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The vulgar notion is, that the elephant goes with young ten years;1 but, according to Aristotle, it is two years only. He says also that the female only bears once, and then a single young one; that they live two hundred years, and some of them as much as three hundred. The adult age of the elephant begins at the sixtieth year.2 They are especially fond of water, and wander much about streams, and this although they are unable to swim, in consequence of their bulk.3 They are particularly sensitive to cold, and that, indeed, is their greatest enemy. They are subject also to flatulency, and to looseness of the bowels, but to no other kind of disease.4 I find it stated, that on making them drink oil, any weapons which may happen to stick in their body will fall out; while, on the contrary, perspiration makes them the more readily adhere.5 If they eat earth it is poison to them, unless indeed they have gradually become accustomed by repeatedly doing so. They also devour stones as well; but the trunks of trees are their most favourite food. They throw down, with a blow from their forehead, palms of exceeding height, and when lying on the ground, strip them of their fruit. They eat with the mouth, but they breathe, drink,6 and smell with [the proboscis], which is not unaptly termed their "hand." They have the greatest aversion to the mouse of all animals,7 and quite loathe their food, as it lies in the manger, if they perceive that it has been touched by one of those animals. They experience the greatest torture if they happen to swallow, while drinking, a horseleech, an animal which people are beginning, I find, to call almost universally a "blood-sucker."8 The leech fastens upon the wind-pipe, and produces intolerable pain.

The skin of the back is extremely hard, that of the belly is softer. They are not covered with any kind of bristles, nor yet does the tail even furnish them with any protection from the annoyance of flies; for vast as these animals are, they suffer greatly from them. Their skin is reticulated, and invites these insects by the odour it exhales. Accordingly, when a swarm of them has settled on the skin, while extended and smooth, the elephant suddenly contracts it; and, in this way, the flies are crushed between the folds which are thus closed. This power serves them in place of tail, mane, and hair.9

Their teeth are very highly prized, and from them we obtain the most costly materials for forming the statues of the gods. Luxury has discovered even another recommendation in this animal, having found a particularly delicate flavour in the cartilaginous part of the trunk, for no other reason, in my belief, than because it fancies itself to be eating ivory.10 Tusks of enormous size are constantly to be seen in the temples; but, in the extreme parts of Africa, on the confines of Æthiopia, they are employed as door-posts for houses; and Polybius informs us, on the authority of the petty king Gulussa,11 that they are also employed as stakes in making fences for the folds of cattle.

1 It has been stated, in a Note to chap. 5, that Mr. Corse found the period of the gestation of the elephant to be between twenty and twenty-one months.—B.

2 Ælian, Anim. Nat. B. iv. c. 31, considers the age of sixty to be the prime period of their life, not the commencement of their prime.—B.

3 This remark is incorrect; when the water is sufficiently deep, it swims with ease; and if the end of the trunk remains exposed to the atmosphere, it can dive below the surface, or swim with the body immersed.—B.

4 Cuvier remarks, that this statement is incorrect. He dissected three elephants at Paris, and found that their death had been caused by inflammation of the lungs and chest. The species of elephant, which now inhabits Asia and Africa, is certainly not adapted to a cold climate; but the numerous remains of elephants found in the north of Asia, prove that a species formerly existed, capable of enduring great cold. It is to be observed, that this species was covered with a thick, furry coat of wool and hair.—B.

5 This is from Aristotle, Hist. Anim. B. viii. c. 26; but it is scarcely necessary to remark, that it is without foundation. Ælian, Anim. Nat. B. ii. c. 18, refers to it, and explains it by supposing that the oil was not drunk, but applied externally; which is less improbable.—B.

6 They suck the fluid into the cavity of the trunk, and bend the trunk into the mouth, where it is received and swallowed in the usual manner.—B.

7 This dislike is confirmed by Cuvier.—B.

8 "Sanguisuga."

9 Aristotle, Hist. Anim. B. ii. c. 1, remarks, that the elephant is the least hairy of all animals.—B.

10 Cuvier remarks, that the trunk, being composed of a mixture of delicate muscular fibres and rich fat, would, when properly prepared, afford an article of food that might be very palatable.—B.

11 We learn from Livy, B. xiii. c. 23, that Gulussa was the son of Massinissa.—B.

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