Elephants are large mammals of the family Elephantidae and the order Proboscidea. Traditionally, two species are recognised, the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) and the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), although some evidence suggests that African bush elephants and African forest elephants are separate species (L. africana and L. cyclotis respectively). Elephants are scattered throughout sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Elephantidae are the only surviving family of the order Proboscidea; other, now extinct, families of the order include mammoths and mastodons. Male African elephants are the largest surviving terrestrial animals and can reach a height of 4 m (13 ft) and weigh 7,000 kg (15,000 lb). All elephants have several distinctive features the most notable of which is a long trunk or proboscis, used for many purposes, particularly breathing, lifting water and grasping objects. Their incisors grow into tusks, which can serve as weapons and as tools for moving objects and digging. Elephants' large ear flaps help to control their body temperature. African elephants have larger ears and concave backs while Asian elephants have smaller ears and convex or level backs.
One of the biggest threats to elephant populations is the ivory trade, as the animals are poached for their ivory tusks.
- An elephant can trumpet and shake the earth but not the self-possession of the ants who hold it.
- Alistair Cooke, Letter from America, 24 March 1968.
- Nature's great masterpiece, an elephant,
The only harmless great thing.
- John Donne, The Progress of the Soul, l.381.
- His services are like so many white elephants, of which nobody can make use, and yet that drain one's gratitude, if indeed one does not feel bankrupt.
- G. E. Jewbury Letters 1892; this is the earliest known occurrence of "white elephant" in English, though references to Indian and Thai veneration of white elephants go back to at least the early 17th century. 
- The torn boughs trailing o'er the tusks aslant,
The saplings reeling in the path he trod,
Declare his might — our lord the Elephant,
Chief of the ways of God.
- In the High and Far-Off Times the Elephant, O Best Beloved, had no trunk. He had only a blackish, bulgy nose, as big as a boot, that he could wriggle about from side to side; but he couldn't pick up things with it. But there was one Elephant — a new Elephant — an Elephant's Child — who was full of 'satiable curiosity, and that means he asked ever so many questions.
- When you have got an elephant by the hind leg, and he is trying to run away, it's best to let him run.
- Th' unwieldy elephant,
To make them mirth, us'd all his might, and wreathed
His lithe proboscis.
Elephant-ear-witnesses-to-be of hymns
and glorias, these ministrants all gray or
gray with white on legs or trunk, are a pilgrims'
pattern of revery not reverence — a
religious procession without any priests,
the centuries-old carefullest unrehearsed
- Marianne Moore, "Elephants," from Nevertheless (1944).
- Not that I think much depends
On how we treat our feathered friends,
Or hold the wrinkled elephant
A nobler creature than my aunt.
It's simply that I'm sure I can
Get on without my fellow man.
- Ogden Nash, Poem: À Bas Ben Adhem.
- 涅槃経 (Nirvana Sutra)
- Translation: A crowd of blind people evaluate an elephant.
- A metaphor of unenlighted people and their relation to the right knowledge.
- Early one morning the sub-inspector at a police station the other end of the town rang me up on the phone and said that an elephant was ravaging the bazaar. Would I please come and do something about it?
- The people deck him like a docile king of elephants.
- Women and elephants never forget an injury.
- The elephant hath joints, but none for courtesy: his legs are legs for necessity, not for flexure.
I saw a peanut stand, heard a rubber band,
I saw a needle that winked its eye.
But I think I will have seen everything
When I see an elephant fly.
I saw a front porch swing, heard a diamond ring,
I saw a polka-dot railroad tie.
But I think I will have seen everything
When I see an elephant fly.
I seen a clothes horse, he r'ar up and buck
And they tell me that a man made a vegetable truck
I didn't see that, I only heard
But just to be sociable I'll take your word
I heard a fireside chat, I saw a baseball bat
And I just laughed till I thought I'd die
But I'd be done see'n about everything
when I see an elephant fly.
- With four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk.
- "Asian elephants were domesticated at least as far back as 3500 B.C.E. by the Harappan people of the Indus Valley".
- (CHAIKLIN 2010:534). CHAIKLIN 2010: Ivory in World History - Early Modern Trade in Context. Chaiklin, Marta. pp. 530-542, in History Compass, (journal), Blackwell Publ. Ltd., Oxford, 2010. Quoted in 
Song: The Elephant by Michael Flanders
- A elephant's life is tedious, laborious and slow;
I've been an elephant all me life so I blooming well ought to know.
- I'm an Introverted, Elephocentric, Hypochondriac,
And I'll stick in the Elephant's nursing home
Till I get me memory back!
- I suffer from Schizophrenia
It comes on me in spells
Sometimes I'm King of Armenia
At others I'm Orson Welles.
I tell them I'm Napoleon
and all that sort of bunk
They never guess that all the time
I'm laughing up me trunk!
- An elephant tusk from level IIA at Mehrgarh in Pakistan, c.5500 BC, grooved by artisans, is the earliest evidence for the working of an Asian elephant's tusks.
- (MOOREY 1994:116). MOOREY 1994: Ancient Mesopotamian Materials and Industries: The Archaeological Evidence. Moorey Peter Roger Stuart, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1994., quoting (Jarrige 1984:24). Quoted in 
- "A seal and a gaming piece of elephant ivory from Mundigak (III) in Afghanistan, c.3000 BC, are the earliest ivory artefacts so far discovered outside India."
- (MOOREY 1994:116). MOOREY 1994: Ancient Mesopotamian Materials and Industries: The Archaeological Evidence. Moorey Peter Roger Stuart, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1994., quoting (Jarrige and Tosi 1981:39).Quoted in 
- "By the late Early Dynastic era, as references to ivory figurines in the pre-Sargonic texts from Lagash attest, ivory objects had begun to reach southern Mesopotamia. While these, in theory, could have come from either Africa or the Indus region, it is generally believed that the ivory was of Indian origin for the earliest representation of an elephant in Mesopotamia, ... is definitely of the Indian as opposed to the African country. Third millennium representations of elephants in Mesopotamia are, however, extremely rare and aside from the Tell Asmar seal just mentioned none of the other elephants can be taken as confirmed [… but ...] ivory was certainly reaching the area" .
- About ivory in Early post-2500 BCE. POTTS 1997: Mesopotamian Civilization - The Material Foundations. Potts, D.T. The Athlone Press (Athlone Publications in Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies), London, 1997. Quoted in 
- "A text from the time of Gudea and Ur-Baba, which is a list of items dedicated to a temple preserves the earliest attestation of ivory (zu-am-si) arriving in Mesopotamia in raw form, listing two pieces of ivory by length and thickness. The evidence of ivory import continues to grow during the succeeding Ur III period. Most of our information comes from Ur, at this time the main gateway for goods entering the region from the south and east [….] in contrast to the pre-Sargonic texts mentioning the import of finished goods in ivory, the craftsmen of Ur were in receipt of sizable quantities of raw ivory, which they then fashioned themselves into objects".
- About ivory in Late pre-2000 BCE: POTTS 1997: Mesopotamian Civilization - The Material Foundations. Potts, D.T. The Athlone Press (Athlone Publications in Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies), London, 1997. Quoted in 
- "At this time (c. 2150-2000 BC) ivory from Meluḥḥa is mentioned only in connection with ivory bird figurines. Otherwise, in the body of texts from Ur dating to about 2000 BC ivory is attributed to Dilmun (Bahrain), where it had presumably been shipped up the Gulf from the Indus, where ivory was plentiful on the sites of the Harappan period, both as tusks and as objects.
- MOOREY 1994: Ancient Mesopotamian Materials and Industries: The Archaeological Evidence. Moorey Peter Roger Stuart, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1994. Quoted in 
- "Ivory objects from the Iberian peninsula dated from the Chalcolithic at about 3000 BC [....] brought in by sea" [excavated from the metropolis of Los Millares in the south-east of Spain on the Mediterranean Sea] "revealed a majority of Asian ivory (Elephas maximus)", [but African ivory is not found here] "before the Early Bronze Age (end of the third and first half of the second millennium BC)" ... Whereas in Portugal are found a majority of African savannah elephant in the early chalcolithic, in south-eastern Spain on the contrary we cannot identify this type of ivory before the Early Bronze Age (end of the third and first half of the second millennium BC). So the analysis of ivory from various tombs from the metropolis of Los Millares revealed a majority of Asian ivory (Elephas maximus). The situation in south-western Atlantic Spain, on the other hand, coincides with the one in Portugal, where African savannah elephant ivory can be found in the Early Chalcolithic. This speaks for the existence of an Atlantic route of contact and exchange for the western part of the Iberian Peninsula already in the first half of the third millennium BC."
- SCHUHMACHER ET AL 2009: Sourcing African Ivory in Chalcolithic Portugal. Schuhmacher Thomas X., João Luís Cardoso, Arun Banerjee, in ANTIQUITY (Journal) 83 (322) 983-997, Cambridge University Press, 2009. pp. 983 ff Quoted in 
- Keep five yards from a carriage, ten yards from a horse, and a hundred yards from an elephant; but the distance one should keep from a wicked man cannot be measured.
- Indian proverb, The Little Red Book of Horse Wisdom, p. 71