Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/513

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MENTAL CAPACITY OF THE ELEPHANT.

By WILLIAM T. HORNADAY.

ACCORDING to the popular idea, man is the only animal endowed with reason. Even after modern scientific classification forced from all the humiliating admission that man is an animal, the idea of his supreme superiority over all the rest of the animal kingdom was embalmed in the formula, "Man is a reasoning being." The reasoning faculty is, to the popular mind, the gulf which separates him from the so-called dumb brutes, wide, fathomless, and impassable. While there are many who believe that this gulf which separates reason from absence of reason is occasionally bridged over, as it were, in the case of individual animals of phenomenal intelligence, there are a few who deny its existence altogether. Whenever enough evidence is accumulated to compel the unconditional surrender of the ground man has assigned for his exclusive occupancy, whenever it is clearly and conclusively shown that man's intellectual supremacy over the lower animals is due to the degree and not to the quality of his intellect, it will mark the beginning of a new era in psychological thought.

The principal purpose of this paper is to show the scope and quality of intelligence displayed by the animals of a certain species, the elephant, and to afford some data for a comparison of the mental processes of this animal with those of man.

Of late years, or we may even say during the last decade, the question as to whether any of the lower animals are ever capable of reasoning: has been often discussed. Hundreds of instances of unusual intelligence displayed by domestic animals have been related, and in many cases the actions of certain individuals have been admitted to be the result of reasoning. The dog has furnished a far greater number of such instances than any other animal, but we believe that this is due not so much to his superior intelligence as to the fact that he is brought into closer relations with his master, man, than is any other animal. A great many stories are told of the horse, cat, and elephant, and a few others detailing the performances of three or four remarkably intelligent chimpanzees and orangs have been repeated until they are now worn threadbare. Siamangs, baboons, and other members of the monkey tribe, parrots, canaries, and even fleas, have also attracted attention by their intelligent independent actions, or their performances under training. It appears that by universal consent the dog has been given the first place in the arrangement of animals according to their intelligence. Dr. W. L. Lindsay, however, who has made a careful, critical, and highly elaborate study of the subject of "Mind in the Lower Animals," thus arranges the orders of mammalia in a descend-