Elephant (elephas, Linn.), the only existing representative of the proboscidian pachyderms, the mammoth or fossil elephant and the mastodon having lived in the preceding geological epoch. The elephant, the largest and heaviest of terrestrial animals, has from time immemorial been celebrated for his intelligence and sagacity, for the services he has rendered to man in eastern lands, for his imposing appearance, for his immense strength guided by gentleness and docility, and for the astonishing feats he is able to perform by means of his trunk. Since the time of Cuvier the anatomy of the elephant has been thoroughly studied. The skull is remarkable for its vertical elevation, giving to the head the well known aspect of sagacity; this, though far superior to that of the other pachyderms, has doubtless been overrated from the peculiar cranial formation in this animal. The great elevation of the frontal region does not arise from any increase of the cranial cavity or corresponding development of brain, but depends on the great separation of the tables of the skull, and the excessive enlargement of the frontal sinuses, affording ample space for the origin of the muscles of the trunk; the upper jaw has a similar structure for the accommodation of the enormous tusks; in both cases strength and solidity are obtained without too much weight.
The nearly perpendicular facial line of the elephant, then, depends on the size of the frontal sinuses, the shortness of the bones of the nose, and the vertical position of the maxillary and intermaxillary bones; and the cranial cavity occupies but a small part of the head at its posterior central portion. The occipital bone forms the posterior wall of the skull, and advances also on to its upper surface; the parietals are early consolidated to it, to each other, and to the temporals, forming a solid box; the ethmoid is large, and the extent and surface of the cribriform plate indicate a delicate organ of smell; the sphenoid is very flat internally, but its cells are enormously developed, encroaching largely upon the base of the skull. The teeth consist of two long curved tusks, one in each intermaxillary bone, and of large and compound molars in each jaw. The permanent tusks, which are monstrous incisor teeth, are preceded by two small deciduous ones, which make their appearance between the fifth and seventh months, rarely exceed two inches in length and one third of an inch in diameter, and are shed before the second year, their roots being considerably absorbed; about two months after the milk teeth are shed, the permanent tusks, which are situated to the inner side of and behind the former, pierce the gum when about an inch long, and grow from the base during the whole life of the animal.
The molar teeth are remarkable for their size and the complexity of their structure; there is not more than one wholly, or two partially, in use on each side in each jaw at one time; they are constantly in progress of destruction and formation, succeeding each other horizontally, instead of vertically as in other mammals; according to Owen, the molars are successively brought forward until each jaw has had on each side 6, or 24 in all. Each tooth is composed of a number of transverse vertical plates of dentine or ivory, enveloped in enamel, and united together by the cement of crusta petrosa; only a small portion of the crown appears above the gum. This gradual progress of the teeth from behind forward explains how the elephant has always a grinding surface ready to bear the great pressure to which his teeth are always subjected; the constant wear of the grinding surface keeps it in order for mastication; the manner in which the enamel is arranged on this surface, after the ivory is worn down, enables the anatomist to refer a tooth either to the Asiatic or African elephant.
From the oblique position of the molars in the jaws, the anterior portion pierces the gum first, and may be quite worn while the middle and posterior portions are slightly or not at all used, so that these teeth diminish in length at the same time that their depth is worn away; as the anterior grinding surface becomes useless, the root is removed by absorption, enabling the tooth to be pushed forward by that behind. The tusks are formed of ivory and enamel, the former making the central and by far the largest portion; the tusks exist in both sexes, but are smaller in the females than in the males; they sometimes measure 9 ft. in length, and weigh over 200 lbs. the pair; this great weight is kept in place only by the tight embrace of the socket and surrounding parts, explaining the abnormal direction of the tusks produced either by sudden and violent or by gentle and long continued pressure. The lower jaw is massive, and prolonged in front, where the extensible lower lip is elongated into a triangular deeply concave organ for receiving the extremity of the trunk. The spine consists of 7 cervical vertebras, 20 dorsal, 3 lumbar, 5 sacral, and from 24 to 26 caudals; the number of ribs is 19, and in some specimens 20, of which 5 or 6 are true.
The thoracic cavity is very large, the ribs being continued back nearly to the pelvis, of great size and width; the sternum is long, compressed laterally, and somewhat prolonged in front. The limbs being designed more for strength and solidity than speed, their bones are thick and large; the shoulder blade is wide, its posterior margin much the shortest; and the spine, beside the acromial process, has a broad, sickle-shaped prominence extending downward and backward; there is no clavicle, as the approximation of the limbs toward the centre of gravity is necessary to support the weight of the body. The humerus is short and massive, the upper extremity having a fiat articular surface with large protuberances for the insertion of the muscles of the shoulders, a strongly ridged shaft, and a pulley-like lower surface for the forearm, admitting only of flexion and extension; the external condyle is very extensive upward. The radius and ulna are permanently pronated, and both enter into the formation of the elbow and wrist joints; the eight bones of the wrist are arranged in two rows, and the five metacarpals are short and robust, five fingers being attached to them, but concealed by the thick and overhanging skin, with the exception of the ends.
The pelvic bones are large, to accommodate the powerful muscles to which they give origin; the ilia are broad, rounded anteriorly and concave toward the abdomen; the femur is simple in shape, comparatively smooth, resembling considerably that of man; this resemblance is continued in the leg and tarsus; the os calcis is very large and prominent; the metatarsus consists of five bones, the external one being imperfectly developed; the toes are also five, each consisting of three bones, except the outer, which has one, all encased in the thick skin, the division being indicated only by the projecting extremities. The bones of the elephant may be easily distinguished from those of other quadrupeds; they resemble, except in size, the bones of man, particularly the cervical and dorsal vertebra3, the shoulder blade and pelvis, the femur, tarsus, and the bones of the metacarpus and metatarsus; so that it is not surprising that even anatomists, ignorant of the elephant's skeleton, should have mistaken their recent and fossil bones for the remains of gigantic human beings. The food of the elephant is entirely vegetable, and must be immense in quantity, and the digestive apparatus is accordingly largely developed.
The stomach is simple, of a lengthened and narrow form, its cardiac extremity being prolonged into a pouch of considerable size, its internal membrane divided into thick folds and transverse wrinkles, and its muscular coat very thick; the small intestines are voluminous, and the large of enormous size; in a moderate-sized animal the intestinal canal was 60 ft. long, the small intestines being 38 ft., the caecum 1 1/2, and the large 20 1/2 ft.; the circumference of the first being 2 ft., of the second 5 ft., and of the last (colon) 6 ft. The gall bladder is situated between the coats of the duodenum, and is divided by transverse partitions into four compartments; the spleen is 4 ft. long. The heart resembles that of the rodents in having three venae cavae opening into the right auricle, two above and one below, and the Eustachian valve is furnished with a rudimentary superior division. The brain is small in proportion to the size of the animal; in one 7 1/2 ft. high the whole organ weighed but 9 lbs., and in another 9 ft. high the internal capacity of the cranium was only 354 in., being less than three times the weight of the human brain, and less than four times the capacity of the Caucasian skull; the convolutions are well marked, and the cerebellum is proportionately very large; the fifth pair of nerves, which supply the trunk, are enormously developed.
The trunk of the elephant is an elongated nose, but is chiefly an organ of touch, though capable of being used for smelling; it forms a conical mass, 4 or 5 ft. long, gradually tapering to the end, which is provided with a thumb-like appendage, endowed with a most delicate sense of touch, and capable of picking up a needle; it contains a double tube, strengthened by membranes, extending up as far as the bony nostrils, just before which they form a sudden curve; the true nasal passages are provided with a valve by which the cavity of the trunk may be cut off from the nose, a provision rendered necessary when the animal takes fluid into the former. The great bulk of this organ is made up of transverse and longitudinal muscles so arranged that the trunk may be elongated, shortened, raised, and bent in any desired direction, with the precision of the human hand. Though the trunk is capable of performing the most delicate operations, it is also an organ of great strength and a weapon of the most formidable character; with it the animal tears the branches from trees in its search for food, performs the heaviest tasks for his human owner, and defends himself from his smaller enemies; with it he introduces food and drink into his mouth, which, from the shortness of his neck, he cannot bring to the ground; by inspiring through the trunk he fills it with water, which he discharges into his mouth or in refreshing showers over his back.
So important is this organ that the animal's first act when in danger is to raise it above his head; when hunting the tiger or other wild animal, he carries it high in the air; any wound of it seems to render him helpless; in ordinary cases he rarely uses it to strike an object. When crossing deep rivers the body is deeply immersed, and respiration can be carried oh with only the tip of the trunk above water. The sense of smell is acute, though not resident in the trunk proper, as is indicated by the extent of the frontal and maxillary sinuses communicating with the nose; the sphenoidal sinuses are also of unusual dimensions. The sense of hearing is also acute, as it should be for an animal living in thick woods and jungles, in which vision can hardly detect the approach of an enemy; the ear communicates with extensive bony cells, and the external auricle is large to collect the sounds and convey them to the tympanum. The eye is small, but is well protected by thick lids and a nictitating membrane.
The muscular system is of immense strength; and the ligamentum nuchas, which supports the heavy head, is of uncommon size and firmness. - Elephants inhabit the tropical forests of Asia and Africa, living in troops; though often destructive to trees, and especially to saccharine plants, they are quiet and inoffensive unless attacked; they prefer well watered regions, where a large herd may frequently be seen guided by some old male, keeping in the shade during midday and feeding at morning and evening; easily alarmed, they retire to the woods at the approach of man, but if pursued will turn and attack him with the greatest fury. Only two species are described, the Asiatic and the African elephant. The Asiatic elephant (elephas Indicus, Cuv.), extensively distributed over S. India and the E. Asiatic islands, has an oblong head, concave forehead, and the crowns of the molars presenting transverse undulating ridges; the ears are small compared with those of the African species. The skin is hard and thick, wrinkled about the legs, neck, and breast; the general color is a brownish gray, mottled sometimes with lighter spots; pure white albinos are very rarely seen; the hairs are few and rigid, most abundant on the head; the feet have live toes, the nails of which are seen beyond the cutaneous envelope.
The usual height is from 7 to 10 ft., that of the females a foot or two less; specimens are on record considerably larger than this, some having a length of 15 ft. and a height of over 12 ft. The period of gestation is about 20 1/2 months; the new-born animal is 3 ft. high, with all its senses perfect; sucking is performed by the mouth, the trunk being turned back, and is continued for a period of nearly two years. The young grow rapidly, being 4 ft. high in the second year, and are said to be suckled indiscriminately by any female in the herd; they attain maturity at about the age of 30 years, and live certainly for 150 years, and probably for 200. The weight of a full-grown elephant is from three to five tons. One kept in London for many years, between 10 and 11 ft. high, consumed daily three trusses of hay and about 200 lbs. of carrots and fresh vegetables, drinking from 60 to 80 gallons of water. Though the elephant will breed in captivity, the supply for domestic and warlike purposes must be kept up by hunting the wild animals and reducing them to servitude.
The favorite way in India is to capture the wild by the aid of tame animals, especially females; these display as much treachery, ingenuity, perseverance, and courage as ever did human seducer to compass the destruction of a victim. Following in the track of the male wild animals, the wily females move gradually toward them, grazing with the same complacency and indifference as if they were inhabitants of the forest; while the females are cajoling a male, the hunters cautiously approach and fasten his legs by ropes to trees, the former distracting the attention of the intended captive, and even assisting in binding the cords; the females then leave him, when he has discovered his condition, to vent his useless rage to his own exhaustion; further reduced by hunger and thirst, he will soon allow himself to be led by his treacherous companions to stations appointed for the training of elephants, where, after a few months' discipline, he becomes quite docile and contented. There are various other modes of taking elephants by female decoys, by stratagem, and by driving.
Elephants, both Asiatic and African, frequently figure in the history of the wars of the Greeks and Romans. Darius III. had a small number of them in his war against Alexander; Porus of India brought a large number into the field against the same-conqueror. Seleucus had hundreds of them in his army at the great battle of Ipsus. Pyrrhus of Epirus, Hannibal, and Antiochus the Great fought with elephants against the Romans, who themselves soon made use of them in their campaigns, and also exhibited them at their public shows, triumphs, and combats of wild animals in the theatres. In the ancient Indian empires elephants formed a necessary appendage to the royal retinue; they were used for show, for warlike purposes, and for carrying burdens. In the East at the present time elephants are employed for transporting baggage, dragging artillery over difficult places, and otherwise in connection with army movements, but without entering into the actual manoeuvres of battle; they exercise their strength and sagacity in lifting, dragging, and pushing with their leather-protected foreheads.
When the elephant gets under full headway, his speed is considerable, and his momentum overcomes all ordinary obstacles; though able to carry an immense weight on a level surface, he is liable to totter and fall backward when forced up considerable elevations; a strong animal can travel 50 miles a day with a burden weighing a ton. The anecdotes illustrating the docility, affection, sagacity, irritability, ca-priciousness, and revengeful spirit of the elephant are innumerable. The natural enemies of the elephant, besides man, are the tiger and the rhinoceros, and the nasal horn of the latter often proves a more formidable weapon than the trunk and tusks of the elephant; the sight of even a dead tiger is enough to excite most elephants into a transport of fury. - The African elephant (E. Africanus, Cuv.; genus loxodonta, F. Cuv.) has a more rounded head, a rather convex forehead, enormously long ears, and cheek teeth with lozenge-shaped divisions of the crown; the generic name of F. Cuvier was founded on the last characteristic. It inhabits Africa from Caffraria to the Niger, living in similar localities and with the same manners as the other species.
The males attain a height of over 12 ft., but decrease in size north of 20° S. latitude; the tusks, however, are larger as you approach the equator; the females are smaller than the males. The natives estimate the height of this species by doubling the circumference of the impression made by the fore foot; this is tolerably accurate for adult animals. In the most favorable localities the African elephant is considerably larger than the Asiatic; but toward the equator the female African is about as large as the Asiatic male. The ear of the African species is sufficient to distinguish it, being often more than 5 ft. long and 4 ft. wide, three times as large as that of the other species; it descends upon the legs, and is frequently used as a sledge at the Cape of Good Hope. From the ancient coins it is evident that this species was known by the old naturalists, and it has been justly said that Aristotle knew it better than did Button. It seems to be a dainty feeder, selecting the sweetest fruits and vegetable matters containing sugar, mucilage, and gum; there is a dwarfish evergreen, the speck boom, which forms very dense jungles in Caffraria, utterly useless on account of its pithy branches even for fuel; this is a favorite food of elephants, which formerly frequented this region in large herds, whose paths are still discernible on the hillsides, and whose bones are still bleaching in all directions.
From this selection of food they are not so injurious to the vegetation of a district as would be supposed, quality being more requisite than quantity. Most of the native tribes hunt them more for their flesh than their ivory, the latter, until the advent of Europeans, being of little value to them except for rings and ornaments; the flesh is much relished as food, and the internal fat is highly prized for domestic and medicinal purposes. They hunted them with light javelins of their own making, overpowering them by numbers. This species is wilder and fiercer than the Asiatic elephant, defending its young with great courage, and furiously attacking the hunter; though not domesticated in modern I times, it probably might be as easily as the other species, were the same pains taken to tame and train it; it can hardly be doubted that the elephants used by the Cartha-ginians in their wars with the Romans were of African origin. The male tusk is from 6 to 8 ft. long, and weighs from 60 to 100 lbs.; Cumming mentions a single one in his possession 10 3/4 ft. long, and weighing 173 lbs.; the price which they bring in the English market | is from £22 to £32 per 112 lbs., according to quality.
Such is the terror which these animals have acquired from the persecutions of man, that a child will put a herd to flight; they are very difficult to hunt, from their hiding themselves in the most remote and inaccessible forests, going often 20 miles by night to water. When at ease they sleep on their sides, but when liable to be disturbed they sleep standing; their gait, when natural, is bold, free, light, and graceful. Cumming in his "Hunter's Life in South Africa" gives an interesting description of the manner in which the Bechuanas cook the feet and trunk of the elephant in hot earth and sand. In his ex-perience from 5 to 30 rifle shots were necessary ! to kill an elephant, and the best place to direct them is just behind the shoulder; it is useless to aim at the front of the head, as the chances of a ball penetrating the brain from this direction are very small. Sir Samuel Baker in his "Rifle and Hound in Ceylon," however, says that he was accustomed to kill elephants by a single rifle shot directly in the forehead. - Many species of fossil elephants are described from the drift of Europe and Asia; the best known of these, the E. primigenius (Cuv.), will be treated in the article Mammoth, which is the common name; their remains have been abundantly found in Siberia, and fossil ivory from this source has been an important object of trade.
The fossil elephants of Europe resemble most the Asiatic species, but they were more bulky, with larger tusks, narrower teeth, and with the skin covered with hair and wool to enable them to dwell in climates colder than any in which these animals are now found, though not in a climate so rigorous as that of Siberia at the present time, which would be unable to furnish the necessary vegetable food. Fossil species resembling the African, and others with mastodon-like teeth, have been found in the Himalaya mountains by Cautley and Falconer. The fossil elephant of North America is said by Prof. H. D. Rogers to occur above the drift, in the superficial deposits of a distinctly later age; it must therefore have been contemporary with the mastodon gigantens; indeed their bones and teeth have been found side by side in the marshy alluvium of Big Bone Lick, and the two animals must have been exterminated together.