatively small. They have more or less the same size as a common warthog and the same predators as the hog. Predators include lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, and crocodiles.

How Strong Is An Elephant Bite?

Elephants have a surprisingly strong bite force – around 2,175 PSI. This is more than the bite force of a jaguar and about three times the bite force of a lion. Compared to humans, an elephant’s bite force is about 13 times stronger.

While there are no studies on the actual bite force of an elephant, a study on the elephants’ role in dispersing the seeds of balanites maughamii tree fruits concluded that the seeds removed from the coat have a better germination rate. According to scientists, the elephant’s mastication plays a crucial role in breaking the seed coat.

These seeds have very strong coats that can resist a compression force of 2,175 PSI or more. Thus, we can conclude that elephants have a strong bite of at least 2,175 PSI.

How Strong Are Elephants Trunks?

Elephant trunks are strong enough to lift about 770 pounds. Elephants can pull off such a performance thanks to the numerous muscles in their trunks. In fact, elephants have over 40,000 muscles in their appendages. 

Comparatively, a human has 600 muscles in the entire body and can only lift about 100 pounds. Only professional weightlifters would be able to lift heavier loads.

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Weight-wise, an elephant’s trunk weighs about 400 pounds. That is heavier than a sumo wrestler. Combined with the lifting strength, an elephant could easily kill a human with a simple swipe of the trunk.

The swipe force also increases if the animal moves. Elephants are not the fastest beings. They can only reach a speed of about 15 miles per hour when running and are much slower when walking. However, an elephant running and swinging its trunk can develop a swipe force of about 6,000 lb.-ft./s. This force is comparable to the swipe force of a smaller lion.

How Strong Are Elephant Tusks?

An elephant’s tusks are strong enough to resist an applied force of 14,067 PSI. They are essentially overgrown teeth deeply rooted into the animal’s upper jaw. Tusks serve a multitude of purposes, such as lifting objects, digging, gathering food, and stripping bark from trees. They also protect the trunk and help the elephant ward off predators.

However, not all elephants have tusks. While all African elephants have them, the Asiatic elephant females do not.

Elephant tusks can grow to impressive lengths – 137 inches. The length and impressive strength have made these ivory tusks incredibly precious. They are the reason elephants are illegally killed or mutilated.

Are Elephants The Strongest Mammals In The World?

Elephants are not the strongest mammals in the world, but they are the strongest land mammals. However, some land mammals are stronger than elephant calves and could hunt them.

Are you wondering which animals are stronger than an elephant? There aren’t many, and all of them are whales.

Whales are sea mammals, and all whale species are larger and stronger than elephants. However, considering that they live in the oceans and elephants live on land, we can safely say that elephants are the strongest land animals in the world.

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Are Elephants Stronger Than Lions?

Elephants are stronger than lions. Not only do they have a higher lifting force, but even the bite force is stronger. However, lions are still strong enough to kill elephants – including the full-grown ones.

The table below compares the strength of an adult elephant to that of a lion:

Bite force2,175 PSI650 PSI
Lifting force2,100 lbs.1,000 lbs.
Striking strength6,000 lb.-ft./s (trunk)22,000 lb.-ft./s
Weight7 tons550 lbs.
Speed15 mph50 mph

As highlighted in the table, elephants are stronger than lions. Lions have a stronger strike force, but that is only because they can run faster. Yet, lions have some advantages when it comes to a head-to-head.

The main advantage is that lions have bodies built for killing. They have long, sharp teeth that can pierce through the elephant’s skin. Their claws are also long and powerful, while their strong bones and muscles allow them to run fast and increase the impact force when hitting the elephant.

Elephants can only use their trunk and tusks to defend themselves. They are slow animals and, despite their jaw strength, they don’t have the wide mouths necessary to bite.

The social structure of the pride and their hunting strategy makes it near impossible for a single elephant to survive. Lions always hunt in groups, attack from behind (staying out of the way of the trunk and tusks), and work together to take down full-grown elephants. It takes about seven lionesses to put down an adult elephant, but two lions could accomplish the same task if they decide to intervene.

Elephant calves are also easy prey for a pride of hungry lions. While elephants also live in groups and are very protective of their young, a calf separated from its family stands no chance against the predators.

Related: How strong are lions?

James Ball

James has had a lifelong passion for animals and nature, tracing back to his childhood where he first began fostering intimate knowledge and connection with pet frogs and snakes. He has since honed this interest into a career as a trained Wildlife Biologist, specializing in Biogeography, sustainability and conservation. In addition to his professional pursuits, James maintains an active lifestyle, regularly indulging in outdoor activities such as hiking, and musical pursuits like playing piano and swimming.

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