This section is from "Scientific American Supplement Volumes 275, 286, 288, 299, 303, 312, 315, 324, 344 and 358". Also available from Amazon: Scientific American Reference Book.
[Footnote: Read before the American Chemical Society, June 3,1881.]
By CHAS. A. DOREMUS, M.D., Ph.D.
Noticing the recent advertisements in the city regarding the "Baby Elephant," it occurred to me that perhaps no analysis of the milk of this species of the mammalia had been recorded. This I found corroborated, for though the milk of many animals had been subjected to analysis, no opportunity had ever presented itself to obtain elephants' milk.
Through the courtesy of Jas. A. Bailey I was enabled to procure samples of the milk on several occasions.
On March 10, 1880, the elephant Hebe gave birth to the female calf America. Hebe is now twenty eight years old, and the father of the calf, Mandrie, thirty-two. Since the birth of the "Baby," the mother has been in excellent health, except during about ten days, when she suffered from a slight indisposition, which soon left her.
When born the calf weighed 213½ lbs., and in April, 1881, weighed 900 lbs. A very fair year's growth on a milk diet. At the time I procured the samples both mother and calf were in fine health.
To obtain the milk was a matter of some difficulty. The calf was constantly sucking, nursing two or three times an hour, morning, noon, and night. The milk could be drawn from either of the two teats, but only in small quantity. The mother gave the fluid freely enough, apparently, to her infant, but sparingly to inquisitive man, so the ruse had to be resorted to of milking one teat while the calf was at the other.
When I first examined the specimens they seemed watery, but to my surprise, on allowing the milk to stand, I could not help wondering at the large percentage of cream.
The following represents approximately the daily diet of the mother:
Three pecks of oats, one bucket bran mash, five or six loaves of bread, half a bushel of roots (potatoes, etc.), fifty to seventy-five pounds of hay, and forty gallons of water.
Elephants eat continually, little at a time, to be sure, but are constantly picking. This habit is also observable in the way the calf nurses. The first specimen of milk was procured on the morning of April 5, the second on the 9th, and the third on the 10th.
The last exceeded the others in quantity, and is therefore the fairest of the three. It took several milkings to get even these, for the calf would begin to nurse, then stop, and when she stopped the flow of milk did also.
I was assured by Mr. Cross and the keeper, Mr. Copeland, that the milk I obtained had all the appearances of that drawn at various times since the birth of the calf. Mr. Cross, when in Boston, compared the milk with that from an Alderney cow, and found the volume of cream greater.
I endeavored to have the calf kept away from the mother for some hours, but could not, since she is allowed her freedom, as she worries under restraint, and besides, has never been taken from the mother. The calf picked at oats and hay, but was dependent on the mother for nourishment.
It would have been a matter of great satisfaction to me had I been able to obtain a larger quantity of the milk, or to have gained even an approximate knowledge of the daily yield, but was obliged to content myself with what I could get. By comparing several samples, however, a just conclusion regarding the quality was found. The analyses of the samples gave the following results:
No. I. II. III. April 5, April 9, April 10, Morning. Noon. Morning.
Quantity, 19 cc. 36 cc. 72 cc. Cream, 52-4, vol.% 58 62 Reaction, Neutral. Slightly alkaline. Slightly acid. Sp.gr., ---- ---- 1023.7
In 100 parts by weight. Water............67.567 69.286 66.697 Solids...........32.433 30.714 33.303 Fat..............17.546 19.095 22.070 Solids not fat...14.887 11.619 11.233 Casein...........14.236 3.694 3.212 Sugar............14.236 7.267 7.392 Ash.............. 0.651 0.658 0.629
Ten grammes were taken for analysis, and in No. III. duplicates were made.
It is evident from these analyses that the milk approaches the composition of cream, yet it did not have the consistency of ordinary cream--as cream even rose upon it. Under the microscope the globules presented a very perfect outline, and were beautifully even in size and very transparent.
The cream rose quickly, leaving a layer of bluish tinge below. The milk was pleasant in flavor and odor, and very superior in these respects to that of many animals such as goats or camels, and in quality equal to that of cows. Nor did the milk emit any rank odor on heating.
When ten grammes were evaporated to dryness, the last portions of water were hard to remove, as the residue fairly floated with oil. Only by long-continued application of heat, and in analysis III. over sulphuric acid in vacuo, could a constant weight be obtained.
I would have used sand in the drying, or Baumhauer's method of fat extraction, but for the small quantity of milk at my disposal and from fear of loss of fat in the latter case.
The fat in III. was determined by extracting the dried residue and also with 20 c. c. of milk by adding alkali and shaking with ether, removing and evaporating the ether and weighing the fat.
As is shown in the table the sp. gr. is very low, though the solids and solids not fat are great. The ash, casein, and sugar are in about the usual proportion. The weight of casein, it is true, is but half that of the sugar. The milk indeed shows an unusually great preponderance of the non-nitrogenized elements, and this seems to correspond with the wants of the animal, since fatty tissues are greatly developed in elephants. According to Mr. Cross, who has had large experience with these animals, they are fatter in the wild state than in bondage. These specimens must appear as exceptional; they may be considered by some as "strippings;" but as against such a view we have the recurrence in each sample of the same characteristics in the milk and a near correspondence in the composition. As may be seen from the subjoined analyses, given by v. Gorup Besanez, the milk belongs to the class of which woman's and mare's milk are members, especially as regards the proportion of the non-nitrogenized to the nitrogenized elements.
[Footnote 1: "Lehrhuch der Physiologischen Chemie," pp. 423 and 424.]
Constituents. Woman. Cow. Goat. Ewe. Ass. Mare.
Water. 86.271 84.28 86.85 83.30 89.01 90.45 Solids. 13.729 15.72 13.52 16.60 10.99 9.55 Fat. 5.370 5.47 4.34 6.05 1.85 1.31 Casein. \ 3.57 2.53 \ \ \ 2.950 5.73 3.57 2.53 Albumen. / 0.78 1.26 / / / Milk Sugar. 5.136 4.34 3.78 3.96 \ 5.42 5.05 Ash. 0.223 0.63 0.65 0.68 / 0.29
Constituents. Buffalo. Camel. Sow. Hippo- Elephant. potamus.
Water. 80.640 86.34 81.80 90.43 66.697 Solids. 19.360 13.66 18.20 9.57 33.308 Fat. 8.450 2.90 6.00 4.51 22.070 Casein. \ \ \ 4.40 \ 4.247 3.67 5.30 3.212 Albumen. / / / / Milk Sugar. 4.518 5.78 6.07  7.392 Ash. 0.845 0.66 0.83 0.11 0.629
[Footnote 1: Milk Sugar included.]
It may be remarked that though approaching the composition of cream it still differs enough to require it to be considered milk.
Perhaps if a larger quantity of the milk could be collected, it would have a more watery character, and approximate more nearly to other milks in that respect. However this may be the quality of the fat deserves some attention.
The cow must yield a considerable quantity of milk, since the growth of the calf has been constant, and at the time these samples were milked the mother gave as freely to her babe as she ever had since its birth. The calf having gained seven to eight hundred pounds on a milk diet in one year, it is presumable that it had no lack of nourishment.
In size the "Baby" compared equally with other elephants in the same menagerie, who were known to be four and five years old.
From whatever standpoint, therefore, we view the lacteal product of these four-footed giants, we are fully warranted in ascribing to it not only extreme richness, but also great delicacy of flavor.