Elephants, known for their strong family ties and their intelligence, have fascinated humans over time and across cultures. As the largest living land mammal, a male African bush elephant is usually over 3 feet tall and weighs an incredible 6.6 tons. Although poachers still kill around 100 African elephants every day, conservation groups are working to protect elephant populations from extinction. Read a dozen things you may not know about elephants, from their long history as a political symbol to their skills as a firefighter.
. 1 Contrary to popular belief, elephants have no real fear of mice.
Caricaturists have long portrayed the funny juxtaposition of a giant elephant scared of a tiny mouse. Zoologists and elephant trainer have been experimenting to test if elephants are really scared of rodents, and it seems to be a myth. Mice themselves do not scare elephants, but the pachyderms have poor eyesight and can be extremely scared when something happens. Elephants are probably more afraid of a sudden movement of the mouse than the mouse itself.
2. Wild elephants could have populated the US, but Abraham Lincoln brought the idea to a standstill.
President Lincoln received gifts in 1861, including Elephant Tusks and A Handmade Sword of Siam's King Somdetch Phra Paramendr Maha Mongkut. The king of today's Thailand also made an interesting offer: Mongkut suggested that Siam send two male and female elephants to the US to breed in the woods. The Americans could then tame the wild elephants and use them for the economic benefit of the country. William Seward, Lincoln's Secretary of State, answered Mongkut in 1862 and graciously declined his offer. He told the king that since the US already uses steam power for the efficient transportation of goods within the country, elephants are simply not practical.
. 3 Sucking on the hull is the elephant equivalent to sucking on the thumb.
When elephant babies want to console themselves, they instinctively start to suck on their torso. Hump flopping is also a way an elephant baby can learn to handle his torso (which contains between 40,000 and 50,000 muscles). Although most elephants, as well as human babies, grow out of sucking behavior, some adult elephants also suck their trunks when they feel anxious.
. 4 Elephants have been the symbol of the Republican Party since 1874.
Although elephants were occasionally used as a Republican symbol during the Civil War, it was caricaturist Thomas Nast who appeared in an 1874 issue of Harper's Weekly drew an elephant, earns the merit of connecting the animal with the political party. In later animated films, Nast continued to draw an elephant to represent the Republican Party, and other cartoonists took him to establish the animal as a GOP symbol.
. 5 Barnum & Bailey once trained elephants to play baseball.
Baseball is America's pastime. So why not teach elephants how to play the game? Thanks to the work of Barnum & Bailey's elephant trainer Harry L. Mooney, the intelligent animals played their first ball game in 1912. Although baseball was just one of many circus elephant tricks, Barnum & Bailey used the concept of elephant baseball by using the image on posters to sell tickets for shows.
. 6 Some elephants were convicted of murder.
Although elephants are usually considered gentle giants, they can attack and kill humans. Male elephants undergo musth, a hormonal change that temporarily causes them to produce tons of testosterone, resulting in aggression. But even female elephants can kill. In 1916, a city in Tennessee accused an elephant named Big Mary of first degree murder for killing her handler. Big Mary, who worked for the Sparks Circus, attacked her handler, possibly after beating her with a bullhook as she tried to eat a watermelon bowl. Big Mary was convicted and sentenced to execution. Around 2,500 residents of the city gathered to watch Big Mary's dramatic hanging with a 100-ton crane and a chain torn under its weight.
. 7 Elephants mourn death.
Although we do not know exactly what elephants feel and how they handle death, they seem to show signs of mourning when a family member (or other elephant) dies. When they see a dead elephant, they can vocalise, "hug" the dead animal with their trunks, or stay with the carcass for hours. Some elephants have also tried to bury the dead body by covering it with leaves and earth.
. 8 Trained elephants fight fires in Indonesia.
Ishara S.KODIKARA, AFP / GettyImages
You will probably soon no longer see an elephant riding a fire truck Elephants in Indonesia are an integral part of firefighting. In 2015, multiple fires plagued East Sumatra over a period of several months, leaving 23 trained elephants at a conservation center to work. With water pumps and hoses, the elephants helped patrol the land and made sure that no new fires were lit.
. 9 If you are in Zambia, you may see some elephants in your hotel lobby.
An elephant enters the lobby of the Mfuwe Lodge in Zambia.
Some guests of the Mfuwe Lodge in African Zambia get an unusual sight of animals before they leave the lobby. Every year between October and December, elephant families walk through the lodge's reception area to eat wild mango from a courtyard tree. The huge size of the elephants and the apparent indifference to their surroundings in the hotel lobby make for a remarkable sight.
10th In 2015 scientists recorded for the first time the yawning of elephants.
Although scientists speculated that elephants probably yawn, Davis captured the first video of a yawning elephant. If you like watching sleepy animals stretching and yawning, this is for you. Attention: extreme cuteness ahead.
. 11 Elephants starred in Youtube & # 39; s first video.
On April 23, 2005, Jawed Karim wrote Internet History as he uploaded the first video to a specific emerging video-sharing Web site. Karim, one of the founders of YouTube, released an 18-second scene in which he stood in front of elephants in a zoo. In the video he talks about how cool the long trunks of the elephants are. Since August 2019, the video has more than 74 million views.
12th Elephants love to snack on old Christmas trees.
VADIM KRAMER, AFP / Getty Images
Zookeepers in Tierpark Berlin feed their elephants in Germany unsold Christmas trees in early January. The trees are certified pesticide-free and the elephants seem to enjoy their special snack. But not only in Berlin elephants eat Christmas trees. Prague zoos also treat their elephants to the delicious conifers.