Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/523

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MENTAL CAPACITY OF THE ELEPHANT. 507

usually obeyed with tardiness and hesitation, and very often mani- fested nervousness and uncertainty.

In the mind of the elephant, e. g., each elephant, there was no confusion of ideas, but, on the contrary, a mental grasp on the whole subject, so secure and courprehensive that the animal felt himself mas- ter of the situation.

I have never yet seen a performance of trained dogs which could be considered worthy of serious comparison with the accomplishments of either performing or working elephants. In the matter of educa- tional capacity the dog can not on any grounds be considered the rival of the elephant. The alleged mental superiority of the dog is based almost wholly upon his powers of independent reasoning and observa- tion as exhibited in a state of almost perfect freedom. Until the edu- cated elephant, who has grown to maturity under man's influence, is allowed the dog's freedom to plan and execute, no comparison can be made between them in this respect.

Finally, we come to a consideration of the elephant's moral quali- ties, but it is not pertinent to this inquiry to discuss more than those having a direct bearing upon the subject. In India the elephant bears a spotless reputation for patience, amiability, and obedience, except in the case of such individuals as have been afflicted with insanity, either temporary or permanent. I know of no instances on record wherein an elephant has been guilty of culpable homicide, or even of attempting it. I have never heard of an elephant in India so much as kicking, striking, or otherwise injuring either human beings or other domestic animals. There have been several instances, however, of persons killed by elephants which were temporarily insane, or "must," and also by others permanently insane. It is the misfortune but not the fault of the elephant that in advanced age and by want of necessary exer- cise he is liable to be attacked by a fit of must, during which period he is clearly irresponsible for his acts.

So many men have been killed by elephants in this country that the idea has of late years been steadily gaining ground that they are nat- urally ill-tempered and vicious to a very dangerous extent. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have seen that in the hands of. the " gentle Hindoo " the elephant is gentle and reliable, and never attacks man except under the circumstances already stated. In this country, however, where he is at the mercy of quick-tempered and sometimes brutal showmen, who very often do not understand the tem- perament of the animals under their control, and who during the trav- eling season are rendered perpetually ill-tempered and vindictive by reason of overwork and insufficient sleep with such masters as these to mete out punishment, without judgment or reason, it is no wonder that the animal occasionally rebels, and executes vengeance. I am con- vinced that an elephant could by ill-treatment be driven to insanity, and I have no doubt this has been done more than once in this country.

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