Do Elephants Eat Peanuts? (And Do They Really Like Them?)

One of the popular beliefs about elephants is their association with peanuts. You may have seen it in cartoons, or you may have heard it from an elder or a friend. Since peanuts have a fantastic flavor, it can make you wonder if it’s true for these enormous animals. So, you may ask:

Do elephants eat peanuts? Elephants do not eat peanuts, but they would if you give them such. Contrary to the myth, elephants don’t like peanuts. They don’t eat nuts in the wild, and they won’t even love munching on such. However, it’s not a toxic food for them, so sparing some won’t cause any issue.

Elephants are enormous animals, and it can be fascinating to know they would love munching on small food like peanuts. Still, it’s not something they like to eat, so believing such only remains a belief.

In this article, we’ll give you an in-depth take on elephants and their attitude towards peanuts. This way, you can understand why they don’t like it and where that belief started.

Without further ado, let’s get into it.

Do elephants really eat peanuts?

As I said earlier, peanuts aren’t a toxic thing for elephants. However, contrary to the belief that they love it, it’s the opposite.

Elephants don’t really eat peanuts, and it’s not a typical food they eat, whether they are in the wild or captivity.

Of course, these animals will eat one if you offer them such. However, it’s not exactly something they like.

Elephants are herbivores, which means they prefer leaves, twigs, and almost any sort of vegetation they can find available.

Among the typical food for an elephant are the following:

  • Twigs and leaves from trees
  • Small plants
  • Grass
  • Shrubs or bushes
  • Tree bark and roots

Out of all the food on the list, elephants favor tree barks the most. Thus, it forms a big part of their daily diet.


Do elephants eat peanuts with the shell?

Now, although elephants don’t like peanuts much, they may love the shell. Thus, it would be better for elephants to eat peanuts with shells.

Peanut shells are safer and healthier for elephants than peanuts per see. These shells contain cellulose, and it’s something that elephants can digest. An elephant’s stomach is designed to digest cellulose which makes up peanut shells.

Since elephants are herbivores, their diet only has cellulose from plants. Such kinds of cellulose are easy to digest. 

On the other hand, peanut shells are more of fibers, unlike plants. Thus, it’s ideal for elephants to eat peanut shells instead of peanuts alone.

For this reason, if you have some peanuts to spare, consider eating the nut itself and spare the shell to the elephant. 

How do elephants eat peanuts?

Elephants can eat peanuts like they would eat any food. These animals have a pair of teeth in their mouth’s back part. 

These teeth are molar teeth designed to grind whatever food they chew.

However, since peanuts are tiny for their big mouth, it’s not likely that they would chew it first before swallowing.

One thing to note is that their molar teeth also wear out. Once it does, it starts moving forward to the front.

Anyway, the peanuts are still too small for these animals to chew. Thus, if they ever eat such a treat, it’s likely that they would swallow it immediately.

elephant and peanuts

Do elephants like peanuts?

As I said earlier, elephants do not like peanuts, and contrary to the belief, they are not fond of eating such.

Elephants are herbivores, and while peanuts are plant-based food, it’s not in their specific food preference.

If there’s one thing that elephants like to it, it’s the bark of trees. Their favorite tree barks come from trees such as:

  • Norway maple tree
  • Sugar maple tree
  • Silver maple tree
  • Willow tree

To get the tree barks, elephants use their tusks as a scraping tool. This way, they get the barks, have them fall on the ground, and eat it.

Further, elephants also love to chew small branches together with tree barks.

Why do elephants like peanuts?

In general, elephants don’t actually like peanuts. If so, it’s because people believe they do.

It’s one of the myths dating back quite some time ago that elephants love peanuts.

For this reason, it’s one of the things that shows like cartoons portray. However, such shows don’t necessarily prove anything at all.

One thing to note is that elephants are herbivores, and so they eat plant-based food. Though peanuts come from plants, it’s not exactly what they eat.

Instead, elephants eat all types of plants, leaves, tree barks, branches, and even fruits. They can eat peanuts, but it’s not something they like.

So, you may wonder where the belief started. 

How did the myth that elephants eat peanuts come about?

The myth that elephants eat and love to eat peanuts came from the elephants in circuses or elephants used as an attraction.

Back in the 1990s, elephants in zoos and circuses provided entertainment for many people.

The thing about these places is that the elephant caretakers allow viewers to feed these enormous animals.

One popular snack in these places is peanuts, and it’s also what they start selling to feed the elephants.

Like an animal in captivity, elephants only eat what is available. Thus, they would eat peanuts even if they don’t like them.


So, do elephants eat peanuts? Elephants do not eat peanuts, and it’s not something they like to eat. The myth started in circuses where people feed peanuts to elephants. However, in reality, these enormous animals eat mostly tree barks and all sorts of vegetation.

Elephants are fascinating creatures. However, to think that they love peanuts is interestingly a false assumption. Of course, it’s a safe food to eat for them, and you can feed an elephant with such if you want. However, if you would, you may want to eat the peanut and only spare the shell. It will be better that way.


Image credits – Canva

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I'm David, and safari has been my passion since I was a little boy - I grew up in South Africa. I love to help spread knowledge about safari, so let me know if you have any questions. Read more