Indian Elephant with hairy head, back and trunk

Do All Elephants Have Hair?

Yes, all species of elephants have hair on their bodies. Even though the hair is not as thick to form fur on their body, you can see the spaced-out hair standing on their heads.

All mammals have hair on their bodies, no matter how small the amount is. Unlike most mammals, the amount of hair that elephants have on their body is less.

Why Do Elephants Have Hair on Their Heads?

As we have already explained, elephants have body hairs just like other mammals. 

The hair that you can see on an elephant’s head helps them regulate their body temperature. In most cases, the mammals’ body hair helps them keep warm during the cold weather. However, elephants generally live in naturally warm places. That is why they do not require body hair to keep themselves warm during cold weather. However, these parts of the hair that you can see on elephants’ bodies help them regulate their temperature in other ways. 

The hair of an elephant helps them carry body heat away from their skin and pass it into the air.

The hair of mammals works just like an insulator that covers their skin. Although in the case of elephants, the sparse body hair brings an opposite effect. 

Location

Elephants have wiry, small hair spaced out mainly across the back and head of the elephant. The tail of an elephant also has hair but is a lot thicker than the body. Asian elephants have hair on the front of their legs.

What does the elephant hair feel like to touch?

The hair is exceptionally coarse to touch, and it feels like bristles or wire. 

Close up view of an elephants hair on head
Close up view of an elephants hair on the head

Importance of Elephant Hair

The hair plays an essential role in the health of an elephant’s. The hair helps an elephant lose heat during the day. It also helps to protect the elephant’s skin from insects. 

Even though there are many other ways an elephant can regulate their massive body temperature, none of them is as effective as body hair. 

Scientists have noticed that the ability to lose heat through body hair is enhanced by 23% if a light breeze blows.

How long is the hair on an elephant?

The length and the width of the elephant hair depend on the body part where the hair is. Such as on an elephants tail, the hair can reach up to a metre long, whereas on top of the head and back, they are a lot shorter.

Elephants have a hair density of 1.5k hairs per square meter on their bodies. We have a hair density of 2 million hairs per square meter on our bodies. As you can see, the number of hairs that elephants have is significantly lower.

Hairy Tails

Elephants have a lot more hair on their tails. The hair found on an elephants tail is very thick and coarse. Some of the hairs can get very long. One of the main reasons for an elephant’s hairy tail is to slap and flap away bugs, such as flies.

Elephants hairy tail

African Elephants vs Asian Elephants

The amount of hair that elephants have on their body varies depending on their species.

Why do Asian Elephants have more hair than African Elephants? 

The Asian elephants have more hair than the African elephants. This is because Asian elephants are more closely related to Woolly mammoths. The Woolly mammoth is now extinct. It was a large mammal full of fur, hence the name woolly. 

Baby Elephants

Younger elephants tend to have more hair on their body than their elders.

What Helps Elephants to Stay Cool?

Apart from using their body hair to disperse heat, elephants often showcase several behaviours that help keep their body temperature in control. 

Ears

Flapping their big ears is one of the behaviours that help elephants keep their body temperature in check. 

The surface area of the ears helps the elephants to disperse the heat through the skin. Unlike humans, elephants do not sweat. That is why they have to use various methods to keep their body heat under control. 

Most mammals cannot use the flapping ear technique to reduce their body heat as their ear is not specially designed for this purpose. 

The elephants’ ears contain a vast network of blood vessels that helps them to disperse extra body heat.

Bathing

Bathing is yet another way the elephants often use to keep that body heat under control. It allows moisture to evaporate off the skin, which helps the animals reduce their temperature. 

During elephants bath time and swim time, you will notice that they love to spray mud or water on their bodies. Whenever possible, the elephants take a dip underwater to bring a refreshing change and a cool down.

Recommended read: Can An Elephant Swim?

Even though springing mud on their bodies may not look very appealing, it solves problems. Unlike water, mud tends to stick on the skin of these animals and protect it from the harsh rays of the Sun. It also helps to create a thick crust that can help the elephants to avoid insect bites.

Standing Under Trees

Elephants will often be seen in the wild, gathering under trees in the shade. By doing this, the elephants are keeping out of the direct Sun, thus not raising their body temperature.

Why do that need to lose body heat?

As the elephants’ natural habitat is in the tropics, they do not need to warm their bodies. Instead, the elephants need to keep their body heat down not to overheat and get dehydrated.

Elephants in zoos or colder countries, where the temperature significantly drops below the normal range of their natural habitat, then elephants will need to control their body temperature to stay warm. 

Particular heated indoor areas are needed to keep the elephants healthy during cold days in zoos. 

The elephants, which do not get this facility, restrict their blood flow with the help of highly efficient blood vessels.

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