EleFact Friday: Useful and Unique Elephant Ears

For this week’s EleFACT Friday, we’re going to talk about the appearance of an elephant’s ears and why exactly some look the way they do. Many of you have noticed that a few of the elephants here have ears that appear worn or tattered. This can happen for several reasons, because their ears are remarkably thin and sensitive. Many of the elephants at Elephant Sanctuary Brazil started out as circus animals, where handlers use their ears to control and train them. This technique is effective, particularly when instruments like bullhooks are involved. However, the ears can be torn naturally as well. In nature, there are many things that elephants can catch their ears on that might cause them to fray or tear. 

Near the end in this video, Bambi opens her ears all the way which allows you to see the full back portion. You might notice that the veins on the ears are prominent. These veins help elephants regulate their temperatures because, as blood circulates through the ears, it cools down – then travels through the rest of the body, cooling that down as well. Elephants also flap their ears to cool off, using them like fans and allowing for blood circulation throughout the body. At times, elephants spray water on their ears or hold their ears outward, using the breeze to cool down these blood vessels. 

You may not be surprised to know that, when blood draws are necessary for medical testing, the ears are the most efficient place to access veins; because elephant skin can be so tough and thick on the body, going to a place where veins are so easy to find, and can be done in a very safe manner, makes perfect sense. When drawing blood from an elephant, we use lidocaine cream to numb the area, but they can still feel the stick. As with humans, giving blood may cause a small amount of unease, but it is drawn gently and with care, making the process relatively quick. This is just a look at another magnificent feature of elephants that one might not often get to see up close. 


  1. REPLY
    Charlotte Hansen says

    I love this education we’re getting about elephants and the world around them! Thank you!

  2. REPLY
    Viviana Gallo says

    Qué grandiosos son estos artículos donde aprendemos sobre estos seres tan adorables. Gracias por ser vehículos de información genuina . Gracias!!

  3. REPLY
    Tammy says

    Very interesting for sure so how long does it take for an elephants ear to heal from a tear i would think quite a while since they are constantly moving?

    • REPLY
      Kat Blais says

      we haven’t had anything like that happen here, or with the elephants we worked with before. ears in most species tend to bleed a lot, because of the blood supply, so I would think that bleeding would be an issue, but because of that same blood supply, healing would be pretty rapid. and the parts of the ears that are injured tend to be very thin.

  4. REPLY
    Susy says

    Agradecida de todo lo que he ido aprendiendo desde que empecé a seguir al santuario..por descubrir que amo con todo mí corazón a Pocha & Guille..y a través de ellas al resto de la manada. Gracias. Gracias

  5. REPLY
    Wim says

    Thank you for interesting story and video. They are extraordinary personalities.

  6. REPLY
    Anne Honahan says

    Why do some of them have black spots on their ears? Almost like big freckles.

    • REPLY
      Kat Blais says

      it’s genetic. elephants from certain parts of Asia are more predisposed to having them.

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