When you are describing the appearance of an elephant, what comes to your mind? Its wrinkly skin, large ears, sharp tusks or long trunk? More likely than not, you do not mention anything about hair. Do elephants have hair?
Believe it or not, elephants do have hair. They might not have a patch of fur like cats or hair like humans, but they do have hair. It is one of the characteristics that all mammals share. The wild elephant conservation team at For Elephants wants to share some insight into why elephants have hair.
Elephants are mammals.
Before we start talking about elephants, we first have to learn what a mammal is. Mammals are endothermic animals, which means they are warm-blooded vertebrates. These kinds of animals share a number of characteristics that other animals do not share. Those mammal characteristics include:
Three middle ear bones
Fur or hair
Yes, all mammals have hair or fur at one point in their life - even the mammals in the ocean. Whales have hair on their heads, while dolphins have hair around their snout when in the womb and lose it at birth. For many animals, the purpose of hair or fur is to keep them warm. But, what purpose does hair or fur play with those mammals that live in hot climates, as elephants do?
Do elephants have hair?
As stated above, elephants do have hair. They do not have coats of hair or fur like lions or giraffes. Rather, some spots on an elephant’s skin have very thin hairs, but it is more visible on their head, chin or tip of their tails.
Now you probably wonder why do elephants need hair if they live in the hot savannas or forests? Wild elephant conservation researchers have discovered that thin hair helps elephants stay cool in the hot weather. Unlike other mammals, elephants do not sweat. The thin hair helps them release heat so their body does not overheat. It works because the hair acts as more area for the heat to be released and pushes heat away from the body.
What about the hair on an elephant's tail? The hairs on an elephant's tail act as a fly swatter. It helps them remove any pesky flies around its bottom. Just as it is helpful for elephants, humans have also found a use for it.
Some people believe that the hair on an elephant's tail is lucky. Although collecting the naturally shedding hair of elephants is not illegal, there are still many cases of elephants' hair getting illegally removed from living or poached elephants.
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