How Do Elephants Move?

When elephants walk, each of their legs functions independently, according to John Hutchinson of London’s Royal Veterinary College. Elephants position their legs directly under their bodies to support their extreme weight.

Both the elephant’s front and back legs alone are capable of supporting its weight, which can be up to 6.6 tons. Elephants can move forward or backward, but they cannot gallop or jump. They either walk or use a slightly faster pace that is slower than running when moving on land. They can move at speeds up to 11 miles per hour and use both their front and back legs in propelling themselves and slowing or stopping.

Elephants are good swimmers and are able to support themselves in the water for up to six hours at speeds up to 1 mile per hour. They typically rest in the shade during the hottest hours of the day and may nap while standing. They sleep at night for an average of three to four hours while reclining on the ground. They travel around six to 12 miles a day and seasonally migrate for mating and to search for food and water. They are important to ecosystems because they carry and disperse plant seeds in their dung, which also serves as a source of food for some animals.