Except where exterminated by human agency (and this has been accomplished to a deplorable extent), the African elephant is a native of the wooded districts of the whole of Africa south of the Sahara.
In size the male African elephant often surpasses the Asiatic species, reaching nearly 12 ft.
In height it stood about the same as a young individual of the ordinary African elephant when about a year and a half old, the vertical measurement at the shoulder being only 4 ft., or merely a foot higher than a new-born Indian elephant.
The African elephant is a very different animal from its Asiatic cousin, both as regards structure and habits; and were it not for the existence of intermediate extinct species, might well be regarded as the representative of a distinct genus.
By Dr Paul Matschie several races of the African elephant have been described, mainly, as already mentioned, on certain differences in the shape of the ear.
It may be added that fossil remains of the African elephant have been obtained from Spain, Sicily, Algeria and Egypt, in strata of the Pleistocene age.
Hagenbeck's estimate of its age was based on the presence of well-developed tusks, and the relative proportion of the fore and hind limbs, which are stated to show considerable differences in the case of the African elephant according to age.
This view may receive some support from the occurrence of a dwarf form of the African elephant in the Congo; and if we regard the latter as a subspecies of Elephas africanus, it seems highly probable that a similar position will have to be assigned to the pigmy European fossil elephants.