Sketches of Natural History of Ceylon
J. Emerson Tennent

Part 3 out of 12

take up its heavy burthen, trim and balance it on its tusks, and resume
its route as before, hoarsely snorting its discontented remonstrance.

Between the African elephant and that of Ceylon, with the exception of
the striking peculiarity of the infrequency of tusks in the latter, the
distinctions are less apparent to a casual observer than to a scientific
naturalist. In the Ceylon species the forehead is higher and more
hollow, the ears are smaller, and, in a section of the teeth, the
grinding ridges, instead of being lozenge-shaped, are transverse bars of
uniform breadth.

The Indian elephant is stated by Cuvier to have four nails on the hind
foot, the African variety having only three: but amongst the perfections
of a high-bred elephant of Ceylon, is always enumerated the possession
of _twenty_ nails, whilst those of a secondary class have but eighteen
in all.[1]

[Footnote 1: See Chapter on Mammalia, p. 60.]

So conversant are the natives with the structure and "points" of the
elephant, that they divide them readily into castes, and describe with
particularity their distinctive excellences and defects. In the
_Hastisilpe_, a Singhalese work which treats of their management, the
marks of inferior breeding are said to be "eyes restless like those of a
crow, the hair of the head of mixed shades; the face wrinkled; the
tongue curved and black; the nails short and green; the ears small; the
neck thin, the skin freckled; the tail without a tuft, and the
fore-quarter lean and low:" whilst the perfection of form and beauty is
supposed to consist in the "softness of the skin, the red colour of the
mouth and tongue, the forehead expanded and hollow, the ears broad and
rectangular, the trunk broad at the root and blotched with pink in
front; the eyes bright and kindly, the cheeks large, the neck full, the
back level, the chest square, the fore legs short and convex in front,
the hind quarter plump, and five nails on each foot, all smooth,
polished, and round.[1] An elephant with these perfections," says the
author of the _Hastisilpe_, "will impart glory and magnificence to the
king; but he cannot be discovered amongst thousands, yea, there shall
never be found an elephant clothed at once with _all_ the excellences
herein described." The "points" of an elephant are to be studied with
the greatest advantage in those attached to the temples, which are
always of the highest caste, and exhibit the most perfect breeding.

[Footnote 1: A native of rank informed me, that "the tail of a
high-caste elephant will sometimes touch the ground, but such are very

The colour of the animal's skin in a state of nature is generally of a
lighter brown than that of those in captivity; a distinction which
arises, in all probability, not so much from the wild animal's
propensity to cover itself with mud and dust, as from the superior care
which is taken in repeatedly bathing the tame ones, and in rubbing their
skins with a soft stone, a lump of burnt clay, or the coarse husk of a
coco-nut. This kind of attention, together with the occasional
application of oil, gives rise to the deeper black which the hides of
the latter present.

Amongst the native Singhalese, however, a singular preference is evinced
for elephants that exhibit those flesh-coloured blotches which
occasionally mottle the skin of an elephant, chiefly about the head and
extremities. The front of the trunk, the tips of the ears, the forehead,
and occasionally the legs, are thus diversified with stains of a
yellowish tint, inclining to pink. These are not natural; nor are they
hereditary, for they are seldom exhibited by the younger individuals in
a herd, but appear to be the result of some eruptive affection, the
irritation of which has induced the animal in its uneasiness to rub
itself against the rough bark of trees, and thus to destroy the outer

[Footnote 1: This is confirmed by the fact that the scar of the ancle
wound, occasioned by the rope on the legs of those which have been
captured by noosing, presents precisely the same tint in the healed

To a European these spots appear blemishes, and the taste that leads the
natives to admire them is probably akin to the feeling that has at all
times rendered a _white elephant_ an object of wonder to Asiatics. The
rarity of the latter is accounted for by regarding this peculiar
appearance as the result of albinism; and notwithstanding the
exaggeration of Oriental historians, who compare the fairness of such
creatures to the whiteness of snow, even in its utmost perfection, I
apprehend that the tint of a white elephant is little else than a
flesh-colour, rendered somewhat more conspicuous by the blanching of the
skin, and the lightness of the colourless hairs by which it is sparsely
covered. A white elephant is mentioned in the _Mahawanso_ as forming
part of the retinue attached to the "Temple of the Tooth" at
Anarajapoora, in the fifth century after Christ[1]; but it commanded no
religious veneration, and like those in the stud of the kings of Siam,
it was tended merely as an emblem of royalty[2]; the sovereign of Ceylon
being addressed as the "Lord of Elephants."[3] In 1633 a white elephant
was exhibited in Holland[4]; but as this was some years before the Dutch
had established themselves firmly in Ceylon, it was probably brought
from some other of their eastern possessions.

[Footnote 1: _Mahawanso_, ch. xxxviii. p. 254, A.D. 433.]

[Footnote 2: PALLEGOIX, _Siam, &c._, vol. i. p. 152.]

[Footnote 3: _Mahawanso_, ch. xviii. p. 111. The Hindu sovereigns of
Orissa, in the middle ages, bore the style of _Gaja-pati_, "powerful in
elephants."--_Asiat. Res_. xv. 253.]

[Footnote 4: ARMANDI, _Hist. Milit. des Elephants_, lib. ii. c. x. p.
380. HORACE mentions a white elephant as having been exhibited at Rome:
"Sive elephas albus vulgi converteret ora."--HOR. _Ep_. II. 196.]



* * * * *

_Habits when Wild_.

Although found generally in warm and sunny climates, it is a mistake to
suppose that the elephant is partial either to heat or to light. In
Ceylon, the mountain tops, and not the sultry valleys, are its favourite
resort. In Oovah, where the elevated plains are often crisp with the
morning frost, and on Pedura-talla-galla, at the height of upwards of
eight thousand feet, they are found in herds, whilst the hunter may
search for them without success in the hot jungles of the low country.
No altitude, in fact, seems too lofty or too chill for the elephant,
provided it affords the luxury of water in abundance; and, contrary to
the general opinion that the elephant delights in sunshine, it seems at
all times impatient of glare, and spends the day in the thickest depth
of the forests, devoting the night to excursions, and to the luxury of
the bath, in which it also indulges occasionally by day. This partiality
for shade is doubtless ascribable to the animal's love of coolness and
solitude; but it is not altogether unconnected with the position of the
eye, and the circumscribed use which its peculiar mode of life permits
it to make of the faculty of sight.

All the elephant hunters and natives to whom I have spoken on the
subject, concur in opinion that its range of vision is circumscribed,
and that it relies more on its ear and sense of smell than on its sight,
which is liable to be obstructed by dense foliage; besides which, from
the formation of its short neck, the elephant is incapable of directing
the range of the eye much above the level of the head.[1]

[Footnote 1: After writing the above, I was permitted by the late Dr.
HARRISON, of Dublin, to see some accurate drawings of the brain of an
elephant, which he had the opportunity of dissecting in 1847; and on
looking to that of the base, I have found a remarkable verification of
the information which I collected in Ceylon.

The small figure A is the ganglion of the fifth nerve, showing the small
motor and large sensitive portion.


The _olfactory lobes_, from which the olfactory nerves proceed, are
large, whilst the _optic and muscular nerves of the orbit are singularly
small_ for so vast an animal; and one is immediately struck by the
prodigious size of the fifth nerve, which supplies the proboscis with
its exquisite sensibility, as well as by the great size of the motor
portion of the seventh, which supplies the same organ with its power of
movement and action.]

The elephant's small range of vision is sufficient to account for its
excessive caution, its alarm at unusual noises, and the timidity and
panic exhibited at trivial objects and incidents which, imperfectly
discerned, excite suspicions for its safety.[1] In 1841 an officer[2]
was chased by an elephant that he had slightly wounded. Seizing him near
the dry bed of a river, the animal had its forefoot already raised to
crush him; but its forehead being caught at the instant by the tendrils
of a climbing plant which had suspended itself from the branches above,
it suddenly turned and fled; leaving him badly hurt, but with no limb
broken. I have heard similar instances, equally well attested, of this
peculiarity in the elephant.

[Footnote 1: _Menageries, &c._, "The Elephant," p. 27.]

[Footnote 2: Major ROGERS. An account of this singular adventure will be
found in the _Ceylon Miscellany_ for 1842, vol. i. p. 221.]

On the other hand, the power of smell is so remarkable as almost to
compensate for the deficiency of sight. A herd is not only apprised of
the approach of danger by this means, but when scattered in the forest,
and dispersed out of range of sight, they are enabled by it to
reassemble with rapidity and adopt precautions for their common safety.
The same necessity is met by a delicate sense of hearing, and the use of
a variety of noises or calls, by means of which elephants succeed in
communicating with each other upon all emergencies. "The sounds which
they utter have been described by the African hunters as of three kinds:
the first, which is very shrill, produced by blowing through the trunk,
is indicative of pleasure; the second, produced by the mouth, is
expressive of want; and the third, proceeding from the throat, is a
terrific roar of anger or revenge."[1] These words convey but an
imperfect idea of the variety of noises made by the elephant in Ceylon;
and the shrill cry produced by blowing through his trunk, so far from
being regarded as an indication of "pleasure," is the well-known cry of
rage with which he rushes to encounter an assailant. ARISTOTLE describes
it as resembling the hoarse sound of a "trumpet."[2] The French still
designate the proboscis of an elephant by the same expression "trompe,"
(which we have unmeaningly corrupted into _trunk_,) and hence the scream
of the elephant is known as "trumpeting" by the hunters in Ceylon. Their
cry when in pain, or when subjected to compulsion, is a grunt or a deep
groan from the throat, with the proboscis curled upwards and the lips
wide apart.

[Footnote 1: _Menageries, &c._, "The Elephant," ch. iii. p. 68.]

[Footnote 2: ARISTOTLE, _De Anim_., lib. iv. c. 9. "[Greek: homoion
salpingi]." See also PLINY, lib. x. ch. cxiii. A manuscript in the
British Museum, containing the romance of "_Alexander_" which is
probably of the fifteenth century, is interspersed with drawings
illustrative of the strange animals of the East. Amongst them are two
elephants, whose trunks are literally in form of _trumpets with expanded
mouths_. See WRIGHT'S _Archaeological Album_, p. 176.]

Should the attention of an individual in the herd be attracted by any
unusual appearance in the forest, the intelligence is rapidly
communicated by a low suppressed sound made by the lips, somewhat
resembling the twittering of a bird, and described by the hunters by the
word "_prut_."

A very remarkable noise has been described to me by more than one
individual, who has come unexpectedly upon a herd during the night, when
the alarm of the elephants was apparently too great to be satisfied with
the stealthy note of warning just described. On these occasions the
sound produced resembled the hollow booming of an empty tun when struck
with a wooden mallet or a muffled sledge. Major MACREADY, Military
Secretary in Ceylon in 1836, who heard it by night amongst the wild
elephants in the great forest of Bintenne, describes it as "a sort of
banging noise like a cooper hammering a cask;" and Major SKINNER is of
opinion that it must be produced by the elephant striking his sides
rapidly and forcibly with his trunk. Mr. CRIPPS informs me that he has
more than once seen an elephant, when surprised or alarmed, produce this
sound by striking the ground forcibly with the flat side of the trunk;
and this movement was instantly succeeded by raising it again, and
pointing it in the direction whence the alarm proceeded, as if to
ascertain by the sense of smell the nature of the threatened danger. As
this strange sound is generally mingled with the bellowing and ordinary
trumpeting of the herd, it is in all probability a device resorted to,
not alone for warning their companions of some approaching peril, but
also for the additional purpose of terrifying unseen intruders.[1]

[Footnote 1: PALLEGOIX, in his _Description du Royaume Thai ou Siam_,
adverts to a sound produced by the elephant when weary: "quand il est
fatigue, _il frappe la terre avec sa_ trompe, et en tire un son
semblable a celui du cor."--Tom. i. p. 151.]

Elephants are subject to deafness; and the Singhalese regard as the most
formidable of all wild animals, a "rogue"[1] afflicted with this

[Footnote 1: For an explanation of the term "rogue" as applied to an
elephant, see p. 115.]

Extravagant estimates are recorded of the height of the elephant. In an
age when popular fallacies in relation to him were as yet uncorrected in
Europe by the actual inspection of the living animal, he was supposed to
grow to the height of twelve or fifteen feet. Even within the last
century in popular works on natural history, the elephant, when full
grown, was said to measure from seventeen to twenty feet from the ground
to the shoulder.[1] At a still later period, so imperfectly had the
facts been collated, that the elephant of Ceylon was believed "to excel
that of Africa in size and strength."[2] But so far from equalling the
size of the African species, that of Ceylon seldom exceeds the height of
nine feet; even in the Hambangtotte country, where the hunters agree
that the largest specimens are to be found, the tallest of ordinary
herds do not average more than eight feet. WOLF, in his account of the
Ceylon elephant[3], says he saw one taken near Jaffna, which measured
twelve feet and one inch high. But the truth is, that the general bulk
of the elephant so far exceeds that of the animals which we are
accustomed to see daily, that the imagination magnifies its unusual
dimensions; and I have seldom or ever met with an inexperienced
spectator who did not unconsciously over-estimate the size of an
elephant shown to him, whether in captivity or in a state of nature.
Major DENHAM would have guessed some which he saw in Africa to be
sixteen feet in height, but the largest when killed was found to measure
nine feet six, from the foot to the hip-bone.[4]

[Footnote 1: _Natural History of Animals_. By Sir JOHN HILL, M.D.
London, 1748-52, p. 565. A probable source of these false estimates is
mentioned by a writer in the _Indian Sporting Review_ for Oct. 1857.
"Elephants were measured formerly, and even now, by natives, as to their
height, by throwing a rope over them, the ends brought to the ground on
each side, and half the length taken as the true height. Hence the
origin of elephants fifteen and sixteen feet high. A rod held at right
angles to the measuring rod, and parallel to the ground, will rarely
give more than ten feet, the majority being under nine."--P. 159.]

[Footnote 2: SHAW'S _Zoology_. Lond. 1806. vol. i. p. 216; ARMANDI,
_Hist. Milit. des Elephans_, liv. i. ch. i. p. 2.]

[Footnote 3: WOLF'S _Life and Adventures, &c_., p. 164. Wolf was a
native of Mecklenburg, who arrived in Ceylon about 1750, as chaplain in
one of the Dutch East Indiamen, and having been taken into the
government employment, he served for twenty years at Jaffna, first as
Secretary to the Governor, and afterwards in an office the duties of
which he describes to be the examination and signature of the "writings
which served to commence a suit in any of the Courts of justice." His
book embodies a truthful and generally accurate account of the northern
portion of the island, with which alone he was conversant, and his
narrative gives a curious insight into the policy of the Dutch
Government, and of the condition of the natives under their dominion.]

[Footnote 4: DENHAM'S _Travels, &c_., 4to p. 220. The fossil remains of
the Indian elephant have been discovered at Jabalpur, showing a height
of fifteen feet.--_Journ. Asiat. Soc. Beng_. vi. Professor ANSTED in his
_Ancient World_, p. 197, says he was informed by Dr. Falconer "that out
of eleven hundred elephants from which the tallest were selected and
measured with care, on one occasion in India, there was not one whose
height equalled eleven feet."]

For a creature of such extraordinary weight it is astonishing how
noiselessly and stealthily the elephant can escape from a pursuer. When
suddenly disturbed in the jungle, it will burst away with a rush that
seems to bear down all before it; but the noise sinks into absolute
stillness so suddenly, that a novice might well be led to suppose that
the fugitive had only halted within a few yards of him, when further
search will disclose that it has stolen silently away, making scarcely a
sound in its escape; and, stranger still, leaving the foliage almost
undisturbed by its passage.

The most venerable delusion respecting the elephant, and that which held
its ground with unequalled tenacity, is the ancient fallacy which is
explained by SIR THOMAS BROWNE in his _Pseudodoxia Epidemica_, that "it
hath no joynts; and this absurdity is seconded by another, that being
unable to lye downe it sleepeth against a tree, which the hunters
observing doe saw almost asunder, whereon the beast relying, by the fall
of the tree falls also downe it-selfe and is able to rise no more."[1]
Sir THOMAS is disposed to think that "the hint and ground of this
opinion might be the grosse and somewhat cylindricall composure of the
legs of the elephant, and the equality and lesse perceptible disposure
of the joynts, especially in the forelegs of this animal, they
appearing, when he standeth, like pillars of flesh;" but he overlooks
the fact that PLINY has ascribed the same peculiarity to the
Scandinavian beast somewhat resembling a horse, which he calls a
"machlis,"[2] and that CAESAR in describing the wild animals in the
Hercynian forests, enumerates the _alce_, "in colour and configuration
approaching the goat, but surpassing it in size, its head destitute of
horns _and its limbs of joints_, whence it can neither lie down to rest,
nor rise if by any accident it should fall, but using the trees for a
resting-place, the hunters by loosening their roots bring the _alce_ to
the ground, so soon as it is tempted to lean on them."[3] This fallacy,
as Sir THOMAS BROWNE says, is "not the daughter of latter times, but an
old and grey-headed errour, even in the days of ARISTOTLE," who deals
with the story as he received it from CTESIAS, by whom it appears to
have been embodied in his lost work on India. But although ARISTOTLE
generally receives the credit of having exposed and demolished the
fallacy of CTESIAS, it will be seen by a reference to his treatise _On
the Progressive Motions of Animals_, that in reality he approached the
question with some hesitation, and has not only left it doubtful in one
passage whether the elephant has joints _in his knee_, although he
demonstrates that it has joints in the shoulders[4]; but in another he
distinctly affirms that on account of his weight the elephant cannot
bend his forelegs together, but only one at a time, and reclines to
sleep on that particular side.[5]

[Footnote 1: _Vulgar Errors_, book iii. chap. 1.]

[Footnote 2: Machlis (said to be derived from _a_, priv., and [Greek:
klino], _cubo_, quod non cubat). "Moreover in the island of Scandinavia
there is a beast called _Machlis_, that hath neither ioynt in the hough,
nor pasternes in his hind legs, and therefore he never lieth down, but
sleepeth leaning to a tree, wherefore the hunters that lie in wait for
these beasts cut downe the trees while they are asleepe, and so take
them; otherwise they should never be taken, they are so swift of foot
that it is wonderful."--PLINY, _Natur. Hist._ Transl. Philemon Holland,
book viii. ch. xv. p. 200.]

[Footnote 3: "Sunt item quae appellantur _Alces_. Harum est consimilis
capreis figura, et varietas pellium; sed magnitudine paulo antecedunt,
mutilaeque sunt cornibus, _et crura sine nodis articulisque habent_;
neque quietis causa procumbunt; neque, si quo afflictae casu considerunt,
erigere sese aut sublevare possunt. His sunt arbores pro cubilibus; ad
eas sese applicant, atque ita, paulum modo reclinatae, quietem capiunt,
quarum ex vestigiis cum est animadversum a venatoribus, quo se recipere
consueverint, omnes eo loco, aut a radicibus subruunt aut accidunt
arbores tantum, ut summa species earum stantium relinquatur. Huc cum se
consuetudine reclinaverint, infirmas arbores pondere affligunt, atque
una ipsae concidunt."--CAESAR, _De Bello Gall_. lib. vi. ch. xxvii.

The same fiction was extended by the early Arabian travellers to the
rhinoceros, and in the MS. of the voyages of the "_Two Mahometans_" it
is stated that the rhinoceros of Sumatra "n'a point d'articulation au
genou ni a la main."--_Relations des Voyages, &c._, Paris, 1845, vol. i.
p. 29.]

[Footnote 4: When an animal moves progressively an hypothenuse is
produced, which is equal in power to the magnitude that is quiescent,
and to that which is intermediate. But since the members are equal, it
is necessary that the member which is quiescent should be inflected
either in the knee or in the incurvation, _if the animal that walks is
without knees_. It is possible, however, for the leg to be moved, when
not inflected, in the same manner as infants creep; and there is an
ancient report of this kind about elephants, which is not true, for such
animals as these, _are moved in consequence of an inflection taking
place either in their shoulders or hips_."--ARISTOTLE, _De Ingressu
Anim._, ch. ix. Taylor's Transl.]

[Footnote 5: ARISTOTLE, _De Animal_., lib. ii. ch. i. It is curious that
Taylor, in his translation of this passage, was so strongly imbued with
the "grey-headed errour," that in order to elucidate the somewhat
obscure meaning of Aristotle, he has actually interpolated the text with
the exploded fallacy of Ctesias, and after the word reclining to sleep,
has inserted the words "_leaning against some wall or tree_," which are
not to be found in the original.]

So great was the authority of ARISTOTLE, that AELIAN, who wrote two
centuries later and borrowed many of his statements from the works of
his predecessor, perpetuates this error; and, after describing the
exploits of the trained elephants exhibited at Rome, adds the expression
of his surprise, that an animal without joints ([Greek: anarthron])
should yet be able to dance.[1] The fiction was too agreeable to be
readily abandoned by the poets of the Lower Empire and the Romancers of
the middle ages; and PHILE, a contemporary of PETRARCH and DANTE, who in
the early part of the fourteenth century, addressed his didactic poem on
the elephant to the Emperor Andronicus II., untaught by the exposition
of ARISTOTLE, still clung to the old delusion,

"Podes de toutps thauma kai saphes teras,
Ous, ou kathaper talla ton zoon gene,
Eiothe kinein ex anarthron klasmaton,
Kai gar stibarois syntethentes osteois,
Kai te pladara ton sphyron katastasei,
Kai te pros arthra ton skelon hypokrisei,
Nyn eis tonous agousi, nyn eis hypheseis,
Tas pantodapas ekdromas tou theriou.

* * * * *

Brachyterous ontas de ton opisthion
'Anamphilektos oida tous emprosthious
Toutois elephas entatheis osper stylois
'Orthostaden akamptos hypnotton menei."]
v. 106, &c.

[Footnote 1: [Greek: "Zpson de anarthron sunienai kai rhuthmou kai
melous, kai phylattein schema physeos dora tauta hama kai idiotes kath'
ekaston ekplektike]."--AELIAN, _De Nat. Anim_., lib. ii. cap. xi.]

SOLINUS introduced the same fable into his _Polyhistor_; and DICUIL, the
Irish commentator of the ninth century, who had an opportunity of seeing
the elephant sent by Haroun Alraschid as a present to Charlemagne[1] in
the year 802, corrects the error, and attributes its perpetuation to the
circumstance that the joints in the elephant's leg are not very
apparent, except when he lies down.[2]

[Footnote 1: Eginhard, _Vita Karoli_, c. xvi. and _Annales Francorum_,
A.D. 810.]

[Footnote 2: "Sed idem Julius, unum de elephantibus mentions, falso
loquitur; dicens elephantem nunquam jacere; dum ille sicut bos
certissime jacet, ut populi communiter regni Francorum elephantem, in
tempore Imperatoris Karoli viderunt. Sed, forsitan, ideo hoc de
elephante ficte aestimando scriptum est, eo quod genua et suffragines sui
nisi quando jacet, non palam apparent."--DICUILUS, _De Mensura Orbis
Terrae_, c. vii.]

It is a strong illustration of the vitality of error, that the delusion
thus exposed by Dicuil in the ninth century, was revived by MATTHEW
PARIS in the thirteenth; and stranger still, that Matthew not only saw
but made a drawing of the elephant presented to King Henry III. by the
King of France in 1255, in which he nevertheless represents the legs as
without joints.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Cotton MSS_. NERO. D. 1. fol. 168, b.]

In the numerous mediaeval treatises on natural history, known under the
title of _Bestiaries_, this delusion regarding the elephant is often
repeated; and it is given at length in a metrical version of the
_Physiologus_ of THEOBALDUS, amongst the Arundel Manuscripts in the
British Museum.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Arundel MSS_. No. 292, fol. 4, &c. It has been printed in
the _Reliquiae Antiquae_, vol. i. p. 208, by Mr. WRIGHT, to whom I am
indebted for the following rendering of the passage referred to:--

in water ge sal stonden
in water to mid side
that wanne hire harde tide
that ge ne falle nither nogt
that it most in hire thogt
for he ne haven no lith
that he mugen risen with, etc.

"They will stand in the water,
in water up to the middle of the side,
that when it comes to them hard,
they may not fall down:
that is most in their thought,
for they have no joint
to enable them to rise again.
How he resteth him this animal,
when he walketh abroad,
hearken how it is here told.
For he is all unwieldy,
forsooth he seeks out a tree,
that it strong and stedfast,
and leans confidently against it,
when he is weary of walking.
The hunter has observed this,
who seeks to ensnare him,
where his usual dwelling is,
to do his will;
saws this tree and props it
in the manner that he best may,
covers it well that he (the elephant) may not be on his guard.
Then he makes thereby a seat,
himself sits alone and watches
whether his trap takes effect.
Then cometh this unwieldy elephant,
and leans him on his side,
rests against the tree in the shadow,
and so both fall together.
If nobody be by when he falls,
he roars ruefully and calls for help,
roars ruefully in his manner,
hopes he shall through help rise.
Then cometh there one (elephant) in haste,
hopes he shall cause him to stand up;
labours and tries all his might,
but he cannot succeed a bit.
He knows then no other remedy,
but roars with his brother,
many and large (elephants) come there in search,
thinking to make him get up,
but for the help of them all
he may not get up.
Then they all roar one roar,
like the blast of a horn or the sound of bell,
for their great roaring
a young one cometh running,
stoops immediately to him,
puts his snout under him,
and asks the help of them all;
this elephant they raise on his legs:
and thus fails this hunter's trick,
in the manner that I have told you."]

With the Provencal song writers, the helplessness of the fallen elephant
was a favourite simile, and amongst others RICHARD DE BARBEZIEUX, in the
latter half of the twelfth century, sung[1],

"Atressi cum l'olifans
Que quan chai no s'pot levar."

[Footnote 1: One of the most venerable authorities by whom the fallacy
was transmitted to modern times was PHILIP de THAUN, who wrote, about
the year 1121, A.D., his _Livre des Creatures_, dedicated to Adelaide of
Louvaine, Queen of Henry I. of England. In the copy of it printed by the
Historical Society of Science in 1841, and edited by Mr. WRIGHT, the
following passage occurs:--

"Et Ysidre nus dit ki le elefant descrit,

* * * * *

Es jambes par nature nen ad que une jointure,
Il ne pot pas gesir quant il se volt dormir,
Ke si cuchet estait par sei nen leverait;
Pur ceo li stot apuier, el lui del cucher,
U a arbre u a mur, idunc dort aseur.

E le gent de la terre, ki li volent conquere,
Li mur enfunderunt, u le arbre enciserunt;
Quant li elefant vendrat, ki s'i apuierat,
La arbre u le mur carrat, e il tribucherat;
Issi faiterement le parnent cele gent."
P. 100.]

As elephants were but rarely seen in Europe prior to the seventeenth
century, there were but few opportunities of correcting the popular
fallacy by ocular demonstration. Hence SHAKSPEARE still believed that,

"The elephant hath joints; but none for courtesy:
His legs are for necessity, not flexure:"[1]

and DONNE sang of

"Nature's great masterpiece, an Elephant;
The only harmless great thing:
Yet Nature hath given him no knee to bend:
Himself he up-props, on himself relies;
Still sleeping stands."[2]

[Footnote 1: _Troilus and Cressida_, act ii. sc. 3. A.D. 1609.]

[Footnote 2: _Progress of the Soul_, A.D. 1633.]

Sir THOMAS BROWNE, while he argues against the delusion, does not fail
to record his suspicion, that "although the opinion at present be
reasonably well suppressed, yet from the strings of tradition and
fruitful recurrence of errour, it was not improbable it might revive in
the next generation;"[1]--an anticipation which has proved singularly
correct; for the heralds still continued to explain that the elephant is
the emblem of watchfulness, "_nec jacet in somno,"_[2] and poets almost
of our own times paint the scene when

"Peaceful, beneath primeval trees, that cast
Their ample shade on Niger's yellow stream,
Or where the Ganges rolls his sacred waves,
_Leans_ the huge Elephant."[3]

[Footnote 1: Sir T. BROWNE, _Vulgar Errors_, A.D. 1646.]

[Footnote 2: RANDAL HOME'S _Academy of Armory_, A.D. 1671. HOME
only perpetuated the error of GUILLAM, who wrote his _Display of
Heraldry_ in A.D. 1610; wherein he explains that the elephant is
"so proud of his strength that he never bows himself to any
(_neither indeed can he_), and when he is once down he cannot
rise up again."--Sec. III. ch. xii. p. 147.]

[Footnote 3: THOMSON'S _Seasons_, A.D. 1728.]

It is not difficult to see whence this antiquated delusion took its
origin; nor is it, as Sir THOMAS BROWNE imagined, to be traced
exclusively "to the grosse and cylindricall structure" of the animal's
legs. The fact is, that the elephant, returning in the early morning
from his nocturnal revels in the reservoirs and water-courses, is
accustomed to rub his muddy sides against a tree, and sometimes
against a rock if more convenient. In my rides through the northern
forests, the natives of Ceylon have often pointed out that the
elephants which had preceded me must have been of considerable size,
from the height at which their marks had been left on the trees
against which they had been rubbing. Not unfrequently the animals
themselves, overcome with drowsiness from the night's gambolling, are
found dosing and resting against the trees they had so visited, and in
the same manner they have been discovered by sportsmen asleep, and
leaning against a rock.

It is scarcely necessary to explain that the position is accidental, and
that it is taken by the elephant not from any difficulty in lying at
length on the ground, but rather from the coincidence that the structure
of his legs affords such support in a standing position, that reclining
scarcely adds to his enjoyment of repose; and elephants in a state of
captivity have been known for months together to sleep without lying
down.[1] So distinctive is this formation, and so self-sustaining the
configuration of the limbs, that an elephant shot in the brain, by Major
Rogers in 1836, was killed so instantaneously that it died literally _on
its knees_, and remained resting on them. About the year 1826, Captain
Dawson, the engineer of the great road to Kandy, over the Kaduganava
pass, shot an elephant at Hangwelle on the banks of the Kalany Ganga;
_it remained on its feet_, but so motionless, that after discharging a
few more balls, he was induced to go close to it, and found it dead.

[Footnote 1: So little is the elephant inclined to lie down in
captivity, and even after hard labour, that the keepers are generally
disposed to suspect illness when he betakes himself to this posture.
PHILE, in his poem _De Animalium Proprietate_, attributes the propensity
of the elephant to sleep on his legs, to the difficulty he experiences
in rising to his feet:

'Orthostaden de kai katheudei panychos
'HOt ouk anastesai men eucheros pelei.]

But this is a misapprehension.]

The real peculiarity in the elephant in lying down is, that he extends
his hind legs backwards as a man does when he kneels, instead of
bringing them under him like the horse or any other quadruped. The wise
purpose of this arrangement must be obvious to any one who observes the
struggle with which the horse _gets up_ from the ground, and the violent
efforts which he makes to raise himself erect. Such an exertion in the
case of the elephant, and the force requisite to apply a similar
movement to raise his weight (equal to four or five tons) would be
attended with a dangerous strain upon the muscles, and hence the simple
arrangement, which by enabling him to draw the hind feet gradually under
him, assists him to rise without a perceptible effort.

The same construction renders his gait not a "gallop," as it has been
somewhat loosely described[1], which would be too violent a motion for
so vast a body; but a shuffle, that he can increase at pleasure to a
pace as rapid as that of a man at full speed, but which he cannot
maintain for any considerable distance.

[Footnote 1: _Menageries, &c_. "The elephant," ch. i. Sir CHARLES BELL,
in his essay on _The Hand and its Mechanism_, which forms one of the
"Bridgewater Treatises," has exhibited the reasons deducible from
organisation, which show the incapacity of the elephant to _spring_ or
_leap_ like the horse and other animals whose structure is designed to
facilitate agility and speed. In them the various bones of the shoulder
and fore limbs, especially the clavicle and humerus, are set at such an
angle, that the shock in descending is modified, and the joints and
sockets protected from the injury occasioned by concussion. But in the
elephant, where the weight of the body is immense, the bones of the leg,
in order to present solidify and strength to sustain it, are built in
one firm and perpendicular column; instead of being placed somewhat
obliquely at their points of contact. Thus whilst the force of the
weight in descending is broken and distributed by this arrangement in
the case of the horse; it would be so concentrated in the elephant as to
endanger every joint from the toe to the shoulder.]


It is to the structure of the knee-joint that the elephant is indebted
for his singular facility in ascending and descending steep activities,
climbing rocks and traversing precipitous ledges, where even a mule dare
not venture; and this again leads to the correction of another generally
received error, that his legs are "formed more for strength than
flexibility, and fitted to bear an enormous weight upon a level surface,
without the necessity of ascending or descending great acclivities."[1]
The same authority assumes that, although the elephant is found in the
neighbourhood of mountainous ranges, and will even ascend rocky passes,
such a service is a violation of its natural habits.

[Footnote 1: _Menageries, &c_., "The Elephant," ch. ii.]

Of the elephant of Africa I am not qualified to speak, nor of the nature
of the ground which it most frequents; but certainly the facts in
connection with the elephant of India are all irreconcilable with the
theory mentioned above. In Bengal, in the Nilgherries, in Nepal, in
Burmah, in Siam, Sumatra, and Ceylon, the districts in which the
elephants most abound, are all hilly and mountainous. In the latter,
especially, there is not a range so elevated as to be inaccessible to
them. On the very summit of Adam's Peak, at an altitude of 7,420 feet,
and on a pinnacle which the pilgrims climb with difficulty, by means of
steps hewn in the rock, Major Skinner, in 1840, found the spoor of an

Prior to 1840, and before coffee-plantations had been extensively opened
in the Kandyan ranges, there was not a mountain or a lofty feature of
land of Ceylon which they had not traversed, in their periodical
migrations in search of water; and the sagacity which they display in
"laying out roads" is almost incredible. They generally keep along the
_backbone_ of a chain of hills, avoiding steep gradients: and one
curious observation was not lost upon the government surveyors, that in
crossing the valleys from ridge to ridge, through forests so dense as
altogether to obstruct a distant view, the elephants invariably select
the line of march which communicates most judiciously with the opposite
point, by means of _the safest ford_.[1] So sure-footed are they, that
there are few places where man can go that an elephant cannot follow,
provided there be space to admit his bulk, and solidity to sustain his

[Footnote 1: Dr. HOOKER, in describing the ascent of the Himalayas,
says, the natives in making their paths despise all zigzags, and run in
straight lines up the steepest hill faces; whilst "the elephant's path
is an excellent specimen of engineering--the opposite of the native
track,--for it winds judiciously."--_Himalayan Journal_, vol. i. ch.

This faculty is almost entirely derived from the unusual position, as
compared with other quadrupeds, of the knee joint of the hind leg;
arising from the superior length of the thigh-bone, and the shortness of
the metatarsus: the heel being almost where it projects in man, instead
of being lifted up as a "hock." It is this which enables him, in
descending declivities, to depress and adjust the weight of his hinder
portions, which would otherwise overbalance and force him headlong.[1]
It is by the same arrangement that he is enabled, on uneven ground, to
lift his feet, which are tender and sensitive, with delicacy, and plant
them with such precision as to ensure his own safety as well as that of
objects which it is expedient to avoid touching.

[Footnote 1: Since the above passage was written, I have seen in the
_Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal_, vol. xiii, pt. ii. p. 916, a
paper upon this subject, illustrated by the subjoined diagram.

The writer says, "an elephant descending a bank of too acute an angle to
admit of his walking down it direct, (which, were he to attempt, his
huge tody, soon disarranging the centre of gravity, would certainly
topple over,) proceeds thus. His first manoeuvre is to kneel down close
to the edge of the declivity, placing his chest to the ground: one
fore-leg is then cautiously passed a short way down the slope; and if
there is no natural protection to afford a firm footing, he speedily
forms one by stamping into the soil if moist, or kicking out a footing
if dry. This point gained, the other fore-leg is brought down in the
same way; and performs the same work, a little in advance of the first;
which is thus at liberty to move lower still. Then, first one and then
the second of the hind legs is carefully drawn over the side, and the
hind-feet in turn occupy the resting-places previously used and left by
the fore ones. The course, however, in such precipitous ground is not
straight from top to bottom, but slopes along the face of the bank,
descending till the animal gains the level below. This an elephant has
done, at an angle of 45 degrees, carrying a _howdah_, its occupant, his
attendant, and sporting apparatus; and in a much less time than it takes
to describe the operation." I have observed that an elephant in
descending a declivity uses his knees, on the side next the bank; and
his feet on the lower side only.


A _herd_ of elephants is a family, not a group whom accident or
attachment may have induced to associate together. Similarity of
features and caste attest that, among the various individuals which
compose it, there is a common lineage and relationship. In a herd of
twenty-one elephants, captured in 1844, the trunks of each individual
presented the same peculiar formation,--long, and almost of one uniform
breadth throughout, instead of tapering gradually from the root to the
nostril. In another instance, the eyes of thirty-five taken in one
corral were of the same colour in each. The same slope of the back, the
same form of the forehead, is to be detected in the majority of the same

In the forest several herds will browse in close contiguity, and in
their expeditions in search of water they may form a body of possibly
one or two hundred; but on the slightest disturbance each distinct herd
hastens to re-form within its own particular circle, and to take
measures on its own behalf for retreat or defence.

The natives of any place which may chance to be frequented by elephants,
observe that the numbers of the same herd fluctuate very slightly; and
hunters in pursuit of them, who may chance to have shot one or more,
always reckon with certainty the precise number of those remaining,
although a considerable interval may intervene before they again
encounter them. The proportion of males is generally small, and some
herds have been seen composed exclusively of females; possibly in
consequence of the males having been shot. A herd usually consists of
from ten to twenty individuals, though occasionally they exceed the
latter number; and in their frequent migrations and nightly resort to
tanks and water-courses, alliances are formed between members of
associated herds, which serve to introduce new blood into the family.

In illustration of the attachment of the elephant to its young, the
authority of KNOX has been quoted, that "the shees are alike tender of
any one's young ones as of their own."[1] Their affection in this
particular is undoubted, but I question whether it exceeds that of other
animals; and the trait thus adduced of their indiscriminate kindness to
all the young of the herd,--of which I have myself been an
eye-witness,--so far from being an evidence of the strength of parental
attachment individually, is, perhaps, somewhat inconsistent with the
existence of such a passion to any extraordinary degree.[2] In fact,
some individuals, who have had extensive facilities for observation,
doubt whether the fondness of the female elephants for their offspring
is so great as that of many other animals; as instances are not wanting
in Ceylon, in which, when pursued by the hunters, the herd has abandoned
the young ones in their flight, notwithstanding the cries of the latter
for help.

[Footnote 1: A correspondent of Buffon, M. MARCELLUS BLES, Seigneur de
Moergestal, who resided eleven years in Ceylon in the time of the Dutch,
says in one of his communications, that in herds of forty or fifty,
enclosed in a single corral, there were frequently very young calves;
and that "on ne pouvoit pas reconnaitre quelles etoient les meres de
chacun de ces petits elephans, car tous ces jeunes animaux paroissent
faire manse commune; ils tetent indistinctement celles des femelles de
toute la troupe qui ont du lait, soit qu'elles aient elles-memes un
petit en propre, soit qu'elles n'en aient point."--BUFFON, _Suppl. a
l'Hist. des Anim._, vol. vi. p. 25.]

[Footnote 2: WHITE, in his _Natural History of Selborne_, philosophising
on the fact which had fallen under his own notice of this indiscriminate
suckling of the young of one animal by the parent of another, is
disposed to ascribe it to a selfish feeling; the pleasure and relief of
having its distended teats drawn by this intervention. He notices the
circumstance of a leveret having been thus nursed by a cat, whose
kittens had been recently drowned: and observes, that "this strange
affection was probably occasioned by that desiderium, those tender
maternal feelings, which the loss of her kittens had awakened in her
breast; and by the complacency and ease she derived to herself from
procuring her teats to be drawn, which were too much distended with
milk; till from habit she became as much delighted with this foundling
as if it had been her real offspring. This incident is no bad solution
of that strange circumstance which grave historians, as well as the
poets, assert of exposed children being sometimes nurtured by female
wild beasts that probably had lost their young. For it is not one whit
more marvellous that Romulus and Remus in their infant state should be
nursed by a she wolf than that a poor little suckling leveret should be
fostered and cherished by a bloody Grimalkin."--WHITE'S _Selborne_,
lett. xx.]

In an interesting paper on the habits of the Indian elephant, published
in the _Philosophical Transactions for_ 1793, Mr. CORSE says: "If a wild
elephant happens to be separated from its young for only two days,
though giving suck, she never after recognises or acknowledges it,"
although the young one evidently knows its dam, and by its plaintive
cries and submissive approaches solicits her assistance.

If by any accident an elephant becomes hopelessly separated from his own
herd, he is not permitted to attach himself to any other. He may browse
in the vicinity, or frequent the same place to drink and to bathe; but
the intercourse is only on a distant and conventional footing, and no
familiarity or intimate association is under any circumstances
permitted. To such a height is this exclusiveness carried, that even
amidst the terror and stupefaction of an elephant corral, when an
individual, detached from his own party in the _melee_ and confusion,
has been driven into the enclosure with an unbroken herd, I have seen
him repulsed in every attempt to take refuge among them, and driven off
by heavy blows with their trunks as often as he attempted to insinuate
himself within the circle which they had formed for common security.
There can be no reasonable doubt that this jealous and exclusive policy
not only contributes to produce, but mainly serves to perpetuate, the
class of solitary elephants which are known by the term _goondahs_, in
India, and which from their vicious propensities and predatory habits
are called _Hora_, or _Rogues_, in Ceylon.[1]

It is believed by the Singhalese that these are either individuals, who
by accident have lost their former associates and become morose and
savage from rage and solitude; or else that being naturally vicious they
have become daring from the yielding habits of their milder companions,
and eventually separated themselves from the rest of the herd which had
refused to associate with them. Another conjecture is, that being almost
universally males, the death or capture of particular females may have
detached them from their former companions in search of fresh
alliances.[2] It is also believed that a tame elephant escaping from
captivity, unable to rejoin its former herd, and excluded from any
other, becomes a "_rogue_" from necessity. In Ceylon it is generally
believed that the _rogues_ are all males (but of this I am not certain),
and so sullen is their disposition that although two may be in the same
vicinity, there is no known instance of their associating, or of a
_rogue_ being seen in company with another elephant.

[Footnote 1: The term "rogue" is scarcely sufficiently accounted for by
supposing it to be the English equivalent for the Singhalese word
_Hora_. In that very curious book, the _Life and Adventures of_ JOHN
CHRISTOPHER WOLF, _late principal Secretary at Jaffnapatam in Ceylon_,
the author says, when a male elephant in a quarrel about the females "is
beat out of the field and obliged to go without a consort, he becomes
furious and mad, killing every living creature, be it man or beast: and
in this state is called _ronkedor_, an object of greater terror to a
traveller than a hundred wild ones."--P. 142. In another passage, p.
164, he is called _runkedor_, and I have seen it spelt elsewhere
_ronquedue_, WOLF does not give "_ronkedor_" as a term peculiar to that
section of the island; but both there and elsewhere, it is obsolete at
the present day, unless it be open to conjecture that the modern term
"rogue" is a modification of _ronquedue._]

[Footnote 2: BUCHANAN, in his _Survey of Bhagulpore_, p. 503, says that
solitary males of the wild buffalo, "when driven from the herd by
stronger competitors for female society, are reckoned very dangerous to
meet with; for they are apt to wreak their vengeance on whatever they
meet, and are said to kill annually three or four people." LIVINGSTONE
relates the same of the solitary hippopotamus which becomes soured in
temper, and wantonly attacks the passing canoes.--_Travels in South
Africa_, p. 231.]

They spend their nights in marauding, often about the dwellings of men,
destroying their plantations, trampling down their gardens, and
committing serious ravages in rice grounds and young coco-nut
plantations. Hence from their closer contact with man and his dwellings,
these outcasts become disabused of many of the terrors which render the
ordinary elephant timid and needlessly cautious; they break through
fences without fear; and even in the daylight a _rogue_ has been known
near Ambogammoa to watch a field of labourers at work in reaping rice,
and boldly to walk in amongst them, seize a sheaf from the heap, and
retire leisurely to the jungle. By day they generally seek concealment,
but are frequently to be met with prowling about the by-roads and jungle
paths, where travellers are exposed to the utmost risk from their savage
assaults. It is probable that this hostility to man is the result of the
enmity engendered by those measures which the natives, who have a
constant dread of their visits, adopt for the protection of their
growing crops. In some districts, especially in the low country of
Badulla, the villagers occasionally enclose their cottages with rude
walls of earth and branches to protect them from nightly assaults. In
places infested by them, the visits of European sportsmen to the
vicinity of their haunts are eagerly encouraged by the natives, who
think themselves happy in lending their services to track the ordinary
herds in consideration of the benefit conferred on the village
communities by the destruction of a rogue. In 1847 one of these
formidable creatures frequented for some months the Rangbodde Pass on
the great mountain road leading to the sanatarium, at Neuera-ellia; and
amongst other excesses, killed a Caffre belonging to the corps of Caffre
pioneers, by seizing him with its trunk and beating him to death against
the bank.

To return to the herd: one member of it, usually the largest and most
powerful, is by common consent implicitly followed as leader. A tusker,
if there be one in the party, is generally observed to be the commander;
but a female, if of superior energy, is as readily obeyed as a male. In
fact, in this promotion there is no reason to doubt that supremacy is
almost unconsciously assumed by those endowed with superior vigour and
courage rather than from the accidental possession of greater bodily
strength; and the devotion and loyalty which the herd evince to their
leader are very remarkable. This is more readily seen in the case of a
tusker than any other, because in a herd he is generally the object of
the keenest pursuit by the hunters. On such occasions the others do
their utmost to protect him from danger: when driven to extremity they
place their leader in the centre and crowd so eagerly in front of him
that the sportsmen have to shoot a number which they might otherwise
have spared. In one instance a tusker, which was badly wounded by Major
ROGERS, was promptly surrounded by his companions, who supported him
between their shoulders, and actually succeeded in covering his retreat
to the forest.

Those who have lived much in the jungle in Ceylon, and who have had
constant opportunities of watching the habits of wild elephants, have
witnessed instances of the submission of herds to their leaders, that
suggest an inquiry of singular interest as to the means adopted by the
latter to communicate with distinctness, orders which are observed with
the most implicit obedience by their followers. The following narrative
of an adventure in the great central forest toward the north of the
island, communicated to me by Major SKINNER, who was engaged for some
time in surveying and opening roads through the thickly-wooded districts
there, will serve better than any abstract description to convey an idea
of the conduct of a herd on such occasions:--

"The case you refer to struck me as exhibiting something more than
ordinary brute instinct, and approached nearer to reasoning powers than
any other instance I can now remember. I cannot do justice to the scene,
although it appeared to me at the time to be so remarkable that it left
a deep impression in my mind.

"In the height of the dry season in Neuera-Kalawa, you know the streams
are all dried up, and the tanks nearly so. All animals are then sorely
pressed for water, and they congregate in the vicinity of those tanks in
which there may remain ever so little of the precious element.

"During one of those seasons I was encamped on the bund or embankment of
a very small tank, the water in which was so dried that its surface
could not have exceeded an area of 500 square yards. It was the only
pond within many miles, and I knew that of necessity a very large herd
of elephants, which had been in the neighbourhood all day, must resort
to it at night.

"On the lower side of the tank, and in a line with the embankment, was a
thick forest, in which the elephants sheltered themselves during the
day. On the upper side and all around the tank there was a considerable
margin of open ground. It was one of those beautiful bright, clear,
moonlight nights, when objects could be seen almost as distinctly as by
day, and I determined to avail myself of the opportunity to observe the
movements of the herd, which had already manifested some uneasiness at
our presence. The locality was very favourable for my purpose, and an
enormous tree projecting over the tank afforded me a secure lodgement in
its branches. Having ordered the fires of my camp to be extinguished at
an early hour, and all my followers to retire to rest, I took up my post
of observation on the overhanging bough; but I had to remain for upwards
of two hours before anything was to be seen or heard of the elephants,
although I knew they were within 500 yards of me. At length, about the
distance of 300 yards from the water, an unusually large elephant issued
from the dense cover, and advanced cautiously across the open ground to
within 100 yards of the tank, where he stood perfectly motionless. So
quiet had the elephants become (although they had been roaring and
breaking the jungle throughout the day and evening), that not a movement
was now to be heard. The huge vidette remained in his position, still as
a rock, for a few minutes, and then made three successive stealthy
advances of several yards (halting for some minutes between each, with
ears bent forward to catch the slightest sound), and in this way he
moved slowly up to the water's edge. Still he did not venture to quench
his thirst, for though his fore-feet were partially in the tank and his
vast body was reflected clear in the water, he remained for some minutes
listening in perfect stillness. Not a motion could be perceived in
himself or his shadow. He returned cautiously and slowly to the position
he had at first taken up on emerging from the forest. Here in a little
while he was joined by five others, with which he again proceeded as
cautiously, but less slowly than before, to within a few yards of the
tank, and then posted his patrols. He then re-entered the forest and
collected around him the whole herd, which must have amounted to between
80 and 100 individuals,--led them across the open ground with the most
extraordinary composure and quietness, till he joined the advanced
guard, when he left them for a moment and repeated his former
reconnoissance at the edge of the tank. After which, having apparently
satisfied himself that all was safe, he returned and obviously gave the
order to advance, for in a moment the whole herd rushed into the water
with a degree of unreserved confidence, so opposite to the caution and
timidity which had marked their previous movements, that nothing will
ever persuade me that there was not rational and preconcerted
co-operation throughout the whole party, and a degree of responsible
authority exercised by the patriarch leader.

"When the poor animals had gained possession of the tank (the leader
being the last to enter), they seemed to abandon themselves to enjoyment
without restraint or apprehension of danger. Such a mass of animal life
I had never before seen huddled together in so narrow a space. It seemed
to me as though they would have nearly drunk the tank dry. I watched
them with great interest until they had satisfied themselves as well in
bathing as in drinking, when I tried how small a noise would apprise
them of the proximity of unwelcome neighbours. I had but to break a
little twig, and the solid mass instantly took to flight like a herd of
frightened deer, each of the smaller calves being apparently shouldered
and carried along between two of the older ones."[1]

[Footnote 1: Letter from Major SKINNER.]

In drinking, the elephant, like the camel, although preferring water
pure, shows no decided aversion to it when discoloured with mud[1]; and
the eagerness with which he precipitates himself into the tanks and
streams attests his exquisite enjoyment of the fresh coolness, which to
him is the chief attraction. In crossing deep rivers, although his
rotundity and buoyancy enable him to swim with a less immersion than
other quadrupeds, he generally prefers to sink till no part of his huge
body is visible except the tip of his trunk, through which he breathes,
moving beneath the surface, and only now and then raising his head to
look that he is keeping the proper direction.[2] In the dry season the
scanty streams which, during the rains, are sufficient to convert the
rivers of the low country into torrents, often entirely disappear,
leaving only broad expanses of dry sand, which they have swept down with
them from the hills. In this the elephants contrive to sink wells for
their own use by scooping out the sand to the depth of four or five
feet, and leaving a hollow for the percolation of the spring. But as the
weight of the elephant would force in the side if left perpendicular,
one approach is always formed with such a gradient that he can reach the
water with his trunk without disturbing the surrounding sand.

[Footnote 1: This peculiarity was known in the middle ages, and PHILE,
writing in the fourteenth century, says, that such is his _preference_,
for muddy water that the elephant _stirs it_ before he drinks.


"Ydor de pineisynchythen prin anpinoi
To gar dieides akribos diaptuei."]

--PHILE _de Eleph_., i. 144.]

[Footnote 2: A tame elephant, when taken by his keepers to be bathed,
and to have his skin washed and rubbed, lies down on his side, pressing
his head to the bottom under water, with only the top of his trunk
protruded, to breathe.]


I have reason to believe, although the fact has not been authoritatively
stated by naturalists, that the stomach of the elephant will be found to
include a section analogous to that possessed by some of the ruminants,
calculated to contain a supply of water as a provision against
emergencies. The fact of his being enabled to retain a quantity of water
and discharge it at pleasure has been long known to every observer of
the habits of the animal; but the proboscis has always been supposed to
be "his water-reservoir,"[1] and the theory of an internal receptacle
has not been discussed. The truth is that the anatomy of the elephant is
even yet but imperfectly understood[2], and, although some peculiarities
of his stomach were observed at an early period, and even their
configuration described, the function of the abnormal portion remained
undetermined, and has been only recently conjectured. An elephant which
belonged to Louis XIV. died at Versailles in 1681 at the age of
seventeen, and an account of its dissection was published in the
_Memoires pour servir a l'Histoire Naturelle_, under the authority of
the Academy of Sciences, in which the unusual appendages of the stomach
are pointed out with sufficient particularity, but no suggestion is made
as to their probable uses."[3]

[Footnote 1: BRODERIP'S _Zoological Recreations_, p. 259.]

[Footnote 2: For observing the osteology of the elephant, materials are
of course abundant in the indestructible remains of the animal: but the
study of the intestines, and the dissection of the softer parts by
comparative anatomists in Europe, have been up to the present time beset
by difficulties. These arise not alone from the rarity of subjects, but
even in cases where elephants have died in these countries,
decomposition interposes, and before the thorough examination of so vast
a body can be satisfactorily completed, the great mass falls into

The principal English authorities are _An Anatomical Account of the
Elephant accidentally burnt in Dublin_, by A. MOLYNEUX, A.D. 1696; which
is probably a reprint of a letter on the same subject in the library of
Trinity College, Dublin, addressed by A. Moulin, to Sir William Petty,
Lond. 1682. There are also some papers communicated to Sir Hans Sloane,
and afterwards published in the _Philosophical Transactions_ of the year
1710, by Dr. P. BLAIR, who had an opportunity of dissecting an elephant
which died at Dundee in 1708. The latter writer observes that,
"notwithstanding the vast interest attaching to the elephant in all
ages, yet has its body been hitherto very little subjected to
anatomical, inquiries;" and he laments that the rapid decomposition of
the carcase, and other causes, had interposed obstacles to the scrutiny
of the subject he was so fortunate as to find access to.

In 1723 Dr. WM. STUCKLEY published _Some Anatomical Observations made
upon the Dissection of an Elephant_; but each of the above essays is
necessarily unsatisfactory, and little has since been done to supply
their defects. One of the latest and most valuable contributions to the
subjects, is a paper read before the Royal Irish Academy, on the 18th of
Feb., 1847, by Professor HARRISON, who had the opportunity of dissecting
an Indian elephant which died of acute fever; but the examination, so
far as he has made it public, extends only to the cranium, the brain,
and the proboscis, the larynx, trachea, and oesophagus. An essential
service would be rendered to science if some sportsman in Ceylon, or
some of the officers connected with the elephant establishment there,
would take the trouble to forward the carcase of a young one to England
in a state fit for dissection.

_Postscriptum._--I am happy to say that a young elephant, carefully
preserved in spirits, has recently been obtained in Ceylon, and
forwarded to Prof. Owen, of the British Museum, by the joint exertions
of M. DIARD and Major SKINNER. An opportunity has thus been afforded
from which science will reap advantage, of devoting a patient attention
to the internal structure of this interesting animal.]

[Footnote 3: The passage as quoted by BUFFON from the _Memoires_ is as

--"L'estomac avoit peu de diametre; il en avoit moins que le colon, car
son diametre n'etoit que de quatorze pouces dans la partie la plus
large; il avoit trois pieds et demi de longueur: l'orifice superieur
etoit a-peu-pres aussi eloigne du pylore que du fond du grand cul-de-sac
qui se terminoit en une pointe composee de tuniques beaucoup plus
epaisses que celles du reste de l'estomac; il y avoit au fond du grand
cul-de-sac plusieurs feuillets epais d'une ligne, larges d'un pouce et
demi, et disposes irregulierement; le reste de parois interieures etoit
perce de plusieurs petits trous et par de plus grands qui
correspondoient a des grains glanduleux."--BUFFON, _Hist. Nat_., vol.
xi. p. 109.]

A writer in the _Quarterly Review_ for December 1850, says that "CAMPER
and other comparative anatomists have shown that the left, or cardiac
end of the stomach in the elephant is adapted, by several wide folds of
lining membrane, to serve as a receiver for water;" but this is scarcely
correct, for although CAMPER has accurately figured the external form of
the stomach, he disposes of the question of the interior functions with
the simple remark that its folds "semblent en faire une espece de
division particuliere."[1] In like manner SIR EVERARD HOME, in his
_Lectures on Comparative Anatomy_, has not only carefully described the
form of the elephant's stomach, and furnished a drawing of it even more
accurate than CAMPER; but he has equally omitted to assign any purpose
to so strange a formation, contenting himself with observing that the
structure is a peculiarity, and that one of the remarkable folds nearest
the orifice of the diaphragm appears to act as a valve, so that the
portion beyond may be considered as an appendage similar to that of the
hog and the _peccary_.[2]

[Footnote 1: "L'extremite voisine du cardia se termine par une poche
tres-considerable et doublee a l'interieure du quatorze valvules
orbiculaires que semblent en faire une espece de division
particuliere."--CAMPER, _Description Anatomique d'un Elephant Male_, p.
37, tabl. IX.]

[Footnote 2: "The elephant has another peculiarity in the internal
structure of the stomach. It is longer and narrower than that of most
animals. The cuticular membrane of the oesophagus terminates at the
orifice of the stomach. At the cardiac end, which is very narrow and
pointed at the extremity, the lining is thick and glandular, and is
thrown into transverse folds, of which five are broad and nine narrow.
That nearest the orifice of the oesophagus is the broadest, and appears
to act occasionally as a valve, so that the part beyond may be
considered as an appendage similar to that of the peccary and the hog.
The membrane of the cardiac portion is uniformly smooth; that of the
pyloric is thicker and more vascular."--_Lectures on Comparative
Anatomy_, by Sir EVERARD HOME, Bart. 4to. Lond. vol. i. p. 155. The
figure of the elephant's stomach is given, in his _Lectures_, vol. ii.
plate xviii.]

[Illustration: ELEPANT'S STOMACH.]

The appendage thus alluded to by Sir EVERARD HOME is the grand
"cul-de-sac," noticed by the Academic des Sciences, and the "division
particuliere," figured by CAMPER. It is of sufficient dimensions to
contain ten gallons of water, and by means of the valve above alluded
to, it can be shut off from the chamber devoted to the process of
digestion. Professor OWEN is probably the first who, not from an
autopsy, but from the mere inspection of the drawings of CAMPER and
HOME, ventured to assert (in lectures hitherto unpublished), that the
uses of this section of the elephant's stomach may be analogous to those
ascertained to belong to a somewhat similar arrangement in the stomach
of the camel, one cavity of which is exclusively employed as a reservoir
for water, and performs no function the preparation of food.[1]

[Footnote 1: A similar arrangement, with some modifications, has more
recently been found in the llama of the Andes, which, like the camel, is
used as a beast of burden in the Cordilleras of Chili and Peru; but both
these and the camel are _ruminants_, whilst the elephants belongs to the


Whilst Professor OWEN was advancing this conjecture, another comparative
anatomist, from the examination of another portion of the structure of
the elephant, was led to a somewhat similar conclusion. Dr. HARRISON of
Dublin had, in 1847, an opportunity of dissecting the body of an
elephant which had suddenly died; and in the course of his examination
of the thoracic viscera, he observed that an unusually close connection
existed between the trachea and oesophagus, which he found to depend on
a muscle unnoticed by any previous anatomist, connecting the back of the
former with the forepart of the latter, along which the fibres descend
and can be distinctly traced to the cardiac orifice of the stomach.
Imperfectly acquainted with the habits and functions of the elephant in
a state of nature, Dr. HARRISON found it difficult to pronounce as to
the use of this very peculiar structure; but looking to the intimate
connection between the mechanism concerned in the functions of
respiration and deglutition, and seeing that the proboscis served in a
double capacity as an instrument of voice and an organ for the
prehension of food, he ventured (apparently without adverting to the
abnormal form of the stomach) to express the opinion that this muscle,
viewing its attachment to the trachea, might either have some influence
in raising the diaphragm, and thereby assisting in expiration, "_or that
it might raise the cardiac orifice of the stomach, and so aid this organ
to regurgitate a portion of its contents into the oesophagus_."[1]

[Footnote 1: _Proceed. Roy. Irish Acad_., vol. iv. p. 133.]

Dr. HARRISON, on the reflection that "we have no satisfactory evidence
that the animal ever ruminates," thought it useless to speculate on the
latter supposition as to the action of the newly discovered muscle, and
rather inclined to the surmise that it was designed to assist the
elephant in producing the remarkable sound through his proboscis known
as "trumpeting;" but there is little room to doubt that of the two the
rejected hypothesis was the more correct one. I have elsewhere described
the occurrence to which I was myself a witness[1], of elephants
inserting their proboscis in their mouths, and withdrawing gallons of
water, which could only have been contained in the receptacle figured by
CAMPER and HOME, and of which the true uses were discerned by the clear
intellect of Professor OWEN. I was not, till very recently, aware that a
similar observation as to the remarkable habit of the elephant, had been
made by the author of the _Ayeen Akbery_, in his account of the _Feel_
_Kaneh_, or elephant stables of the Emperor Akbar, in which he says, "an
elephant frequently with his trunk takes water out of his stomach and
sprinkles himself with it, and it is not in the least offensive."[2]
FORBES, in his Oriental Memoirs, quotes this passage of the _Ayeen
Akbery_, but without a remark; nor does any European writer with whose
works I am acquainted appear to have been cognisant of the peculiarity
in question.

[Footnote 1: In the account of an elephant corral, chap. vi.]

[Footnote 2: _Ayeen Akbery_, transl. by GLADWIN, vol i. pt. i, p. 147.]


It is to be hoped that Professor OWEN'S dissection of the young
elephant, recently arrived, may serve to decide this highly interesting
point.[1] Should scientific investigation hereafter more clearly
establish the fact that, in this particular, the structure of the
elephant is assimilated to that of the llama and the camel, it will be
regarded as more than a common coincidence, that an apparatus, so unique
in its purpose and action, should thus have been conferred by the
Creator on the three animals which in sultry climates are, by this
arrangement, enabled to traverse arid regions in the service of man.[2]
To show this peculiar organization where it attains its fullest
development, I have given a sketch of the water-cells, in the stomach of
the camel on the preceding page.

[Footnote 1: One of the Indian names for the elephant is _duipa_, which
signifies "to drink twice" (AMANDI, p. 513). Can this have reference to
the peculiarity of the stomach for retaining a supply of water? Or has
it merely reference to the habit of the animal to fill his trunk before
transferring the water to his mouth.]

[Footnote 2: The buffalo and the humped cattle of India, which are used
for draught and burden, have, I believe, a development of the
organisation of the reticulum which enables the ruminants generally, to
endure thirst, and abstain from water, somewhat more conspicuous than in
the rest of their congeners; but nothing that approaches in singularity
of character to the distinct cavities in the stomach exhibited by the
three animals above alluded to.]

The _food_ of the elephant is so abundant, that in feeding he never
appears to be impatient or voracious, but rather to play with the leaves
and branches on which he leisurely feeds. In riding by places where a
herd has recently halted, I have sometimes seen the bark peeled
curiously off the twigs, as though it had been done in mere dalliance.
In the same way in eating grass the elephant selects a tussac which he
draws from the ground by a dexterous twist of his trunk, and nothing can
be more graceful than the ease with which, before conveying it to his
mouth, he beats the earth from its roots by striking it gently upon his
fore-leg. A coco-nut he first rolls under foot, to detach the strong
outer bark, then stripping off with his trunk the thick layer of fibre
within, he places the shell in his mouth, and swallows with evident
relish the fresh liquid which flows as he crushes it between his

The natives of the peninsula of Jaffna always look for the periodical
appearance of the elephants, at the precise time when the fruit of the
palmyra palm begins to fall to the ground from ripeness. In like manner
in the eastern provinces where the custom prevails of cultivating what
is called _chena_ land (by clearing a patch of forest for the purpose of
raising a single crop, after which the ground is abandoned, and reverts
to jungle again), although a single elephant may not have been seen in
the neighbourhood during the early stages of the process, the Moormen,
who are the cultivators of this class, will predict their appearance
with almost unerring confidence so soon as the grains shall have begun
to ripen; and although the crop comes to maturity at different periods
in different districts, herds are certain to be seen at each in
succession, as soon as it is ready to be cut. In these well-timed
excursions, they resemble the bison of North America, which, by a
similarly mysterious instinct, finds its way to portions of the distant
prairies, where accidental fires have been followed by a growth of
tender grass. Although the fences around these _chenas_ are little more
than lines of reeds loosely fastened together, they are sufficient, with
the presence of a single watcher, to prevent the entrance of the
elephants, who wait patiently till the rice and _coracan_ have been
removed, and the watcher withdrawn; and, then finding gaps in the fence,
they may be seen gleaning among the leavings and the stubble; and they
take their departure when these are exhausted, apparently in the
direction of some other _chena_, which they have ascertained to be about
to be cut.

There is something still unexplained in the dread which an elephant
always exhibits on approaching a fence, and the reluctance which he
displays to face the slightest artificial obstruction to his passage. In
the fine old tank of Tissa-weva, close by Anarajapoora, the natives
cultivate grain, during the dry season, around the margin where the
ground has been left bare by the subsidence of the water. These little
patches of rice they enclose with small sticks an inch in diameter and
five or six feet in height, such as would scarcely serve to keep out a
wild hog if he attempted to force his way through. Passages of from ten
to twenty feet wide are left between each field, to permit the wild
elephants, which abound in the vicinity to make their nocturnal visits
to the water still remaining in the tank. Night after night these open
pathways are frequented by immense herds, but the tempting corn is never
touched, nor is a single fence disturbed, although the merest, movement
of a trunk would be sufficient to demolish the fragile structure. Yet
the same spots, the fences being left open as soon as the grain has been
cut and carried home, are eagerly entered by the elephants to glean
amongst the stubble.

Sportsmen observe that an elephant, even when enraged by a wound, will
hesitate to charge an assailant across an intervening hedge, but will
hurry along it to seek for an opening. It is possible that, on the part
of the elephant, there may be some instinctive consciousness, that owing
to his superior bulk, he is exposed to danger from sources that might be
perfectly harmless in the case of lighter animals, and hence his
suspicion that every fence may conceal a snare or pitfall. Some similar
apprehension is apparent in the deer, which shrinks from attempting a
fence of wire, although it will clear without hesitation a solid wall of
greater height.

At the same time, the caution with which the elephant is supposed to
approach insecure ground and places of doubtful[1] solidity, appears to
me, so far as my own observation and experience extend, to be
exaggerated, and the number of temporary bridges which are annually
broken down by elephants in all parts of Ceylon, is sufficient to show
that, although in captivity, and when familiar with such structures, the
tame ones may, and doubtless do, exhibit all the wariness attributed to
them; yet, in a state of liberty, and whilst unaccustomed to such
artificial appliances, their instincts are not sufficient to ensure
their safety. Besides, the fact is adverted to elsewhere[2], that the
chiefs of the Wanny, during the sovereignty of the Dutch, were
accustomed to take in pitfalls the elephants which they rendered as
tribute to government.

[Footnote 1: "One of the strongest instincts which the elephant
possesses, is this which impels him to experiment upon the solidity of
every surface which he is required to cross."--_Menageries, &c._ "The
Elephant," vol. i. pp. 17, 19, 66.]

[Footnote 2: WOLF'S _Life and Adventures_, p. 151. See p. 115, _note_.]

A fact illustrative at once of the caution and the spirit of curiosity
with which an elephant regards an unaccustomed object has been
frequently mentioned to me by the officers engaged in opening roads
through the forest. On such occasions the wooden "tracing pegs" which
they are obliged to drive into the ground to mark the levels taken
during the day, will often be withdrawn by the elephants during the
night, to such an extent as frequently to render it necessary to go over
the work a second time, in order to replace them.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Private Letter_ from Dr. DAVY, author of _An Account of
the Interior of Ceylon_.]

Colonel HARDY, formerly Deputy Quarter-Master-General in Ceylon, when
proceeding, about the year 1820, to a military out-post in the
south-east of the island, imprudently landed in an uninhabited part of
the coast, intending to take a short cut through the forest, to his
destination. He not only miscalculated the distance, but, on the
approach of nightfall, he was chased by a vicious rogue elephant. The
pursuer was nearly upon him, when, to gain time, he flung down a small
dressing-case, which he happened to be carrying. The device was
successful; the elephant halted and minutely examined its contents, and
thus gave the colonel time to effect his escape.[1]

[Footnote 1: The _Colombo Observer_ for March 1858, contains an offer of
a reward of twenty-five guineas for the destruction of an elephant which
infested the Rajawalle coffee plantation, in the vicinity of Kandy. Its
object seemed to be less the search for food, than the satisfying of its
curiosity and the gratification of its passion for mischief. Mr. TYTLER,
the proprietor, states that it frequented the jungle near the estate,
whence it was its custom to sally forth at night for the pleasure of
pulling down buildings and trees, "and it seemed to have taken a spite
at the pipes of the water-works, the pillars of which it several times
broke down--its latest fancy being to wrench off the taps." This
elephant has since been shot.]

As regards the general sagacity of the elephant, although it has not
been over-rated in the instances of those whose powers have been largely
developed in captivity, an undue estimate has been formed in relation to
them whilst still untamed. The difference of instincts and habits
renders it difficult to institute a just comparison between them and
other animals. CUVIER[1] is disposed to ascribe the exalted idea that
prevails of their intellect to the feats which an elephant performs with
that unique instrument, its trunk, combined with an imposing expression
of countenance: but he records his own conviction that in sagacity it in
no way excels the dog, and some other species of Carnivora. If there be
a superiority, I am disposed to award it to the dog, not from any excess
of natural capacity, but from the higher degree of development
consequent on his more intimate domestication and association with man.

[Footnote 1: CUVIER, _Regne Animal_. "Les Mammiferes," p. 280.]

One remarkable fact was called to my attention by a gentleman who
resided on a coffee plantation at Rassawe, one of the loftiest mountains
of the Ambogammoa range. More than once during the terrific
thunder-bursts that precede the rains at the change of each monsoon, he
observed that the elephants in the adjoining forest hastened from under
cover of the trees and took up their station in the open ground, where I
saw them on one of these occasions collected into a group; and here, he
said, it was their custom to remain till the lightning had ceased, when
they retired again into the jungle.[1] It must be observed, however,
that showers, and especially light drizzling rain, are believed to bring
the elephants from the jungle towards pathways or other openings in the
forest;--and hence, in places infested by them, timid persons are afraid
to travel in the afternoon during uncertain weather.

[Footnote 1: The elephant is believed by the Singhalese to express his
uneasiness by his voice, on the approach of _rain_; and the Tamils have
a proverb.--"_Listen to the elephant, rain is coming._"]

When free in its native woods the elephant evinces rather simplicity
than sagacity, and its intelligence seldom exhibits itself in cunning.
The rich profusion in which nature has supplied its food, and
anticipated its every want, has made it independent of those devices by
which carnivorous animals provide for their subsistence; and, from the
absence of all rivalry between it and the other denizens of the plains,
it is never required to resort to artifice for self-protection. For
these reasons, in its tranquil and harmless life, it may appear to
casual observers to exhibit even less than ordinary ability; but when
danger and apprehension call for the exertion of its powers, those who
have witnessed their display are seldom inclined to undervalue its

Mr. CRIPPS has related to me an instance in which a recently captured
elephant was either rendered senseless from fear, or, as the native
attendants asserted, _feigned death_ in order to regain its freedom. It
was led from the corral as usual between two tame ones, and had already
proceeded far towards its destination; when night closing in, and the
torches being lighted, it refused to go on, and finally sank to the
ground, apparently lifeless. Mr. CRIPPS ordered the fastenings to be
removed from its legs, and when all attempts to raise it had failed, so
convinced was he that it was dead, that he ordered the ropes to be taken
off and the carcase abandoned. While this was being done he and a
gentleman by whom he was accompanied leaned against the body to rest.
They had scarcely taken their departure and proceeded a few yards, when,
to their astonishment, the elephant rose with the utmost alacrity, and
fled towards the jungle, screaming at the top of its voice, its cries
being audible long after it had disappeared in the shades of the forest.


* * * * *


The following narratives have been taken down by a Singhalese gentleman,
from the statements of the natives by whom they are recounted;--and they
are here inserted, in order to show the opinion prevalent amongst the
people of Ceylon as to the habits and propensities of the rogue
elephant. The stories are given in words of my correspondent, who writes
in English, as follows:--

1. "We," said my informant, who was a native trader of Caltura, "were on
our way to Badulla, by way of Ratnapoora and Balangodde, to barter our
merchandize for coffee. There were six in our party, myself, my
brother-in-law, and four coolies, who carried on pingoes[1] our
merchandize, which consisted of cloth and brass articles. About 4
o'clock, P.M., we were close to Idalgasinna, and our coolies were rather
unwilling to go further for fear of elephants, which they said were sure
to be met with at that noted place, especially as there had been a
slight drizzling of rain during the whole afternoon. I was as much
afraid of elephants as the coolies themselves; but I was anxious to
proceed, and so, after a few words of encouragement addressed to them,
and a prayer or two offered up to _Saman dewiyo_[2], we resumed our
journey. I also took the further precaution of hanging up a few
leaves.[3] As the rain was coming down fast and thick, and I was anxious
to get to our halting-place before night, we moved on at a rapid pace.
My brother-in-law was in the van of the party, I myself was in the rear,
and the four coolies between us, all moving along on a rugged, rocky,
and difficult path; as the road to Badulla till lately was on the
sloping side of a hill, covered with jungle, pieces of projecting rock,
and brushwood. It was about five o'clock in the evening, or a little
later, and we had hardly cleared the foot of the hill and got to the
plain below, when a rustling of leaves and a crackling of dry brushwood
were heard on our right, followed immediately by the trumpeting of a
_hora allia_[4], which was making towards us. We all fled, followed by
the elephant. I, who was in the rear of the party, was the first to take
to flight; the coolies threw away their pingoes, and my brother-in-law
his umbrella, and all ran in different directions. I hid myself behind a
large boulder of granite nearly covered by jungle: but as my place of
concealment was on high ground, I could see all that was going on below.
The first thing I observed was the elephant returning to the place where
one of the pingoes was lying: he was carrying one of the coolies in a
coil of his trunk. The body of the man was dangling with the head
downward. I cannot say whether he was then alive or not; I could not
perceive any marks of blood or bruises on his person: but he appeared to
be lifeless. The elephant placed him down on the ground, put the pingo
on his (the man's) shoulder, steadying both the man and the pingo with
his trunk and fore-legs. But the man of course did not move or stand up
with his pingo. Seeing this, the elephant again raised the cooly and
dashed him against the ground, and then trampled the body to a very
jelly. This done, he took up the pingo and moved away from the spot; but
at the distance of about a fathom or two, laid it down again, and
ripping open one of the bundles, took out of it all the contents,
_somans_[5], _camb[=a]yas_[6], handkerchiefs, and several pieces of
white cambrick cloth, all which he tore to small pieces, and flung them
wildly here and there. He did the same with all the other pingoes. When
this was over the elephant quietly walked away into the jungle,
trumpeting all the way as far as I could hear. When danger was past I
came out of my concealment, and returned to the place where we had
halted that morning. Here the rest of my companions joined me soon
after. The next morning we set out again on our journey, our party being
now increased by some seven or eight traders from Salpity Corle: but
this time we did not meet with the elephant. We found the mangled corpse
of our cooly on the same spot where I had seen it the day before,
together with the torn pieces of my cloths, of which we collected as
fast as we could the few which were serviceable, and all the brass
utensils which were quite uninjured. That elephant was a noted rogue. He
had before this killed many people on that road, especially those
carrying pingoes of coco-nut oil and ghee. He was afterwards killed by
an Englishman. The incidents I have mentioned above, took place about
twenty years ago."

[Footnote 1: Yokes borne on the shoulder, with a package at each end.]

[Footnote 2: The tutelary spirit of the sacred mountain, Adam's Peak.]

[Footnote 3: The Singhalese hold the belief, that twigs taken from one
bush and placed on another growing close to a pathway, ensure protection
to travellers from the attacks of wild animals, and especially of
elephants. Can it be that the latter avoid the path, on discovering this
evidence of the proximity of recent passengers?]

[Footnote 4: A rogue elephant.]

[Footnote 5: Woman's robe.]

[Footnote 6: The figured cloth worn by men.]

The following also relates to the same locality. It was narrated to me
by an old Moorman of Barberyn, who, during his earlier years, led the
life of a pedlar.

2. "I and another," said he, "were on our way to Badulla, one day some
twenty-five or thirty years ago. We were quietly moving along a path
which wound round a hill, when all of a sudden, and without the
slightest previous intimation either by the rustling of leaves or by any
other sign, a huge elephant with short tusks rushed to the path. Where
he had been before I can't say; I believe he must have been lying in
wait for travellers. In a moment he rushed forward to the road,
trumpeting dreadfully, and seized my companion. I, who happened to be in
the rear, took to flight, pursued by the elephant, which had already
killed my companion by striking him against the ground. I had not moved
more than seven or eight fathoms, when the elephant seized me, and threw
me up with such force, that I was carried high into the air towards a
_Cahata_ tree, whose branches caught me and prevented my falling to the
ground. By this I received no other injury than the dislocation of one
of my wrists. I do not know whether the elephant saw me after he had
hurled me away through the air; but certainly he did not come to the
tree to which I was then clinging: even if he had come, he couldn't have
done me any more harm, as the branch on which I was far beyond the reach
of his trunk, and the tree itself too large for him to pull down. The
next thing I saw was the elephant returning to the corpse of my
companion, which he again threw on the ground, and placing one of his
fore feet on it, he tore it with his trunk limb after limb; and dabbled
in the blood that flowed from the shapeless mass of flesh which he was
still holding under his foot."

3. "In 1847 or '46," said another informant, "I was a superintendent of
a coco-nut estate belonging to Mr. Armitage, situated about twelve miles
from Negombo. A rogue elephant did considerable injury to the estate at
that time; and one day, hearing that it was then on the plantation, a
Mr. Lindsay, an Englishman, who was proprietor of the adjoining
property, and myself, accompanied by some seven or eight people of the
neighbouring village, went out, carrying with us six rifles loaded and
primed. We continued to walk along a path which, near one of its turns,
had some bushes on one side. We had calculated to come up with the brute
where it had been seen half an hour before; but no sooner had one of our
men, who was walking foremost, seen the animal at the distance of some
fifteen or twenty fathoms, than he exclaimed, 'There! there!' and
immediately took to his heels, and we all followed his example. The
elephant did not see us until we had run some fifteen or twenty paces
from the spot where we turned, when he gave us chase, screaming
frightfully as he came on. The Englishman managed to climb a tree, and
the rest of my companions did the same; as for myself I could not,
although I made one or two superhuman efforts. But there was no time to
be lost. The elephant was running at me with his trunk bent down in a
curve towards the ground. At this critical moment Mr. Lindsay held out
his foot to me, with the help of which and then of the branches of the
tree, which were three or four feet above my head, I managed to scramble
up to a branch. The elephant came directly to the tree and attempted to
force it down, which he could not. He first coiled his trunk round the
stem, and pulled it with all his might, but with no effect. He then
applied his head to the tree, and pushed for several minutes, but with
no better success. He then trampled with his feet all the projecting
roots, moving, as he did so, several times round and round the tree.
Lastly, failing in all this, and seeing a pile of timber, which I had
lately cut, at a short distance from us, he removed it all (thirty-six
pieces) one at a time to the root of the tree, and piled them up in a
regular business-like manner; then placing his hind feet on this pile,
he raised the fore part of his body, and reached out his trunk, but
still he could not touch us, as we were too far above him. The
Englishman then fired, and the ball took effect somewhere on the
elephant's head, but did not kill him. It made him only the more
furious. The next shot, however, levelled him to the ground. I
afterwards brought the skull of the animal to Colombo, and it is still
to be seen at the house of Mr. Armitage."

4. "One night a herd of elephants entered a village in the Four Corles.
After doing considerable injury to plaintain bushes and young coco-nut
trees, they retired, the villagers being unable to do anything to
protect their fruit trees from destruction. But one elephant was left
behind, who continued to scream the whole night through at the same
spot. It was then discovered that the elephant, on seeing a jak fruit on
a tree somewhat beyond the reach of his trunk, had raised himself on his
hind legs, placing his fore feet against the stem, in order to lay hold
of the fruit, but unluckily for him there happened to be another tree
standing so close to it that the vacant space between the two stems was
only a few inches. During his attempts to take hold of the fruit one of
his legs happened to get in between the two trees, where, on account of
his weight and his clumsy attempts to extricate himself, it got so
firmly wedged that he could not remove it, and in this awkward position
he remained for some days, till he died on the spot."



* * * * *

_Elephant Shooting._

As the shooting of an elephant, whatever endurance and adroitness the
sport may display in other respects, requires the smallest possible
skill as a marksman, the numbers which are annually slain in this way
may be regarded as evidence of the multitudes abounding in those parts
of Ceylon to which they resort. One officer, Major ROGERS, killed
upwards of 1400; another, Captain GALLWEY, has the credit of slaying
more than half that number; Major SKINNER, the Commissioner of Roads,
almost as many; and less persevering aspirants follow at humbler

[Footnote 1: To persons like myself, who are not addicted to what is
called "sport," the statement of these wholesale slaughters is
calculated to excite surprise and curiosity as to the nature of a
passion that impels men to self-exposure and privation, in a pursuit
which presents nothing but the monotonous recurrence of scenes of blood
and suffering. Mr. BAKER, who has recently published, under the title of
"_The Rifle and the Hound in Ceylon_" an account of his exploits in the
forest, gives us the assurance that "_all real sportsmen are
tender-hearted men, who shun cruelty to an animal, and are easily moved
by a tale of distress_;" and that although man is naturally
bloodthirsty, and a beast of prey by instinct, yet that the true
sportsman is distinguished from the rest of the human race by his "_love
of nature, and of noble scenery_." In support of this pretension to a
gentler nature than the rest of mankind, the author proceeds to attest
his own abhorrence of cruelty by narrating the sufferings of an old
hound, which, although "toothless," he cheered on to assail a boar at
bay, but the poor dog recoiled "covered with blood, cut nearly in half,
with a wound fourteen inches in length, from the lower part of the
belly, passing up the flank, completely severing the muscles of the hind
leg, and extending up the spine; his hind leg having the appearance of
being nearly off." In this state, forgetful of the character he had so
lately given of the true sportsman, as a lover of nature and a hater of
cruelty, he encouraged "the poor old dog," as he calls him, to resume
the fight with the boar, which lasted for an hour, when he managed to
call the dogs off; and perfectly exhausted, the mangled hound crawled
out of the jungle with several additional wounds, including a severe
gash in his throat. "He fell from exhaustion, and we made a litter with
two poles and a horsecloth to carry him home."--P. 314. If such were the
habitual enjoyments of this class of sportsmen, their motiveless
massacres would admit of no manly justification. In comparison with them
one is disposed to regard almost with favour the exploits of a hunter
like Major ROGERS, who is said to have applied the value of the ivory
obtained from his encounters towards the purchase of his successive
regimental commissions, and had, therefore, an object, however
disproportionate, in his slaughter of 1400 elephants.

One gentleman in Ceylon, not less distinguished for his genuine kindness
of heart, than for his marvellous success in shooting elephants, avowed
to me that the eagerness with which he found himself impelled to pursue
them had often excited surprise in his own mind; and although he had
never read the theory of Lord Kames, or the speculations of Vicesimus
Knox, he had come to the conclusion that the passion thus excited within
him was a remnant of the hunter's instinct, with which man was
originally endowed, to enable him, by the chase, to support existence in
a state of nature, and which, though rendered dormant by civilisation,
had not been utterly eradicated.

This theory is at least more consistent and intelligible than the "love
of nature and scenery," sentimentally propounded by the author quoted

But notwithstanding this prodigious destruction, a reward of a few
shillings per head offered by the Government for taking elephants was
claimed for 3500 destroyed in part of the northern province alone, in
less than three years prior to 1848: and between 1851 and 1856, a
similar reward was paid for 2000 in the southern province, between Galle
and Hambangtotte.

Although there is little opportunity for the display of marksmanship in
an elephant battue, there is one feature in the sport, as conducted in
Ceylon, which contrasts favourably with the slaughterhouse details
chronicled with revolting minuteness in some recent accounts of elephant
shooting in South Africa. The practice in Ceylon is to aim invariably at
the head, and the sportsman finds his safety to consist in boldly facing
the animal, advancing to within fifteen paces, and lodging a bullet,
either in the temple or in the hollow over the eye, or in a well-known
spot immediately above the trunk, where the weaker structure of the
skull affords an easy access to the brain.[1] The region of the ear is
also a fatal spot, and often resorted to,--the places I have mentioned
in the front of the head being only accessible when the animal is
"charging." Professor HARRISON, in his communication to the Royal Irish
Academy on the Anatomy of the Elephant, has rendered an intelligible
explanation of this in the following passage descriptive of the
cranium:--"it exhibits two remarkable facts: _first_, the small space
occupied by the brain; and, _secondly_, the beautiful and curious
structure of the bones of the head. The two tables of all these bones,
except the occipital, are separated by rows of large cells, some from
four to five inches in length, others only small, irregular, and
honey-comb-like:--these all communicate with each other, and, through
the frontal sinuses, with the cavity of the nose, and also with the
tympanum or drum of each ear; consequently, as in some birds, these
cells are filled with air, and thus while the skull attains a great size
in order to afford an extensive surface for the attachment of muscles,
and a mechanical support for the tusks, it is at the same time very
light and buoyant in proportion to its bulk; a property the more
valuable as the animal is fond of water and bathes in deep rivers."

[Footnote 1: The vulnerability of the elephant in this region of the
head was known to the ancients, and PLINY, describing a combat of
elephants in the amphitheatre at Rome, says, that one was slain by a
single blow, "pilum sub oculo adactum, in vitalia capitis venerat" (Lib.
viii. c. 7.) Notwithstanding the comparative facility of access to the
brain afforded at this spot, an ordinary leaden bullet is not certain to
penetrate, and frequently becomes flattened. The hunters, to counteract
this, are accustomed to harden the ball, by the introduction of a small
portion of type-metal along with the lead.]


Generally speaking, a single ball, planted in the forehead, ends the
existence of the noble creature instantaneously: and expert sportsmen
have been known to kill right and left, one with each barrel; but
occasionally an elephant will not fall before several shots have been
lodged in his head.[1]

[Footnote 1: "There is a wide difference of opinion as to the most
deadly shot. I think the temple the most certain, but authority in
Ceylon says the 'fronter,' that is, above the trunk. Behind the ear is
said to be deadly, but that is a shot which I never fired or saw fired
that I remember. If the ball go true to its mark, all shots (in the
head) are certain; but the bones on either side of the honey-comb
passage to the brain are so thick that there is in all a 'glorious
uncertainty' which keeps a man on the _qui vive_ till he sees the
elephant down."--From a paper on _Elephant Shooting in Ceylon_, by Major
MACREADY, late Military Secretary at Colombo.]

Contrasted with this, one reads with a shudder the sickening details of
the African huntsman approaching _behind_ the retiring animal, and of
the torture inflicted by the shower of bullets which tear up its flesh
and lacerate its flank and shoulders.[1]

[Footnote 1: In Mr. GORDON CUMMING'S account of a _Hunter's Life in
South Africa_, there is a narrative of his pursuit of a wounded elephant
which he had lamed by lodging a ball in its shoulder-blade. It limped
slowly towards a tree, against which it leaned itself in helpless agony,
whilst its pursuer seated himself in front of it, in safety, to _boil
his coffee_, and observe its sufferings. The story is continued as
follows:--"Having admired him for a considerable time, _I resolved to
make experiments on vulnerable points_; and approaching very near I
fired several bullets at different parts of his enormous skull. He only
acknowledged the shots by a salaam-like movement of his trunk, with the
point of which he gently touched the wounds with a striking and peculiar
action. Surprised and shocked at finding that I was only prolonging the
sufferings of the noble beast, which bore its trials with such dignified
composure, I resolved to finish the proceeding with all possible
despatch, and accordingly opened fire upon him from the left side,
aiming at the shoulder. I first fired _six_ shots with the two-grooved
rifle, which must have eventually proved mortal. After which I fired
_six_ shots at the same part with the Dutch six-pounder. _Large tears
now trickled from his eyes, which he slowly shut and opened, his
colossal frame shivered convulsively, and falling on his side, he
expired_." (Vol. ii. p. 10.)

In another place, after detailing the manner in which he assailed a poor
animal--he says, "I was loading and firing as fast as could be,
sometimes at the head, sometimes behind the shoulder, until my
elephant's fore-quarter was a mass of gore; notwithstanding which he
continued to hold on, leaving the grass and branches of the forest
scarlet in his wake. * * * Having fired _thirty-five rounds_ with my
two-grooved rifle, I opened upon him with the Dutch six-pounder, and
when forty bullets had perforated his hide, he began for the first time,
to evince signs of a dilapidated constitution." The disgusting
description is closed thus: "Throughout the charge he repeatedly cooled
his person with large quantities of water, which he ejected from his
trunk over his sides and back, and just as the pangs of death came over
him, he stood trembling violently beside a thorn tree, and kept pouring
water into his bloody mouth until he died, when he pitched heavily
forward with the whole weight of his fore-quarters resting on the points
of his tusks. The strain was fair, and the tusks did not yield; but the
portion of his head in which the tusks were embedded, extending a long
way above the eye, yielded and burst with a muffled crash."--(_Ib_.,
vol. ii. pp. 4, 5.)]

The shooting of elephants in Ceylon has been described with tiresome
iteration in the successive journals of sporting gentlemen, but one who
turns to their pages for traits of the animal and his instincts is
disappointed to find little beyond graphic sketches of the daring and
exploits of his pursuers, most of whom, having had no further
opportunity of observation than is derived from a casual encounter with
the outraged animal, have apparently tried to exalt their own prowess,
by misrepresenting the ordinary character of the elephant, describing
him as "savage, wary, and revengeful."[1]

These epithets may undoubtedly apply to the outcasts from the herd, the
"Rogues" or _hora allia_, but so small is the proportion of these that
there is not probably one _rogue_ to be found for every five hundred of
those in herds; and it is a manifest error, arising from imperfect
information, to extend this censure to them generally, or to suppose the
elephant to be an animal "thirsting for blood, lying in wait in the
jungle to rush on the unwary passer-by, and knowing no greater pleasure
than the act of crushing his victim to a shapeless mass beneath his
feet."[2] The cruelties practised by the hunters have no doubt taught
these sagacious creatures to be cautious and alert, but their
precautions are simply defensive; and beyond the alarm and apprehension
which they evince on the approach of man, they exhibit no indication of
hostility or thirst for blood.

[Footnote 1: _The Rifle and the Hound in Ceylon_; by S.W. BAKER, Esq.,
pp. 8, 9. "Next to a rogue," says Mr. BAKER, "in ferocity, and even more
persevering in the pursuit of her victim, is a female elephant." But he
appends the significant qualification, "_when her young one has been
killed_."--_Ibid_., p. 13.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_.]

An ordinary traveller seldom comes upon elephants unless after sunset or
towards daybreak, as they go to or return from their nightly visits to
the tanks: but when by accident a herd is disturbed by day, they evince,
if unattacked, no disposition to become assailants; and if the attitude
of defence which they instinctively assume prove sufficent to check the
approach of the intruder, no further demonstration is to be apprehended.

Even the hunters who go in search of them find them in positions and
occupations altogether inconsistent with the idea of their being savage,
wary, or revengeful. Their demeanour when undisturbed is indicative of
gentleness and timidity, and their actions bespeak lassitude and
indolence, induced not alone by heat, but probably ascribable in some
degree to the fact that the night has been spent in watchfulness and
amusement. A few are generally browsing listlessly on the trees and
plants within reach, others fanning themselves with leafy branches, and
a few are asleep; whilst the young run playfully among the herd, the
emblems of innocence, as the older ones are of peacefulness and gravity.

Almost every elephant may be observed to exhibit some peculiar action of
the limbs when standing at rest; some move the head monotonously in a
circle, or from right to left; some swing their feet back and forward;
others flap their ears or sway themselves from side to side, or rise and
sink by alternately bending and straightening the fore knees. As the
opportunities of observing this custom have been almost confined to
elephants in captivity, it has been conjectured to arise from some
morbid habit contracted during the length of a voyage by sea[1], or from
an instinctive impulse to substitute a motion of this kind in lieu of
their wonted exercise; but this supposition is erroneous; the propensity
being equally displayed by those at liberty and those in captivity. When
surprised by sportsmen in the depths of the jungle, individuals of a
herd are always occupied in swinging their limbs in this manner; and in
the several corrals which I have seen, where whole herds have been
captured, the elephants in the midst of the utmost excitement, and even
after the most vigorous charges, if they halted for a moment in stupor
and exhaustion, manifested their wonted habit, and swung their limbs or
swayed their bodies to and fro incessantly. So far from its being a
substitute for exercise, those in the government employment in Ceylon
are observed to practise their acquired motion, whatever it may be, with
increased vigour when thoroughly fatigued after excessive work. Even the
favourite practice of fanning themselves with a leafy branch seems less
an enjoyment in itself than a resource when listless and at rest. The
term "fidgetty" seems to describe appropriately the temperament of the

[Footnote 1: _Menageries_, &c., "The Elephant," ch. i. p. 21.]

They evince the strongest love of retirement and a corresponding dislike
to intrusion. The approach of a stranger is perceived less by the eye,
the quickness of which is not remarkable (besides which its range is
obscured by the foliage), than by sensitive smell and singular acuteness
of hearing; and the whole herd is put in instant but noiseless motion
towards some deeper and more secure retreat. The effectual manner in
which an animal of the prodigious size of the elephant can conceal
himself, and the motionless silence which he preserves, is quite
surprising; whilst beaters pass and repass within a few yards of his
hiding place, he will maintain his ground till the hunter, creeping
almost close to his legs, sees his little eye peering out through the
leaves, when, finding himself discovered, the elephant breaks away with
a crash, levelling the brushwood in his headlong career.

If surprised in open ground, where stealthy retreat is impracticable, a
herd will hesitate in indecision, and, after a few meaningless
movements, stand huddled together in a group, whilst one or two, more
adventurous than the rest, advance a few steps to reconnoitre. Elephants
are generally observed to be bolder in open ground than in cover, but,
if bold at all, far more dangerous in cover than in open ground.

In searching for them, sportsmen often avail themselves of the
expertness of the native trackers; and notwithstanding the demonstration
of Combe that the brain of the timid Singhalese is deficient in the
organ of destructiveness[1], he shows an instinct for hunting, and
exhibits in the pursuit of the elephant a courage and adroitness far
surpassing in interest the mere handling of the rifle, which is the
principal share of the proceeding that falls to his European companions.

[Footnote 1: _System of Phrenology_, by GEO. COMBE, vol. i. p. 256.]

The beater on these occasions has the double task of finding the game
and carrying the guns; and, in an animated communication to me, an
experienced sportsman describes "this light and active creature, with
his long glossy hair hanging down his shoulders, every muscle quivering
with excitement; and his countenance lighting up with intense animation,
leaping from rock to rock, as nimble as a deer, tracking the gigantic
game like a blood-hound, falling behind as he comes up with it, and as
the elephants, baffled and irritated, make the first stand, passing one
rifle into your eager hand and holding the other ready whilst right and
left each barrel performs its mission, and if fortune does not flag, and
the second gun is as successful as the first, three or four huge
carcases are piled one on another within a space equal to the area of a
dining room."[1]

[Footnote 1: Private letter from Capt. PHILIP PAYNE GALLWEY.]


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