This section is from the book "A Library Of Wonders And Curiosities Found In Nature And Art, Science And Literature", by I. Platt. Also available from Amazon: A library of wonders and curiosities.
This is a very wonderful animal; and has, both in ancient and modern times, been duly estimated in the Eastern world. His virtues are thus enumerated by Buffon: - To form a just estimation of the elephant, he must be allowed to possess the sagacity of the beaver, the address of the ape, the sentiment of the dog, together with the peculiar advantages of strength, largeness, and long duration of life. Neither should we overlook his arms or tusks, which enable him to transfix and conquer the lion ! We should also consider that the earth shakes under his feet; that with his trunk, as with a hand, he tears up trees; that by a push of his body he makes a breach in a wall; that, though tremendous in strength, he is rendered still more invincible by his enormous mass, and by the thickness of his skin ; that he can carry on his back an armed tower, filled with many warriors ; that he works machines, and carries burdens, which six horses are unable to move; that to this prodigious strength he adds courage, pru-dence, coolness, and punctual obedience ; that he preserves moderation even in his most violent passions ; that he is con stant and impetuous in love ; that when in anger, he mistakes not his friends ; that he never attacks any but those who offend him; that he remembers favours as long as injuries; that having no appetite for flesh, he feeds on vegetables alone, and is born an enemy to no living creature ; and, in fine, that he is universally beloved, because all animals respect; and none have any reason to fear him!
The following account is extracted from Forbes's Oriental Memoirs, a highly interesting work.
"The largest Elephants are from ten to eleven feet in height, some are said to exceed it; tit? average is eight or nine feet They are fifty or sixty years sctore they arrive at their full growth ; the female goes with young eighteen months, and seldom produces more than one at a birth, which she suckles until it is five years old : its natural life is about one hundred and twenty years. The Indians are remarkably fond of these animals, especially when they have been long in their service. I have seen an elephant valued at twenty thousand rupees : the common price of a docile well-trained elephant is five or six thousand : and in the countries where they are indigenous, the Company contract for them at five hundred rupees each, when they must be seven feet high at the shoulders. The mode of catching and training the wild elephants is now well known; their price increases with their merit during the course of education. Some, for their extraordinary qualities, become in a manner invaluable; when these are purchased, no compensation induces a wealthy owner to part with them.
"The skin of the elephant is generally of a dark grey, sometimes almost black ; the face frequently painted with a variety of colours ; and the abundance and splendour of his trappings add much to his consequence. The Mogul princes allowed five men and a boy to each elephant: the chief of them, called the mahawut, rode upon his neck, to guide him; another sat upon his rump, and assisted in battle; the rest supplied him with food and water, and performed the necessary services. Elephants bred to war, and well disciplined, will stand firm against a volley of musketry, and never give way unless severely wounded. I have seen one of those animals, with up-wards of thirty bullets in the fleshy parts of his body, perfectly recovered from his wounds. All are not equally docile; and when an enraged elephant retreats from battle, nothing can withstand his fury; the driver having no longer a command, friends and foes are involved in undistinguished ruin."
The elephants in the army of Antiochus were provoked to fight by showing them the blood of grapes and mulberries. The history of the Maccabees informs us, that "to every elephant they appointed a thousand men, armed with coats of mail, and five hundred horsemen of the best: these were ready at every occasion; wherever the beast was, and whithersoever he went, they went also; and upon the elephart were strong towers of wood, filled with armed men, besides the Indian that ruled them."
"Elephants in peace and war know their duty, and are more obedient to the word of command than many rational beings. It is said they can travel, on an emergency, two hundred miles in forty-eight hours ; but will hold out for a month at the rate of forty or fifty miles a day, with cheerfulness and alacrity performed many long journeys upon an elephant given by Ragobah to Colonel Keating. Nothing could exceed the sagacity, docility, and affection, of this noble quadruped : if I stopped to enjoy a prospect, he remained immoveable until my sketch was finished ; if I wished for ripe mangoes growing out of the common reach, he selected the most fruitful branch, and breaking it off with his trunk, offered it to the driver for the company in the houdah, accepting of any part given to himself with a respectful salem, by raising his trunk three times above his head, in the manner of the Oriental obeisance, and as often did he express his thanks by a murmuring noise. When a bough obstructed the houdah, he twisted his trunk around it, and, though of considerable magnitude, broke it off with ease, and often gathered a leafy branch, either to keep off the flies, or as a fan to agitate the air around him, by waving it with his trunk ; he generally paid a visit at the tent door during breakfast, to procure sugar-candy or fruit, and be cheered by the encomiums and caresses he deservedly met with ; no spaniel could be more innocent, playful, or fonder of those who noticed him, than this docile animal, that on particular occasions appeared conscious of his exaltation above the brute creation."
The following account of the docility of the elephant, from ancient writers, will interest the reader.
They have been taught to adore the king, says Aristotle, to dance, to throw stones at a mark, to cast up stones at a mark, to catch them again in their fall, and to walk upon ropes: Galba was the first, says Suetonius, that exhibited this at Rome. And these things they learned with such care, that they have often been found practising in the night what had been taught them in the day. They write too, says Pliny, speaking of one which wrote in the Greek tongue, Ipse ego haec scripsi et spolia lettica dicavi. I myself saw, says AElian, one of them writing Roman letters on a tablet with his trunk ; and the letters he made were not ragged, but straight and even; and his eyes were fixed upon the tablet, as one that was serious. And in the plays that Germanicus Caesar showed at Rome, there were twelve elephants, six males and six females; these were clothed as men and women. At the command of their keeper, they danced, and performed all the gestures of a mimic. At last they were brought where they were to feast; a table was covered with all kinds of dainties, and beds were covered with purple carpets, after the manner of the Roman eating, for them to lie upon. Upon these they lay down, and, at the signal given, they reached out their trunks to the table, and with great modesty fell to eating, and ate and drank as civil men would do."
Hunting The White Elephant.
This seems to be the most proper place for introducing an account of The Mammoth.