Skip to Content

Why do elephants have big ears?

Last Reviewed and Updated on July 27, 2022

One of the most prominent features of elephants is their large ears. Why do elephants have big ears, exactly? And why do some species of elephants have bigger ears than others? They have one of the biggest ear-to-body ratios in the animal kingdom, so let’s take a closer look at why this is the case.

Which animals have the largest ears-to-body ratios

When it comes to the sheer size of the ears, no animal comes close to the elephant. The African Bush elephant has the largest ears of all elephant species, with ears that can grow as large as 6 ft 7 in × 4 ft 11 in / 2 m × 1.5 m.

Also, read facts about elephants.

When it comes to ear-to-body ratio, the long-eared jerboa, a small mouse-like rodent, is the winner, as this animal has ears that are about the size of 50% of its body length. Quite a few other rodents and rabbits have a bigger ear-to-body ratio. The key benefit of their larger ears is they can better detect sound and avoid predators, something an elephant doesn’t really need to worry about.

Another animal with a larger ear-to-body ratio is the fennec fox. One of the functions of their large ears is to help them with locating and hunting prey. Another thing an elephant doesn’t need.

Why do elephants have big ears?

So you already know elephants don’t really need big ears for hunting for food or detecting predators, although good hearing does help them with detecting danger.

The main reason for elephants’ big ears is to keep elephants cool. They use their ears to cool themselves as much as it is possible. Since elephants don’t sweat, they have other ways to cool down.

If you take a closer look at the back of the elephant’s ear, you will notice there are a lot of large visible blood vessels.

As elephants flap their ears, the blood that is passing through the ears is cooled down before returning to the body. In addition to that, the flapping of the ears also acts as a fan, sending cool air to the body. The bigger the ear, the more effective the cooling is.

Why do African elephants have bigger ears than Asian elephants?

As you have probably figured out, this has to do with the temperature of the environment they live in. The higher the temperatures are, the bigger the need to cool down is. African elephants live in a hotter climate than Indian elephants do, which is the reason why African elephants have bigger ears.

Sharing is caring!