The Elephant, pp.60-62.

[Three Hundred Animals Contents]

   IS reckoned the most intellectual animal in the creation after man. It has been supposed that in ancient times they lived nearer the poles then they now do; but however they are, at this time, confined nearly to the torrid zone. Nature, always impartial in the distribution of her gifts, has given this bulky quadruped a quick instinct nearly approaching to reason, in compensation for the uncouthness and ill-shapedness of his body. The Ceylon Elephant, the largest of all, is about thirteen feet high, and seven broad, and is much the largest of all animals. His skin is mouse colour, sometimes white, and sometimes black. His eyes are rather small for the size of his head, and chiefly of his ears, which are very expanded and of a peculiar shape, the concha hanging down, instead of standing up, as in most part of quadrupeds. The Elephant is a gregarious animal in his wild state, and in domesticity is susceptible of attachment, and gratitude, as well as of anger and revenge. Several anecdotes are related of his quick apprehension, and chiefly of the vindictive treatment he uses against those who have either scuffed at or abused him. His mouth is armed with broad and strong grinding teeth, and two large tusks, which measure sometimes nine or ten feet. From these tusks all what ivory could ever produce of fine and exquisite workmanship was made. The ivory from the tusks of the female is reckoned the best, as the tooth being smaller admits less porosity in the cellular part of the mass. 

   Apt to become tame under the mild treatment of a good master, the Elephant is not only a most useful servant, but is also of great help in taming the wild ones that have been lately caught in the toils. The Indostan superstition has paid great honours to the white race of this quadruped; and the island of Ceylon is supposed to breed the finest of the kind. The wisdom of nature prevented her placing this immense beast among the carnivorous animals, according to the proportion in which vegetable exceeds animal food on the face of the earth. She destined him to live on grass and tender sprouts of all sorts. This noble creature bears in state on his back the potentates of the East, and seems to delight in the pompous pageantry of the Indostan; in war, he carries a tower filled with archers, and in the house lends his assistance to all who require it. The female is said to go a year with young; and to bring forth one at a time; the life of the Elephant is between 120 and 130. 

   The greatest wonder the Elephant presents to the admiration of the intelligent observer of nature, is his proboscis or trunk, composed of elastic rings to the extent of six or eight feet, and so flexible that he uses it as dexterously as man does his hand. It was erroneously said that the Elephant could receive nourishment through his trunk; this sort of pipe is nothing but a prolongation of the snout, for the purpose of breathing, in which the animal can, by the strength of his lungs, aspire a great quantity of water or other liquid, which he spouts again, or brings back to his mouth by inverting and shortening his proboscis for that purpose. It would be exceeding the rules we have adopted in the confection of this book, to say more upon a creature that has been so often, and so well described by other naturalists. 

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