Learn about elephant trunks and what they can do.

What can an elephant’s trunk do?

Imagine having a sense of smell that’s even better than a bomb-sniffing dog, or having an extra appendage that’s just muscle. Well, that’s what having a trunk is like for an elephant! We all knew elephants were impressive creatures, but their trunks are more than just an identifiable feature of the elephant anatomy. Find out elephant trunk facts and how it helps them survive in the wild.

What is a trunk?

A trunk is a long extension of the nose or upper lip that runs from the head of an animal. Animals with trunks typically have a good sense of smell and use their trunk for a variety of reasons. Trunks are long and tubular and located on an animal's head. Trunks are most popularly associated with elephants, but other animals have versions of a trunk as well. 

What makes an elephant’s trunk special 

There are around 40,000 muscles in an elephant's trunk. The elephant anatomy is fascinating, especially their trunk. The trunk is made entirely of muscles and no bones. The trunk is controlled by muscles and the proboscis nerve which moves the trunk in any direction. 

How powerful is an elephant trunk?

An elephant's trunk can pick up objects as heavy as a tree to as delicate as a tortilla chip. Using an air sucking method they can pick up or inhale objects. Their trunk is made solely of muscles and has eight major muscle groups on each side. They can lift around 700 pounds, and can be seen ripping trees out from the ground.

Elephant trunk facts

Food & Water 

Elephants can expand their trunks to store food and water. They can hold up to five and a half liters of water and suck three liters a second. To accompany their hefty hydration, elephants eat up to 300 pounds of food a day. 

Snorkel underwater 

When in deep waters, elephants can simply extend their trunk upward and use it as a snorkel. Other animals would have a hard time in waters that elephants can travel in.


Physical affection is a way elephants use their trunks to communicate with other elephants. They use their trunks to caress and provide comfort.


Elephants have an incredible sense of smell and can distinguish things such as TNT. Their sense of smell is so great that they can smell up to 12 miles away.

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