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Sunday, 28 December 2014



Aristotle described elephants as “the animal that surpasses all others in wit and mind” but he believed, wrongly, that they live for 200 years.

Four captured elephants were paraded through the streets of Rome to the delight of the citizens in 275BC. It was the first time such rare and exotic animals had been displayed in the city.

When Hannibal crossed the Alps with 57 Elephants in 216BC, it was not unusual to use the animals in such a way. The big charging jumbos frightened the enemy and their height allowed the archers to survey the whole battlefield. In addition they were quite speedy with a maximum speed of 18mph and quite economic as well needing only five gallons of water per mile.

In 1255, Louis IX of France gave England's King Henry III  an African elephant, which arrived at the Tower by boat, the first of its kind in the UK.

We have called elephants by that name since the 14th century. Before that, the word was oliphant.

The first documented instance of an elephant's snout being called a trunk appeared in the 1589 work by Richard Hakluyt, Principal Navigations: “The Elephant . . . With water fils his troonke right hie and blowes it on the rest.”

King James I of England kept a menagerie in St James's Park, including an elephant, which was given a gallon of wine every day.

“Old Bet” the first elephant ever seen in America arrived from Bengal zoo on April 13, 1796 and was exhibited in New York. She was known for her ability to draw corks from bottles using only her trunk.

The King of Siam (Thailand) offered the Union army a battalion of war elephants. President Lincoln politely declined in his reply dated February 3, 1862, pointing out that steam power had overtaken the need for heavy animal power of this kind.

The phrase 'White elephant' refers to the a king of Siam, who gave a white elephant to any courtier who irritated them. The animals were sacred but their maintenance was so expensive that anyone given one was inevitably ruined.

A 4-year-old 6 1/2-ton African bull elephant called Jumbo who was born in Sudan was transferred to the London Zoo in 1865.  He became the most famous elephant in the world.

He was given his name by the London zoo-keepers. Since the 1820s “jumbo” had been a slang term for someone heavy and clumsy and the elephant at 10 ft 6 inches was the largest animal many people had seen.

American showman P. T. Barnum simply had to have this huge elephant in his circus. He bought Jumbo on February 3, 1882, for $10,000, advertising him as the "only mastodon on Earth."  Jumbo's sale initiated public outrage in Britain.

Jumbo was killed in 1885 in a railway accident in Ontario. It took 160 men to remove his body from the tracks.

Topsy, a domesticated elephant with the Forepaugh Circus at Luna Park, Coney Island, was executed by electrocution in 1903, after it was deemed a threat to people, an event captured on film by inventor Thomas Edison.

During the Lord Mayor’s procession in London on November 10, 1930, four elephants ran amok into the crowd, injuring 30 people.


Shakespeare mentions elephants in Julius Caesar, Troilus And Cressida and Twelfth Night.

Jane Austen’s only mention of an elephant in her works was in Mansfield Park and referred to the Royal Navy ship HMS Elephant. The commander of HMS Elephant at the Battle of San Domingo in 1806 was Admiral Sir Francis Austen, who was Jane Austen’s brother.

The variant heffalump was introduced in 1926 by AA Milne in Winnie-the-Pooh.


Between 1980 and 1990 poachers and other illegal hunters reduced Africa's elephant population from about 1.2 million to about 625,000 individuals.

In late 1989, after the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species placed the elephant on its most-endangered species list, a worldwide ban on the ivory trade was triggered.

The number of African elephants in the wild is estimated at between 410,000 and 625,000.

A female African Bush Elephant in Mikumi National Park, Tanzania. By Muhammad Mahdi Karim Facebook

According to a report in 2007 there are more African elephants in Botswana than anywhere else. The number of elephants in Botswana was given as 133,829, with Tanzania in second place on 108,816 elephants.

Between 2010 and 2012, 100,000 elephants were poached for ivory


African elephants are pregnant for 22 months, the longest pregnancy in the animal kingdom,

A newborn elephant weighs about 120kg (260lb).

The largest elephant on record was an adult male weighing 11 tons and 13ft tall at the shoulder.

Only male Asian elephants have tusks but both male and female African elephants have them.

Elephant brains can weigh as much as 11 lb, more than the brain of any other land animal.

Technically, elephants cannot run as they can't lift all four legs off the ground at the same time but they move at up to 25 mph by using the ‘Groucho walk’ with knees bent and body lowered.

Elephants are the only mammals that can't jump.

The African Elephant has only four teeth, 5 kg each.

An elephant's molars, necessary for grinding up plant material, are replaced six times during its lifetime.

An elephant trunk has no bones but around 100,000 muscles and tendons.

Just like humans have a dominant hand that they use more than the other, elephants have dominant tusks.

Elephants have an extremely good sense of smell and can detect a water source 12 miles away.

The pulse rate of a healthy elephant is only 25 beats a minute.

The small and furry rock hyrax is the elephant's closest living relative.


Elephants are so afraid of bees that the mere sound of buzzing is enough to make an entire herd flee.

Elephants even have a particular call to use to warn others of bees.

Elephants communicate over distances of more than a mile using low-frequency bellows that are at the same decibel level as a subway train.

Elephants can tell the difference between human languages and know which languages belong to people with a history of hurting elephants.

An Asian elephant named Koshik can communicate by imitating human speech by inserting his trunk into his mouth. He can speak five words in Korean (the corresponding words for "hello," "no", "sit down," "lie down" and "good") and is believed to have developed speech in order cement social bonds with humans,

Elephants are capable swimmers. They have been recorded swimming for up to six hours without touching the bottom, and have traveled as far as 48 km (30 mi) at a stretch and at speeds of up to 2.1 km/h (1 mph).

When underwater, the elephant uses its trunk as a snorkel.

An elephant eats 250kg (551lbs) of grass and drinks 200 litres (55 gallons) of water per day

A thirsty elephant can drink 26 gallons of water in one helping.

An elephant can smell water from 12 miles away.

Elephants can detect rain 150 miles away.

Elephants purr like cats do, as a means of communication.

Seventeen people were killed by captive elephants in the US from 1983 to 2000.

Wild African elephants only sleep around two hours a day—the shortest known sleep time of any land mammal.

Elephants can nap standing up but usually sleep lying down.

Baby elephants usually suck their own trunks to calm themselves. That is almost similar to human babies who also tend to suck their own thumbs.

The daily methane output of an elephant can propel a car 20mph.

Murphy's Oil Soap is the chemical most commonly used to clean elephants.

Dogs and elephants are the only animals that seem to instinctively understand pointing.

Elephants cover their dead with branches.

Sources Daily Express, Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia 

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