Tennent's Natural History of Ceylon - 1861

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Conduct in Captivity.

The idea prevailed in ancient times, and obtains even at the present day, that the Indian elephant surpasses that of Africa in sagacity and tractability, and consequently in capacity for training, so as to render its services more available to man. There does not appear to me to be sufficient ground for this conclusion. It originated, in all probability, in the first impressions created by the accounts of the elephant brought back by the Greeks after the Indian expedition of Alexander, and above all by the descriptions of Aristotle, whose knowledge of the animal was derived exclusively from the East. A long interval elapsed before the elephant of Africa, and its capabilities, became known in Europe. The first elephants brought to Greece by Antipater, were from India, as were also those introduced by Pyrrhus into Italy. Taught by this example, the Carthaginians undertook to employ African elephants in war. Jugurtha led them against Metellus, and Juba against Cæsar; but from inexperienced and deficient training, they proved less effective than the elephants of India 1 , and the historians [pg 208] of these times ascribed to inferiority of race, that which was but the result of insufficient education.

It must, however, be remembered that the elephants which, at a later period, astonished the Romans by their sagacity, and whose performances in the amphitheatre have been described by Ælian and Pliny, were brought from Africa, and acquired their accomplishments from European instructors 2 ; a sufficient proof that under equally favourable auspices the African species are capable of developing similar docility and powers with those of India. It is one of the facts from which the inferiority of the Negro race has been inferred, that they alone, of all the nations amongst whom the elephant is found, have never manifested ability to domesticate it; and even as regards the more highly developed races who inhabited the valley of the Nile, it is observable that the elephant is nowhere to be found amongst the animals figured on the monuments of ancient Egypt, whilst the camelopard, the lion, and even the hippopotamus are represented. And although in later times the knowledge of the art of training appears to have existed under the Ptolemies, and on the southern shore of the Mediterranean, it admits of no doubt that it was communicated by the more accomplished natives of India who had settled there. 3

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Another favourite doctrine of the earlier visitors to the East seems to me to be equally fallacious; PYRARD, BERNIER, PHILLIPE, THEVENOT, and other travellers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, proclaimed the superiority of the elephant of Ceylon, in size, strength, and sagacity, above those of all other parts of India 4 ; and TAVERNIER in particular is supposed to have stated that if a Ceylon elephant be introduced amongst those bred in any other place, by an instinct of nature they do him homage by laying their trunks to the ground, and raising them reverentially. This passage has been so repeatedly quoted in works on Ceylon that it has passed into an aphorism, and is always adduced as a testimony to the surpassing intelligence of the elephants of that island; although a reference to the original shows that Tavernier's observations are not only fanciful in themselves, but are restricted to the supposed excellence [pg 210] of the Ceylon animal in war. 5 This estimate of the superiority of the elephant of Ceylon, if it ever prevailed in India, was not current there at a very early period; for in the Ramayana, which is probably the oldest epic in the world, the stud of Dasartha, the king of Ayodhya, was supplied with elephants from the Himalaya and the Vindhya Mountains. 6 I have had no opportunity of testing by personal observation the justice of the assumption; but from all that I have heard of the elephants of the continent, and seen of those of Ceylon, I have reason to conclude that the difference, if not imaginary, is exceptional, and must have arisen in particular and individual instances, from more judicious or elaborate instruction.

The earliest knowledge of the elephant in Europe and the West, was derived from the conspicuous position assigned to it in the wars of the East: in India, from the remotest antiquity, it formed one of the most picturesque, if not the most effective, features in the armies of the native princes. 7 It is more than [pg 211] probable that the earliest attempts to take and train the elephant, were with a view to military uses, and that the art was perpetuated in later times to gratify the pride of the eastern kings, and sustain the pomp of their processions.

An impression prevails even to the present day, that the process of training is tedious and difficult, and the reduction of a full-grown elephant to obedience, slow and troublesome in the extreme. 8 In both particulars, however, the contrary is the truth. The training as it prevails in Ceylon is simple, and the conformity and obedience of the animal are developed with singular [pg 212] rapidity. For the first three days, or till they will eat freely, which they seldom do in a less time, the newly-captured elephants are allowed to stand quiet; and, if practicable, a tame elephant is tied near to give the wild ones confidence. Where many elephants are being trained at once, it is customary to put every new captive between the stalls of half-tamed ones, when it soon takes to its food. This stage being attained, training commences by placing tame elephants on either side. The "cooroowe vidahn," or the head of the stables, stands in front of the wild elephants holding a long stick with a sharp iron point. Two men are then stationed one on either side, assisted by the tame elephants, and each holding a hendoo or crook 9 towards the wild one's trunk, whilst one or two others rub their hands over his back, keeping up all the while a soothing and plaintive chaunt, interlarded with endearing epithets, such as "ho! my son," or "ho! my father," or "my mother," as may be applicable to the age and sex of the captive. The elephant is at first furious, and strikes in all directions with his trunk; but the [pg 213] men in front receiving all these blows on the points of their weapons, the extremity of the trunk becomes so sore that the animal curls it up close, and seldom afterwards attempts to use it offensively. The first dread of man's power being thus established, the process of taking him to bathe between two tame elephants is greatly facilitated, and by lengthening the neck rope, and drawing the feet together as close as possible, the process of laying him down in the water is finally accomplished by the keepers pressing the sharp point of their hendoos over the backbone.

For many days the roaring and resistance which attend the operation are considerable, and it often requires the sagacious interference of the tame elephants to control the refractory wild ones. It soon, however, becomes practicable to leave the latter alone, only taking them to and from the stall by the aid of a decoy. This step lasts, under ordinary treatment, for about three weeks, when an elephant may be taken alone with his legs hobbled, and a man walking backwards in front with the point of the hendoo always presented to the elephant's head, and a keeper with an iron crook at each ear. On getting into the water, the fear of being pricked on his tender back induces him to lie down directly on the crook being only held over him in terrorem. Once this point has been achieved, the further process of taming is dependent upon the disposition of the creature.

The greatest care is requisite, and daily medicines are applied to heal the fearful wounds on the legs which even the softest ropes occasion. This is the great difficulty of training; for the wounds fester grievously, and months and sometimes years will [pg 214] elapse before an elephant will allow his feet to be touched without indications of alarm and anger.

The observation has been frequently made that the elephants most vicious and troublesome to tame, and the most worthless when tamed, are those distinguished by a thin trunk and flabby pendulous ears. The period of tuition does not appear to be influenced by the size or strength of the animals: some of the smallest give the greatest amount of trouble; whereas, in the instance of the two largest that have been taken in Ceylon within the last thirty years, both were docile in a remarkable degree. One in particular, which was caught and trained by Mr. Cripps, when Government agent, in the Seven Korles, fed from the hand the first night it was secured, and in a very few days evinced pleasure on being patted on the head. 10 There is none so obstinate, not even a rogue, that may not, when kindly and patiently treated, be conciliated and reconciled.

The males are generally more unmaneagable than the females, and in both an inclination to lie down to rest is regarded as a favourable symptom of approaching tractability, some of the most resolute having been known to stand for months together, even during sleep. Those which are the most obstinate and violent at first [pg 215] are the soonest and most effectually subdued, and generally prove permanently docile and submissive. But those which are sullen or morose, although they may provoke no chastisement by their viciousness, are always slower in being taught, and are rarely to be trusted in after life. 11

But whatever may be its natural gentleness and docility, the temper of an elephant is seldom to be implicitly relied on in a state of captivity and coercion. The most amenable are subject to occasional fits of stubbornness; and even after years of submission, irritability and resentment will unaccountably manifest themselves. It may be that the restraints and severer discipline of training have not been entirely forgotten; or that incidents which in ordinary health would be productive [pg 216] of no demonstration whatever, may lead, in moments of temporary illness, to fretfulness and anger. The knowledge of this infirmity led to the popular belief recorded by PHILE, that the elephant had two hearts, under the respective influences of which it evinced ferocity of gentleness; subdued by the one to habitual tractability and obedience, but occasionally roused by the other to displays of rage and resistance. 12

In the process of taming, the presence of the tame ones can generally be dispensed with after two months, and the captive may then be ridden by the driver alone; and after three or four months he may be entrusted with labour, so far as regards docility;—but it is undesirable, and even involves the risk of life, to work an elephant too soon; it has frequently happened that a valuable animal has lain down and died the first time it was tried in harness, from what the natives believe to be "broken heart,"—certainly without any cause inferable from injury or previous disease. 13 It is observable, that [pg 217] till a captured elephant begins to relish food, and grow fat upon it, he becomes so fretted by work, that it kills him in an incredibly short space of time.

The first employment to which an elephant is put is to tread clay in a brick-field, or to draw a waggon in double harness with a tame companion. But the work in which the display of sagacity renders his labours of the highest value, is that which involves the use of heavy materials; and hence in dragging and piling timber, or moving stones 14 for the construction of retaining walls and the approaches to bridges, his services in an unopened country are of the utmost importance. When roads are to be constructed along the face of steep declivities, and the space is so contracted that risk is incurred either of the working elephant falling over the precipice or of rocks slipping down from above, not only are the measures to which he resorts the most judicious and reasonable that could be devised, but if urged by his keeper to adopt any other, he manifests a reluctance sufficient to show that he has balanced in his own mind the comparative advantages of each. An elephant appears on all occasions to comprehend the purpose and object that he is expected to promote, and hence he voluntarily executes a variety of details without any guidance whatever from his keeper. This is one characteristic in which this animal manifests a superiority over the horse; although his strength in proportion to his weight is not so great as that of the latter.

His minute motions when engrossed by such operations, [pg 218] the activity of his eye, and the earnestness of his attitudes, can only be comprehended by being seen. In moving timber and masses of rock his trunk is the instrument on which he mainly relies, but those which have tusks turn them to good account. To get a weighty stone out of a hollow an elephant will kneel down so as to apply the pressure of his head to move it upwards, then steadying it with one foot till he can raise himself, he will apply a fold of his trunk to shift it to its place, and fit it accurately in position: this done, he will step round to view it on either side, and adjust it with due precision. He appears to gauge his task by his eye, and to form a judgment whether the weight be proportionate to his strength. If doubtful of his own power, he hesitates and halts, and if urged against his will, he roars and shows temper.

In clearing an opening through forest land, the power of the African elephant, and the strength ascribed to him by a recent traveller, as displayed in uprooting trees, have never been equalled or approached by anything I have seen of the elephant in Ceylon 15 or heard of them in India.

[pg 219]

Of course much must depend on the nature of the timber and the moisture of the soil; thus a strong tree on the verge of a swamp may be overthrown with greater ease than a small and low one in parched and solid ground. I have seen no "tree" deserving the name, nothing but jungle and brushwood, thrown down by the mere movement of an elephant without some special exertion of force. But he is by no means fond of gratuitously tasking his strength; and food being so abundant that he obtains it without an effort, it is not altogether apparent, even were he able to do so, why he should assail "the largest trees in the forest," and encumber his own haunts with their broken stems; especially as there is scarcely anything which an elephant dislikes more than venturing amongst fallen timber.

A tree of twelve inches in diameter resisted successfully the most strenuous struggles of the largest elephant I ever saw led to it; and when directed by their keepers to clear away jungle, the removal of even a small tree, or a healthy young coco-nut palm, is a matter both of time and exertion. Hence the services of an elephant are of much less value in clearing a forest than in dragging and piling felled timber. But in the latter occupation he manifests an intelligence and dexterity which is surprising to a stranger, because the sameness of the operation enables the animal to go on for hours disposing of log after log, almost without a hint or direction from his attendant. For example, two elephants employed [pg 220] in piling ebony and satinwood in the yards attached to the commissariat stores at Colombo, were so accustomed to their work, that they were able to accomplish it with equal precision and with greater rapidity than if it had been done by dock-labourers. When the pile attained a certain height, and they were no longer able by their conjoint efforts to raise one of the heavy logs of ebony to the summit, they had been taught to lean two pieces against the heap, up the inclined plane of which they gently rolled the remaining logs, and placed them trimly on the top.

It has been asserted that in their occupations "elephants are to a surprising extent the creatures of habit," 16 that their movements are altogether mechanical, and that "they are annoyed by any deviation from their accustomed practice, and resent any constrained departure from the regularity of their course." So far as my own observation goes, this is incorrect; and I am assured by officers of experience, that in regard to changing his treatment, his hours, or his occupation, an elephant evinces no more consideration than a horse, but exhibits the same pliancy and facility.

At one point, however, the utility of the elephant stops short. Such is the intelligence and earnestness he displays in work, which he seems to conduct almost without supervision, that it has been assumed 17 that he would continue his labour, and accomplish his given task, as well in the absence of his keeper as during his presence. But here his innate love of ease displays itself, and if the eye of his attendant be withdrawn, the moment he has finished the thing immediately in hand, [pg 221] he will stroll away lazily, to browse or enjoy the luxury of fanning himself and blowing dust over his back.

The means of punishing so powerful an animal is a question of difficulty to his attendants. Force being almost inapplicable, they try to work on his passions and feelings, by such expedients as altering the nature of his food or withholding it altogether for a time. Ou such occasions the demeanour of the creature will sometimes evince a sense of humiliation as well as of discontent. In some parts of India it is customary, in dealing with offenders, to stop their allowance of sugar canes or of jaggery; or to restrain them from eating their own share of fodder and leaves till their companions shall have finished; and in such cases the consciousness of degradation betrayed by the looks and attitudes of the culprit is quite sufficient to identify him, and to excite a feeling of sympathy and pity.

The elephant's obedience to his keeper is the result of affection, as well as of fear; and although his attachment becomes so strong that an elephant in Ceylon has been known to remain out all night, without food, rather than abandon his mahout, lying intoxicated in the jungle, yet he manifests little difficulty in yielding the same submission to a new driver in the event of a change of attendants. This is opposed to the popular belief that "the elephant cherishes such an enduring remembrance of his old mahout, that he cannot easily be brought to obey a stranger." 18 In the extensive establishments of the Ceylon Government, the keepers are changed without hesitation, and the animals, when equally kindly treated, are usually found to be as tractable [pg 222] and obedient to their new driver as to the old, in fact so soon as they have become familiarised with his voice.

This is not, however, invariably the case; and Mr. CRIPPS, who had remarkable opportunities for observing the habits of the elephant in Ceylon, mentioned to me an instance in which one of a singularly stubborn disposition occasioned some inconvenience after the death of its keeper, by refusing to obey any other, till its attendants bethought them of a child about twelve years old, in a distant village, where the animal had been formerly picketed, and to whom it had displayed much attachment. The child was sent for: and on its arrival the elephant, as anticipated, manifested extreme satisfaction, and was managed with ease, till by degrees it became reconciled to the presence of a new superintendent.

It has been said that the mahouts die young, owing to some supposed injury to the spinal column from the peculiar motion of the elephant; but this remark does not apply to those in Ceylon, who are healthy, and as long lived as other men. If the motion of the elephant be thus injurious, that of the camel must be still more so; yet we never hear of early death ascribed to this cause by the Arabs.

The voice of the keeper, with a very limited vocabulary of articulate sounds, serves almost alone to guide the elephant in his domestic occupations. 19 Sir EVERARD [pg 223] HOME, from an examination of the muscular fibres in the drum of an elephant's ear, came to the conclusion, that notwithstanding the distinctness and power of his perception of sounds at a greater distance than other animals, he was insensible to their harmonious modulation and destitute of a musical ear. 20 But Professor HARRISON, in a paper read before the Royal Irish Academy in 1847, has stated that on a careful examination of the head of an elephant which he had dissected, he could "see no evidence of the muscular structure of the membrana tympani so accurately described by Sir E. HOME." Sir EVERARD'S deduction, I may observe, is clearly inconsistent with the fact that the power of two elephants may be combined by singing to them a measured chant, somewhat resembling a sailor's capstan song; and in labour of a particular kind, such as hauling a stone with ropes, they will thus move conjointly a weight to which their divided strength would be unequal. 21

[pg 224]

Nothing can more strongly exhibit the impulse to obedience in the elephant, than the patience with which, at the order of his keeper, he swallows the nauseous medicines of the native elephant-doctors; and it is impossible to witness the fortitude with which (without shrinking) he submits to excruciating surgical operations for the removal of tumours and ulcers to which he is subject, without conceiving a vivid impression of his gentleness and intelligence. Dr. DAVY when in Ceylon was consulted about an elephant in the government Stud, which was suffering from a deep, burrowing sore in the back, just over the back-bone, which had long resisted the treatment ordinarily employed. He recommended the use of the knife, that issue might be given to the accumulated matter, but no one of the attendants was competent to undertake the operation. "Being assured," he continues, "that the creature would behave well, I undertook it myself. The elephant was not bound, but was made to kneel down at his keeper's command—and with an amputating knife, using all my force, I made the incision required through the tough integuments. The elephant did not flinch, but rather inclined towards me when using the knife; and merely uttered a low, and as it were suppressed, groan. In short, he behaved as like a human being as possible, as if conscious (as I [pg 225] believe he was), that the operation was for his good, and the pain unavoidable." 22

Obedience to the orders of his keepers is not, however, to be assumed as the result of a uniform perception of the object to be attained by compliance; and we cannot but remember the touching incident which took place during the slaughter of the elephant at Exeter Change in 1846, when, after receiving ineffectually upwards of 120 balls in various parts of his body, he turned his face to his assailants on hearing the voice of his keeper, and knelt down at the accustomed word of command, so as to bring his forehead within view of the rifles. 23

The working elephant is always a delicate animal, and requires watchfulness and care. As a beast of burden he is unsatisfactory; for although in point of mere strength there is scarcely any weight which could be conveniently placed on him that he could not carry, it is difficult to pack his load without causing abrasions that afterwards ulcerate. His skin is easily chafed by harness, especially in wet weather. During either long droughts or too much moisture, his feet become liable to sores, that render him non-effective for months. Many attempts have been made to provide him with some protection for the sole of the foot, but from his extreme weight and peculiar mode of planting the foot, they have all been unsuccessful. His eyes are also liable to frequent inflammations, and the skill of the native elephant-doctors, which has been renowned since the time of Ælian, is nowhere more strikingly displayed than in the successful treatment of such attacks. 24 In Ceylon, [pg 226] the murrain among cattle is of frequent occurrence, and carries off great numbers of animals, wild as well as tame. In such visitations the elephants suffer severely, not only those at liberty in the forest, but those carefully tended in the government stables. Out of a stud of about 40 attached to the department of the Commission of Roads, the deaths between 1841 and 1849 were on an average four in each year, and this was nearly doubled in those years when murrain prevailed.

Of 240 elephants, employed in the public departments of the Ceylon Government, which died in twenty-five years, from 1831 to 1856, the length of time that each lived in captivity has only been recorded in the instances of 138. Of these there died:—

Duration of Captivity. No. Male. Female.
Under 1 year 72 29 43
From 1 to 2 years 14 5 9
From 2 to 3 years 8 5 3
From 3 to 4 years 8 3 5
From 4 to 5 years 3 2 1
From 5 to 6 years 2 2 .
From 6 to 7 years 3 1 2
From 7 to 8 years 5 2 3
From 8 to 9 years 5 5 .
From 9 to 10 years 2 2 .
From 10 to 11 years 2 2 .
From 11 to 12 years 3 1 2
From 12 to 13 years 3 . 3
From 13 to 14 years . . .
From 14 to 15 years 3 1 2
From 15 to 16 years 1 1 .
From 16 to 17 years 1 . 1
From 17 to 18 years . . .
From 18 to 19 years 2 1 1
From 19 to 20 years 1 . 1
Total 138 62 76
[pg 227]

Of the 72 who died in one year's servitude, 35 expired within the first six months of their captivity. During training, many elephants die in the unaccountable manner already referred to, of what the natives designate a broken heart.

On being first subjected to work, the elephant is liable to severe and often fatal swellings of the jaws and abdomen. 25

From these causes there died, between 1841 and 1849    9
Of cattle murrain 10
Sore feet 1
Colds and inflammation 6
Diarrhoea 1
Worms 1
Of diseased liver 1
Injuries from a fall 1
General debility 1
Unknown causes 3

Of the entire, twenty-three were females and eleven males.

The ages of those that died could not be accurately stated, owing to the circumstance of their having been captured in corral. Two only were tuskers. Towards keeping the stud in health, nothing has been found so conducive as regularly bathing the elephants, and giving them the opportunity to stand with their feet in water, or in moistened earth.

Elephants are said to be afflicted with tooth-ache; their tushes have likewise been found with symptoms of internal perforation by some parasite, and the natives assert that, in their agony, the animals have been known [pg 228] to break them off short. 26 I have never heard of the teeth themselves being so affected, and it is just possible that the operation of shedding the subsequent decay of the milk-tushes, may have in some instances been accompanied by incidents that gave rise to this story.

At the same time the probabilities are in favour of its being true. CUVIER committed himself to the statement that the tusks of the elephant have no attachments to connect them with the pulp lodged in the cavity at their base, from which the peculiar modification of dentine, known as "ivory," is secreted 27 ; and hence, by inference, that they would be devoid of sensation.

But independently of the fact that ivory in permeated by tubes so fine that at their origin from the pulpy cavity they do not exceed 1/15000th part of an inch in diameter, OWEN had the tusk and pulp of the great elephant which died at the Zoological Gardens in London in 1847 longitudinally divided, and found that, "although the pulp could be easily detached from the inner surface of the cavity, it was not without a certain resistance; and when the edges of the co-adapted pulp and tusk were examined by a strong lens, the filamentary processes from the outer surface of the former could be seen stretching, as they were drawn from the dentinal tubes, before they broke. These filaments are so minute, he adds, that to the naked eye the detached surface of the pulp seems to be entire; and hence CUVIER was deceived into supposing that there was no organic [pg 229] connexion between the pulp and the ivory. But if, as there seems no reason to doubt, these delicate nervous processes traverse the tusk by means of the numerous tubes already described, if attacked by caries the pain occasioned to the elephant would be excruciating.

As to maintaining a stud of elephants for the purposes to which they are now assigned in Ceylon, there may be a question on the score of prudence and economy. In the rude and unopened parts of the country, where rivers are to be forded, and forests are only traversed by jungle paths, their labour is of value, in certain contingencies, in the conveyance of stores, and in the earlier operations for the construction of fords and rough bridges of timber. But in more highly civilised districts, and wherever macadamised roads admit of the employment of horses and oxen for draught, I apprehend that the services of elephants might, with advantage, be gradually reduced, if not altogether dispensed with.

The love of the elephant for coolness and shade renders him at all times more or less impatient of work in the sun, and every moment of leisure he can snatch is employed in covering his back with dust, or fanning himself to diminish the annoyance of the insects and heat. From the tenderness of his skin and its liability to sores, the labour in which he can most advantageously be employed is that of draught; but the reluctance of horses to meet or pass elephants renders it difficult to work the latter with safety on frequented roads. Besides, were the full load which an elephant is capable of drawing, in proportion to his muscular strength, to be placed upon waggons of corresponding dimension, the to the roads would be such that the wear and [pg 230] tear of the highways and bridges would prove too costly to be borne. On the other hand, by restricting it to a somewhat more manageable quantity, and by limiting the weight, as at present, to about one ton and a half, it is doubtful whether an elephant performs so much more work than could be done by a horse or by bullocks, as to compensate for the greater cost of his feeding and attendance.

Add to this, that from accidents and other causes, from ulcerations of the skin, and illnesses of many kinds, the elephant is so often invalided, that the actual cost of his labour, when at work, is very considerably enhanced. Exclusive of the salaries of higher officers attached to the government establishments, and other permanent charges, the expenses of an elephant, looking only to the wages of his attendants and the cost of his food and medicines, varies from three shillings to four shillings and sixpence, per diem, according to his size and class. 28 Taking the average at three shillings and [pg 231] nine-pence, and calculating that hardly any individual works more than four days out of seven, the charge for each day so employed would amount to six shillings and sixpence. The keep per day of a powerful dray-horse, working five days in the week, would not exceed half-a-crown, and two such would unquestionably do more work than any elephant under the present system. I do not know whether it be from a comparative calculation of this kind that the strength of the elephant establishments in Ceylon has been gradually diminished of late years, but in the department of the Commissioner of Roads, the stud, which formerly numbered upwards of sixty elephants, was reduced, some years ago, to thirty-six, and is at present less than half that number.

The fallacy of the supposed reluctance of the elephant to breed in captivity has been demonstrated by many recent authorities; but with the exception of the birth of young elephants at Rome, as mentioned by ÆLIAN, the only instances that I am aware of their actually producing young under such circumstances, took place in Ceylon. Both parents had been for several years attached [pg 232] to the stud of the Commissioner of Roads, and in 1844 the female, whilst engaged in dragging a waggon, gave birth to a still-born calf. Some years before, an elephant that had been captured by Mr. Cripps, dropped a female calf, which he succeeded in rearing. As usual, the little one became the pet of the keepers; but as it increased in growth, it exhibited the utmost violence when thwarted; striking out with its hind-feet, throwing itself headlong on the ground, and pressing its trunk against any opposing object.

The duration of life in the elephant has been from the remotest times a matter of uncertainty and speculation. Aristotle says it was reputed to live from two to three hundred years 29 , and modern zoologists have assigned to it an age very little less; CUVIER 30 allots two hundred and DE BLAINVILLE one hundred and twenty. The only attempt which I know of to establish a period historically or physiologically is that of FLEURENS, who has advanced an ingenious theory on the subject in his treatise "De la Longévité Humaine." He assumes the sum total of life in all animals to be equivalent to five times the number of years requisite to perfect their growth and development;—and he adopts as evidence of the period at which growth ceases, the final consolidation of the bones with their epiphyses; which in the young consist of cartilages; but in the adult become uniformly osseous and solid. So long as the epiphyses are distinct from the bones, the growth of the animal is proceeding, but it ceases so soon as the consolidation is complete. In man, according to FLEURENS, this consummation takes place at 20 years of age, in the horse at [pg 233] 5, in the dog at 2; so that conformably to this theory the respective normal age for each would be 100 years for man, 25 for the horse, and 10 for a dog. As a datum for his conclusion, FLEURENS cites the instance of one young elephant in which, at 26 years old, the epiphyses were still distinct, whereas in another, which died at 31, they were firm and adherent. Hence he draws the inference that the period of completed solidification is thirty years, and consequently that the normal age of the elephant is one hundred and fifty. 31

Amongst the Singhalese the ancient fable of the elephant attaining to the age of two or three hundred years still prevails; but the Europeans, and those in immediate charge of tame ones, entertain the opinion that the duration of life for about seventy years is common both to man and the elephant; and that before the arrival of the latter period, symptoms of debility and decay ordinarily begin to manifest themselves. Still instances are not wanting in Ceylon of trained decoys that have lived for more than double the reputed period in actual servitude. One employed by Mr. Cripps in the Seven Korles was represented by the Cooroowe people to have served the king of Kandy in the same capacity sixty years before; and amongst the papers left by Colonel Robertson (son to the historian of "Charles V."), who held a command in Ceylon in 1799, shortly after the capture of the island by the British, I have found a memorandum showing that a decoy was then attached to the elephant establishment at Matura, which the records proved to have served under the Dutch during the entire period of their occupation (extending to upwards of one hundred and forty years); and it was [pg 234] said to have been found in the stables by the Dutch on the expulsion of the Portugese in 1656.

It is perhaps from this popular belief in their almost illimitable age, that the natives generally assert that the body of a dead elephant is seldom or never to be discovered in the woods. And certain it is that frequenters of the forest with whom I have conversed, whether European or Singhalese, are consistent in their assurances that they have never found the remains of an elephant that had died a natural death. One chief, the Wannyah of the Trincomalie district, told a friend of mine, that once after a severe murrain, which had swept the province, he found the carcases of elephants that had died of the disease. On the other hand, a European gentleman, who for thirty-six years without intermission has been living in the jungle, ascending to the summits of mountains in the prosecution of the trigonometrical survey, and penetrating valleys in tracing roads and opening means of communication,—one, too, who has made the habits of the wild elephant a subject of constant observation and study,—has often expressed to me his astonishment that after seeing many thousands of living elephants in all possible situations, he had never yet found a single skeleton of a dead one, except of those which had fallen by the rifle. 32

It has been suggested that the bones of the elephant, may be so porous and spongy as to disappear in consequence of an early decomposition; but this remark would [pg 235] not apply to the grinders or to the tusks; besides which, the inference is at variance with the fact, that not only the horns and teeth, but entire skeletons of deer, are frequently found in the districts inhabited by the elephant.

The natives, to account for this popular belief, declare that the survivors of the herd bury such of their companions as die a natural death. 33 It is curious that this belief was current also amongst the Greeks of the Lower Empire; and PHILE, writing early in the fourteenth century, not only describes the younger elephants as tending the wounded, but as burying the dead:

[Greek: "Otan d' epistê tês teleutês o chronos Koinou telous amunan o xenos pherei]." 34

The Singhalese have a further superstition in relation to the close of life in the elephant: they believe that, on feeling the approach of dissolution, he repairs to a solitary valley, and there resigns himself to death. A native who accompanied Mr. Cripps, when hunting, in the forests of Anarajapoora, intimated to him that he was then in the immediate vicinity of the spot "to which the elephants come to die," but that it was so mysteriously concealed, that although every one believed in its existence, [pg 236] no one had ever succeeded in penetrating to it. At the corral which I have described at Kornegalle, in 1847, Dehigame, one of the Kandyan chiefs, assured me it was the universal belief of his countrymen, that the elephants, when about to die, resorted to a valley in Saffragam, among the mountains to the east of Adam's Peak, which was reached by a narrow pass with walls of rock on either side, and that there, by the side of a lake of clear water, they took their last repose. 35 It was not without interest that I afterwards recognised this tradition in the story of Sinbad of the Sea, who in his Seventh Voyage, after conveying the presents of Haroun al Raschid to the king of Serendib, is wrecked on his return from Ceylon, and sold as a slave to a master who employs him in shooting elephants for the sake of their ivory; till one day the tree on which he was stationed having been uprooted by one of the herd, he fell senseless to the ground, and the great elephant approaching wound his trunk around him and carried him away, ceasing not to proceed, until he had taken him to a place where, his terror having subsided, he found himself amongst the bones of elephants, and knew that this was their burial place. 36 It is curious to find this legend of Ceylon in what has, not inaptly, been described as the "Arabian Odyssey" of Sinbad; the original of which [pg 237] evidently embodies the romantic recitals of the sailors returning from the navigation of the Indian Seas, in the middle ages 37 , which were current amongst the Mussulmans, and are reproduced in various forms throughout the tales of the Arabian Nights.


As Ælian's work on the Nature of Animals has never, I believe, been republished in any English version, and the passage in relation to the training and performance of elephants is so pertinent to the present inquiry, I venture to subjoin a translation of the 11th Chapter of his 2nd Book.

"Of the cleverness of the elephant I have spoken elsewhere, and likewise of the manner of hunting. I have mentioned these things, a few out of the many which others have stated; but for the present I purpose to speak of their musical feeling, their tractability, and facility in learning what it is difficult for even a human being to acquire, much less a beast, hitherto so wild:—such as to dance, as is done on the stage; to walk with a measured gait; to listen to the melody of the flute and to perceive the difference of sounds, that, being pitched low lead to a slow movement, or high to a quick one: all this the elephant learns and understands, and is accurate withal, [pg 238] and makes no mistake. Thus has Nature formed him not only the greatest in size, but the most gentle and the most easily taught. Now if I were going to write about the tractability and aptitude to learn amongst those of India, Æthiopia, and Libya, I should probably appear to be concocting a tale and acting the braggart, or to be telling a falsehood respecting the nature of the animal founded on a mere report, all which it behoves a philosopher, and most of all one who is an ardent lover of truth, not to do. But what I have seen myself, and what others have described as having occurred at Rome, this I have chosen to relate, selecting a few facts out of many, to show the particular nature of those creatures. The elephant when tamed is an animal most gentle and most easily led to do whatever he is directed. And by way of showing honour to time, I will first narrate events of the oldest date. Cæsar Germanicus, the nephew of Tiberius, exhibited once a public show, wherein there were many full-grown elephants, male and female, and some of their breed born in this country. When their limbs were beginning to become firm, a person familiar with such animals instructed them by a strange and surpassing method of teaching; using only gentleness and kindness, and adding to his mild lessons the bait of pleasant and varied food. By this means he led them by degrees to throw off all wildness, and, as it were, to desert to a state of civilisation, conducting themselves in a manner almost human. He taught them neither to be excited on hearing the pipe, nor to be disturbed by the beat of drum, but to be soothed by the sounds of the reed, and to endure unmusical noises and the clatter of feet from persons while marching; and they were trained to feel no fear of a mass of men, nor to be enraged at the infliction of blows, not even when compelled to twist their limbs and to bend them like a stage-dancer, and this too although endowed with strength and might. And there is in this a very noble addition to nature, not to conduct themselves in a disorderly manner and disobediently towards the instructions of man; for after the dancing-master had made them expert, [pg 239] and they had learnt their lessons accurately, they did not belie the labour of his instruction whenever a necessity and opportunity called upon them to exhibit what they had been taught. For the whole troop came forward from this and that side of the theatre, and divided themselves into parties: they advanced walking with a mincing gait and exhibiting in their whole body and persons the manners of a beau, clothed in the flowery dresses of dancers; and on the ballet-master giving a signal with his voice, they fell into line and went round in a circle, and if it were requisite to deploy they did so. They ornamented the floor of the stage by throwing flowers upon it, and this they did in moderation and sparingly, and straightway they beat a measure with their feet and kept time together.

"Now that Damon and Spintharus and Aristoxenus and Xenophilus and Philoxenus and others should know music excellently well, and for their cleverness be ranked amongst the few, is indeed a thing of wonder, but not incredible nor contrary at all to reason. For this reason that a man is a rational animal, and the recipient of mind and intelligence. But that a jointless animal ([Greek: anarthron]) should understand rhythm and melody, and preserve a gesture, and not deviate from a measured movement, and fulfil the requirements of those who laid down instructions, these are gifts of nature, I think, and a peculiarity in every way astounding. Added to these there were things enough to drive the spectator out of his senses; when the strewn rushes and other materials for beds on the ground were placed on the sand of the theatre, and they received stuffed mattrasses such as belonged to rich houses and variegated bed coverings, and goblets were placed there, very expensive, and bowls of gold and silver, and in them a great quantity of water; and tables were placed there of sweet-smelling wood and ivory very superb: and upon them flesh meats and loaves enough to fill the stomachs of animals the most voracious. When the preparations were completed and abundant, the banqueters came forward, six male and an [pg 240] equal number of female elephants; the former had on a male dress, and the latter a female; and on a signal being given they stretched forward their trunks in a subdued manner, and took their food in great moderation, and not one of them appeared to be gluttonous greedy, or to snatch at a greater portion, as did the Persian mentioned by Xenophon. And when it was requisite to drink, a bowl was placed by the side of each; and inhaling with their trunks they took a draught very orderly; and then they scattered the drink about in fun; but not as in insult. Many other acts of a similar kind, both clever and astonishing, have persons described, relating to the peculiarities of these animals, and I saw them writing letters on Roman tablets with their trunks, neither looking awry nor turning aside. The hand, however, of the teacher was placed so as to be a guide in the formation of the letters; and while it was writing the animal kept its eye fixed down in an accomplished and scholarlike manner."


ARMANDI, Hist. Milit. des Eléphants, liv. i. ch. i. p. 2. It is an interesting fact, noticed by ARMANDI, that the elephants figured on the coins of Alexander, and the Seleucidæ invariably exhibit the characteristics of the Indian type, whilst those on Roman medals can at once be pronounced African, from the peculiarities of the convex forehead and expansive ears.—Ibid. liv. i. cap. i. p. 3.

ARMANDI has, with infinite industry, collected from original sources a mass of curious informations relative to the employment of elephants in ancient warfare, which he has published under the title of Histoire Militaire des Eléphants depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu' à l'introduction des armes a feu. Paris. 1843.


ÆLIAN, lib. ii. cap. ii.


See SCHLEGEL'S Essay on the Elephant and the Sphynx. Classical Journal, No. lx. Although the trained elephant nowhere appears upon the monuments of the Egyptians, the animal was not unknown to them, and ivory and elephants are figured on the walls of Thebes and Karnac amongst the spoils of Thothmes III., and the tribute paid to Rameses I. The Island of Elephantine, in the Nile, near Assouan (Syene) is styled in hieroglyphical writing "The Land of the Elephant;" but as it is a mere rock, it probably owes its designation to its form. See Sir GARDNER WILKINSON'S Ancient Egyptians, vol. i. pl. iv.; vol. v. p. 176. Above the first cataract of the Nile are two small islands, each bearing the name of Phylæ;—quære, is the derivation of this word at all connected with the Arabic term fil? See ante, p. 76, note. The elephant figured in the sculptures of Nineveh is universally as wild, not domesticated.


This is merely a reiteration of the statement of ÆLIAN, who ascribes to the elephants of Taprobane a vast superiority in size, strength, and intelligence, above, those of continental India,—[Greek: "Kai oide ge næsiotai elephantes ton hæpiroton halkimoteroi te tæn rhomæn kai meixous idein eisi, kai thumosophoteroi de panta pantæ krinointo han."]—ÆLIAN, De Nat. Anim., lib. xvi. cap. xviii.

ÆLIAN also, in the same chapter, states the fact of the shipment of elephants in large boats from Ceylon to the opposite continent of India, for sale to the king of Kalinga; so that the export from Manaar, described in a former passage, has been going on apparently without interruption since the time of the Romans.


The expression of TAVERNIER is to the effect that as compared with all others, the elephants of Ceylon are "plus courageux à la guerre." The rest of the passage is a curiosity:—

"Il faut remarquer ici une chose qu'on aura peut-être de la peine à croire main quit est toutefois très-véritable: c'est que lorsque quelque roi on quelque seigneur a quelqu'un de ces éléphants de Ceylan, et qu'on en amène quelqu'autre des lieux où les marchands vont les prendre, comme d'Achen, de Siam, d'Arakan, de Pegu, du royáume de Boutan, d'Assam, des terres de Cochin et de la coste du Mélinde, dés que les éléphants en voient un de Ceylan, par un instinct de nature, ils lui font la révérence, portant le bout de leur trompe à la terre et la relevant. Il est vrai que les éléphants que les grand seigneurs entretiennent, quand en les amine devant eux, pour voir s'ils sent en bon point, font troi fois une espére de révérence avec leur troupe, a que j'ai en souvent, mais ils sont stylés à cela, et leurs maitres le leur enseignent de bonne heure."—Les Six Voyages de J.B. TAVERNIER, lib. iii. ch. 20.


Ramayana, sec. vi.: CAREY and MARSHMAN, i. 105: FAUCHE, t. i. p. 66.


The only mention of the elephant in Sacred History in the account given in Maccabees of the invasion of Egypt by Antiochus, who entered it 170 B.C., "with chariots and elephants, and horsemen, and a great navy."—1 Macc. i. 17. Frequent allusions to the use of elephants in war occur in both books: and in chap. vi. 34, it is stated that "to provoke the elephants to fight they showed them the blood of grapes and of mulberries." The term showed, "[Greek: edeixan]," might be thought to imply that the animals were enraged by the sight of the wine and its colour, but in the Third Book of Maccabees, in the Greek Septuagint, various other passages show that wine, on such occasions, was administered to the elephants to render them furious.—Mace, v. 2. 10, 45. PHILE mentions the same fact, De Elephante, i. 145.

There is a very curious account of the mode in which the Arab conquerors of Seinde, in the 9th and 10th centuries, equipped the elephant for war; which being written with all the particularity of an eye-witness, bears the impress of truth and accuracy. MASSOUDI, who was born in Bagdad at the close of the 9th century, travelled in India in the year A.D. 913, and visited the Gulf of Cambay, the coast of Malabar, and the Island of Ceylon:—from a larger account of his journeys he compiled a summary under the title of "Moroudj al-dzeheb," or the "Golden Meadows," the MS. of which is now in the Bibliothèque Nationale. M. REINAUD, in describing this manuscript says on its authority, "The Prince of Mensura, whose dominions lay south of the Indus, maintained eighty elephants trained for war, each of which bore in his trunk a bent cymeter (carthel), with which he was taught to cut and thrust at all confronting him. The trunk itself was effectually protected by a coat of mail, and the rest of the body enveloped in a covering composed jointly of iron and horn. Other elephants were employed in drawing chariots, carrying baggage, and grinding forage, and the performance of all bespoke the utmost intelligence and docility."—REINAUD, Mèmoires sur l'Inde, antérieurement au milieu du XIe siècle, d'après les écrivains arabes, persans et chinois. Paris, M.D.CCC. XLIX. p. 215. See SPRENGER'S English Translation of Massoudi, vol. i. p. 383.


BRODERIP, Zoological Recreations, p. 226.


The iron goad with which the keeper directs the movements of the elephants, called a hendoo in Ceylon and hawkus in Bengal, appears to have retained the present shape from the remotest antiquity. It is figured in the medals of Caracalla in the identical form in which it is in use at the present day in India.

Medal of Numidia.
Modern Hendoo.

The Greeks called it [Greek: harpê], and the Romans cuspis.


This was the largest elephant that had been tamed in Ceylon; he measured upwards of nine feet at the shoulders and belonged to the caste so highly prized for the temples. He was gentle after his first capture, but his removal from the corral to the stables, though only a distance of six miles, was a matter of the extremest difficulty; his extraordinary strength rendering him more than a match for the attendant decoys. He, on one occasion, escaped, but was recaptured in the forest; and he afterwards became so docile as to perform a variety of tricks. He was at length ordered to be removed to Colombo; but such was his terror on approaching the gate, that on coaxing him to enter the gate, he became paralysed in the extraordinary way elsewhere alluded to, and died on the spot.


The natives profess that the high caste elephants, such as are allotted to the temples, are of all others the most difficult to tame, and M. BLES, the Dutch correspondent of BUFFON, mentions a caste of elephants which he had heard of, as being peculiar to the Kandyan kingdom, that were not higher than a heifer (génisse), covered with hair, and insusceptible of being tamed. (BUFFON, Supp. vol. vi. p. 29.) Bishop HEBER, in the account of his journey from Bareilly towards the Himalayas, describes the Raja Gourman Sing, "mounted on a little female elephant, hardly bigger than a Durham ox, and almost as shaggy as a poodle."—Journx., ch. xvii. It will be remembered that the mammoth discovered in 1803 embedded in icy soil in Siberia, was covered with a coat of long hair, with a sort of wool at the roots. Hence there arose the question whether that northern region had been formerly inhabited by a race of elephants, so fortified by nature against cold; or whether the individual discovered had been borne thither by currents from some more temperate latitudes. To the latter theory the presence of hair seemed a fatal objection; but so far as my own observation goes, I believe the elephants are more or less provided with hair. In some it is more developed than in others, and it is particularly observable in the young, which when captured are frequently covered with a woolly fleece, especially about the head and shoulders. In the older individuals in Ceylon, this is less apparent: and in captivity the hair appears to be altogether removed by the custom of the mahouts to rub their skin daily with oil and a rough lump of burned clay. See a paper on the subject, Asiat. Journ. N.S. vol. xiv. p. 182, by Mr. G. FAIRHOLME.



"Diplês de phasin euporêsai kardias

Kai tê men einai thumikon to thêrion

Eis akratê kinêsin êrethismenon,

Tê de prosênes kai thrasytêtos xenon.

Kai pê men autôn akroasthai ton logôn

Ous an tis Indos eu tithaseuôn legoi,

Pê de pros autous tous nomeis epitrechein

Eis tas palaias ektrapen kakoupgias."]

PHILE, Expos. de Eleph., l. 126, &c.


Captain YULE, in his Narrative of an Embassy to Ava in 1855, records an illustration of this tendency of the elephant to sudden death; one newly captured, the process of taming which was exhibited to the British Envoy, "made vigorous resistance to the placing of a collar on its neck, and the people were proceeding to tighten it, when the elephant, which had lain down as if quite exhausted, reared suddenly on the hind quarters, and fell on its side—dead!"—P. 104.

Mr. STRACHAN noticed the same liability of the elephants to sudden death from very slight causes; "of the fall." he says, "at any time, though on plain ground, they either die immediately, or languish till they die; their great weight occasioning them so much hurt by the fall."—Phil. Trans. A.D. 1701, vol. xxiii. p. 1052.


A correspondent informs me that on the Malabar coast of India, the elephant, when employed in dragging stones, moves them by means of a rope, which he either draws with his forehead, or manages by seizing it in his teeth.


"Here the trees were large and handsome, but not strong enough to resist the inconceivable strength of the mighty monarch of these forests; almost every tree had half its branches broken short by them and at every hundred yards I came upon entire trees, and these, the largest in the forest, uprooted clean out of the ground, and broken short across their stems."—A Hunter's Life in South Africa. By R. GORDON CUMMING, vol. ii. p. 305.—

"Spreading out from one another, they smash and destroy all the finest trees in the forest which happen to be in their course.... I have rode through forests where the trees thus broken lay so thick across one another, that it was almost impossible to ride through the district."—Ibid., p. 310.

Mr. Gordon Cumming does not name the trees which he saw thus "uprooted" and "broken across," nor has he given any idea of their size and weight; but Major DENHAM, who observed like traces of the elephant in Africa, saw only small trees overthrown by them; and Mr. PRINGLE, who had an opportunity of observing similar practices of the animals in the neutral territory of the Eastern frontier of the Cape of Good Hope, describes their ravages as being confined to the mimosas, "immense numbers of which had been torn out of the ground, and placed in an inverted position, in order to enable the animals to browse at their ease on the soft and juicy roots, which form a favourite part of their food. Many of the larger mimosas had resisted all their efforts; and indeed, it is only after heavy rain, when the soil is soft and loose, that they ever successfully attempt this operation."—Pringle's Sketches of South Africa.


Menageries, &c., "The Elephant," vol. ii. p. 23.


Ibid., ch. vi. p. 138.


Menageries, &c., "The Elephant," vol. i. p. 19.


The principal sound by which the mahouts in Ceylon direct the motions of the elephants is a repetition, with various modulations, of the words ur-re! ur-re! This is one of those interjections in which the sound is so expressive of the sense that persons in charge of animals of almost every description throughout the world appear to have adopted it with a concurrence that is very curious. The drivers of camels in Turkey, Palestine, and Egypt encourage them to speed by shouting ar-ré! ar-ré! The Arabs in Algeria cry eirich! to their mules. The Moors seem to have carried the custom with them into Spain, where mules are still driven with cries of arré (whence the muleteers derive their Spanish appellation of "arrieros"). In France the Sportsman excites the hound by shouts of hare! hare! and the waggoner there turns his horses by his voice, and the use of the word hurhaut! In the North, "Hurs was a word used by the old Germans in urging their horses to speed;" and to the present day, the herdsmen in Ireland, and parts of Scotland, drive their pigs with shouts of hurrish! a sound closely resembling that used by the mahouts in Ceylon.


On the Difference between the Human Membrana Tympani and that of the Elephant. By Sir EVERARD HOME, Bart., Philos. Trans., 1823. Paper by Prof. HARRISON. Proc. Royal Irish Academy, vol. iii. p. 386.


I have already noticed the striking effect produced on the captive elephants in the corral, by the harmonious notes of an ivory flute; and on looking to the graphic description which is given by ÆLIAN of the exploits which he witnessed as performed by the elephants exhibited at Rome, it is remarkable how very large a share of their training appears to have been ascribed to the employment of music.

PHILE, in the account which he has given of the elephant's fondness for music, would almost seem to have versified the prose narrative of ÆLIAN, as he describes its excitement at the more animated portions, its step being regulated to the time and movements of the harmony: the whole "surprising in a creature whose limbs are without joints!

[Greek: "Kainon ti poiôn ex anarthrôn organôn."]

PHILE, Expos. de Eleph, 1. 216.

For an account of the training and performances of the elephants at Rome, as narrated by ÆLIAN see the appendix to this chapter.


The Angler in the Lake District, p. 23.


A shocking account of the death of this poor animal is given in HONE'S Every-Day Book, March, 1830, p. 337.


ÆLIAN, lib. xiii. c. 7.


The elephant which was dissected by DR. HARRISON of Dublin, in 1847, died of a febrile attack, after four or five days' illness, which, as Dr. H. tells me in a private letter, was "very like scarlatina, at that time a prevailing disease; its skin in some places became almost scarlet."


See a paper entitled "Recollections of Ceylon," in Fraser's Magazine for December, 1860.


Annales du Muséum F. viii. 1805. p. 94, and Ossemens Fossiles, quoted by OWEN, in the article on "Teeth," in TODD'S Cyclop. of Anatomy, &c., vol. iv. p. 929.


An ordinary-sized elephant engrosses the undivided attention of three men. One, as his mahout or superintendent, and two as leaf-cutters, who bring him branches and grass for his daily supplies. An animal of larger growth would probably require a third leaf-cutter. The daily consumption is two cwt. of green food with about half a bushel of grain. When in the vicinity of towns and villages, the attendants have no difficulty in procuring an abundant supply of the branches of the trees to which elephants are partial; and in journeys through the forests and unopened country, the leaf-cutters are sufficiently expert in the knowledge of those particular plants with which the elephant is satisfied. Those that would be likely to disagree with him he unerringly rejects. His favourites are the palms, especially the cluster of rich, unopened leaves, known as the "cabbage," of the coco-nut, and areca; and he delights to tear open the young trunks of the palmyra and jaggery (Caryota urens) in search of the farinaceous matter contained in the spongy pith. Next to these come the varieties of fig-trees. particularly the sacred Bo (F. religiosa) which is found near every temple, and the na gaha (Messua ferrea), with thick dark leaves and a scarlet flower. The leaves of the Jak-tree and bread-fruit (Artocarpus integrifolia, and A. incisa), the Wood apple (Ægle Marmelos), Palu (Mimusops Indica), and a number of others well known to their attendants, are all consumed in turn. The stems of the plaintain, the stalks of the sugar-cane, and the feathery tops of the bamboos, are irresistible luxuries. Pine-apples, water-melons, and fruits of every description, are voraciously devoured, and a coco-nut when found is first rolled under foot to detach it from the husk and fibre, and then raised in his trunk and crushed, almost without an effort, by his ponderous jaws.

The grasses are not found in sufficient quantity to be an item of daily fodder; the Mauritius or the Guinea grass is seized with avidity; lemon grass is rejected from its overpowering perfume, but rice in the straw, and every description of grain, whether growing or dry; gram (Cicer arietinum), Indian Corn, and millet are his natural food. Of such of these as can be found, it is the duty of the leaf-cutters, when in the jungle and on march, to provide a daily supply.


ARISTOTELES de Anim. l. viii. c. 9.


Menag. de Mus. Nat. p. 107.


FLEURENS, De la Longévité Humaine, pp. 82, 89.


This remark regarding the elephant of Ceylon does not appear to extend to that of Africa, as I observe that BEAVER, in his African Memoranda, says that "the skeletons of old ones that have died in the woods are frequently found."—African Memoranda relative to an attempt to establish British Settlements at the Island of Bulama. Lond. 1815, p. 353.


A corral was organised near Putlam in 1846, by Mr. Morris, the chief officer of the district. It was constructed across one of the paths which the elephants frequent in their frequent marches, and during the course of the proceedings two of the captured elephants died. Their carcases were left of course within the enclosure, which was abandoned as soon as the capture was complete. The wild elephants resumed their path through it, and a few days afterwards the headman reported to Mr. Morris that the bodies had been removed and carried outside the corral to a spot to which nothing but the elephants could have borne them.


PHILE, Expositio de Eleph. l. 243.


The selection by animals of a place to die, is not confined to the elephant, DARWIN says, that in South America "the guanacos (llamas) appear to have favourite spots for lying down to die; on the banks of the Santa Cruz river, in certain circumscribed spaces which were generally bushy and all near the water, the ground was actually white with their bones; on one such spot I counted between ten and twenty heads."—Nat. Voy. ch. viii. The same has been remarked in the Rio Gallegos; and at St. Jago in the Cape de Verde Islands, DARWIN saw a retired corner similarly covered with the bones of the goat, as if it were "the burial-ground of all the goats in the island."


Arabian Nights' Entertainment, LANE'S edition, vol. iii. p. 77.


See a disquisition on the origin of the story of Sinbad, by M. REINAUD, in the introduction prefixed to his translation of the Arabian Geography of Aboulfeda, vol. i. p. lxxvi.

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