EleFact Friday: Taking Things In Stride

Because next week’s Giving Tuesday fundraiser will go toward the expansion of our female African elephant habitat, this week’s EleFACT is going to focus on some incredible things about the species. We’ve spoken before about some differences between Asian and African elephants, like the size and shape of their ears and some contrasting behaviors, and today we want to look at another thing that makes them unique.

Last week, we talked about toes. The number of toes actually varies between the species of elephant. African forest elephants have 5 toes on their front feet and 4 in the back, while African bush elephants have 4 toes on the front and 3 in the back. Asian elephants, like the African forest elephants, have 5 toes on the front and 4 in the back. 

African elephant feet also have a specific gait. If you watch an Asian elephant walk compared to an African elephant, their feet move in very different ways. African elephants tend to put the most pressure on the outside toes of their front feet and the least pressure on their heels, affecting how they walk. Scott describes African elephants’ walk as more ‘squishy’ than the way that Asian elephants walk (for lack of a more technical term). If you’re familiar with the elephants in our sanctuary, you’ve probably seen videos of their walks across the habitats. The video linked below is from ElephantVoices, an organization we’ve shared about before. Their Elephant Ethogram is a diverse collection of videos and audios that showcases various behaviors and vocalizations of African elephants. It’s extremely informative and we encourage you to explore to learn more.

Video courtesy of ElephantVoices


  1. REPLY
    Beji says

    Sounds to me that pedicures for all!!

  2. REPLY
    Charlotte Hansen says

    Fascinating stuff! I hope, once we get some Africans, we can see close-ups of them walking–this is way fun!

  3. REPLY
    Julia Mercedes Eden says

    I love EleFACTs and learning even seemingly small things about the differences between Asian and African elephants. Fascinating how they are ‘designed’ to walk differently because of the usual terrains they will find themselves on.

  4. REPLY
    JoAnn Merriman-Eaton says

    I had no idea the Asian and the African elephant had different feet, and different gaits! I knew their ears were different, but this was a new interesting fact about these incredible, beautiful, wonderful elephants. I am so anxious to see the female African habitat expansion, and to observe new elephants learn the wonders of sanctuary life and total freedom.

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