Do Elephants Really Eat Peanuts?

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Published: November 21, 2021
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You’ve probably seen the image of a cute cartoon elephant with his trunk stuck in a popcorn box full of peanuts! But if elephants were allowed at the movies would that be what they would really get? (I think it would be Whoppers!) Do elephants really eat peanuts and if not, why do we think that? What do elephants eat?

Have you ever heard the state of Georgia referred to as the Elephant State? No, me either. But you may have heard it called the Peanut State. Georgia produces about 50% of the peanuts in the United States. Other countries that produce peanuts are China, India and Nigeria. These are produced on peanut farms and supply the world with peanuts and peanut products like peanut butter. The point is that peanuts are not a naturally occuring plant in any of the habitats that elephants live, so the answer is no, elephants do not really eat peanuts!

Where did this idea come from that elephants like peanuts?

Do Elephants Really Eat Peanuts - A Stockpile of Peanuts

A stockpile of peanuts, would an elephant really want to eat all this?

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©RedDog Photography/

It was a common practice for circuses and zoos to sell peanuts to feed to elephants. So it started as an entertainment. This led to the misconception that elephants loved peanuts and also ate them in the wild. Peanuts are no longer sold to zoo goers or at circuses to feed elephants. Scientists suggest that peanuts are not a healthy choice for elephants because they are too high in protein. So what do elephants eat?

What do elephants eat?

What Do Elephants Eat
Elephants eat leaves, grasses, fruits and tree barks

Instead of peanuts, elephants eat a diet that’s rich in leaves, grasses, tree bark, fruits, and more. Below you’ll find a more complete list of all the foods elephants eat.

  • Grasses
  • Leaves
  • Tree bark
  • Fruit
  • Seeds
  • Stems
  • Bananas (Asian elephants)
  • Rice (Asian elephants)
  • Sugar Cane (Asian elephants)

How much do elephants eat?

Elephants can frequently weigh up to 7 tons (and the largest elephant ever recorded weighed about 12 tons!)! To maintain that body weight they need to eat a lot. The average elephant consumes 300 lbs of food each day. To be able to do that they need to eat for most of the day spending 12-18 hours a day eating! They also have to drink enough water to support their systems so they are known to consume 30-50 gallons of water per day.

Do any animals like peanuts?

Besides my dog that loves peanut butter, are there any animals that likes to eat peanuts? Yes, lots of birds like peanuts and have nuts as part of their diets. Woodpeckers, crows, cardinals and jays have been known to eat peanuts. That is why peanuts are often a part of birdseed mixes. Peanuts are a healthy option for birds because they have a high fat content providing a lot of calories and are especially convenient in the winter. Squirrels typically eat acorns because of their availability, but they also like peanuts.

If elephants did like peanuts I am sure there would be mass exodus from Africa and Asia to the state of Georgia (by cruise ship?), but that doesn’t seem to be the case. There are elephants at the Atlanta Zoo where they report that the treats they like are apples, carrots, sweet potatoes and romaine lettuce!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © RedDog Photography/

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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