An elephants eye
Elephants Eye

Do Elephants Have Good Eyesight?

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  • Post category:Elephants
  • Post last modified:25 August 2021
  • Reading time:8 mins read

Every living animal sees the world differently. While some animals, like us, see a colourful world, others have a limited coloured vision. Even though most animals in the world have a kind of proportional set of eyes, the elephants are primarily different. Compared to their massive size, the eyes of the elephants are very small. So, do the elephants have good eyesight? 

Elephants do not have good eyesight. Even though the elephants are dependent on their eyesight for navigating across the forests, their vision is not that great. The small size of their eyes and their position limits the sight of an elephant even further. 

We now know that the eyesight of an elephant isn’t that great. Let’s go into this in more detail and learn about the elephant’s vision. 

About The Elephants Vision

Elephants lack in the field of depth perception, and their vision is limited. Most elephants are short-sighted and cannot see anything that is located beyond 20 feet of distance. 

Elephants are born blind. In their early childhood, they rely primarily on other senses to navigate. Then over the years, the vision of the elephants tends to improve significantly. 

Elephants main sight is for locating food and keeping an eye on their children and other herd members.

Elephants tend to have good eyesight in dull light. However, as the light gets brighter, the visual acuity of an elephant gets reduced considerably.

Elephants have selective observation and only visually pick up and pay attention to past known visual experiences.

It has been suggested that elephants can see the silhouettes of any object pretty well. But if the object is placed against any solid background, the elephants will find it challenging to pick it out.

Elephants eat for 16 to 18 hours a day to fulfil their nutrient requirement. That means they always stay up throughout the night. This could be why their vision is roughly the same in dull light and daylight.

Elephants rarely have 2 hours of sleep at night. That might be the reason why these animals can see better in limited light exposure. 

Elephant’s Eye Size

Even though these animals have massive bodies, their eyes are considered small in comparison. The average size of an elephants eye is about 3.8 cm. The height of the African elephants ranges between 8.2 ft to 13 ft, but the size of the eyes is not bigger than 3.8 cm. Compared to the human eyes of roughly 2.5 cm, the elephants are tiny to their body ratio.

  • 3.8 cm

Eye Location

The eyes of an elephant are located on either side of its head. This location enables the elephants to have good peripheral vision. 

The visual range of the elephants is 180 degrees. It takes significant energy for the elephants to have a 180-degree vision, but they can see what is behind them by pressing the ear close to their body. 

Eye Colour

The most common colour among the elephants is light brown, dark brown-grey and honey. 

Apart from the typical colours, other possible rarer eye colours are gold, yellow-green and blue-grey. 

In sporadic cases, elephants can have two different coloured eyes

Some elephants have a white ring around their iris. This white ring is considered similar to the age ring of humans. These rings are known as arcus lipoids and do not affect the vision of the elephants in any way. Did you see the arcus lipoids in the very first image of this article? The white line is apparent to see.

Can Elephants See Colour?

Elephants are colour blind. Elephants have the same type of visual pigments in their eyes as colour-blind humans. Even though these animals can see yellows and blues, elephants cannot differentiate between green and red.

Elephants have an arrhythmic vision. It is a kind of vision that gets changed along with time. For example, during the night time elephants respond more to violet and blue light. That is why these animals can see better in dull and limited light.

How many eyelids have an elephant got?

Even though elephants only have two eyes, but quite interestingly, these animals have three eyelids. Unlike most other mammals, elephants have regular lower and upper eyelids and a third eyelid that moves across their eye. 

The three eyelids help protect elephants’ eyes while they bathe, feed, and cool down.


Close up of an elephants eyelashes
Beautiful long eyelashes of an elephant

The eyelashes of an elephant are incredibly long. These long eyelashes help the elephants keep foreign particles, like sand, dust, and debris, out of their eyes.

Why are elephants eyes so small?

The other sense of an elephant is far more critical than their eyesight, such as sense of smell and that they can hear up to six miles away using their big ears to heighten the sounds. These senses have taken an evolutionary ladder over the eyesight of an elephant.

Do elephants have tear ducts? 

Among humans and most other mammals, tear ducts are found in the eyes. These ducts help drain the tears out of our eyes to flush out dirt and other foreign particles. Let’s find out! As the elephants are giant mammals, you may expect them to have your tear ducks as well. 

Elephants do not have tear ducts. Instead, elephants have something known as the nictitating membrane. This nictitating membrane is also known as the third eyelid of an elephant. It is mainly responsible for producing water layers on their eyes. That means this nictitating membrane functions like a tear duct. It moves vertically over the eye and protects against infection and any debris.

All in all, elephants have small eyes and poor vision. Unlike most mammals, these animals tend to see better at night even though vision is not their strongest suit. Elephants are colour blind, but they have more substantial hearing and smelling senses. These senses make up for their visual deficiency.

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Teresa Milne

Teresa is learning zoology and loves to share her knowledge through her articles. She has some pets that she adores two dogs, two cats, and one hamster. Teresa has also studied canine behaviour and canine nutrition.