Sunday, June 20, 2010


When ancient humans domesticated animals, several factors contributed to their selections. After all, there are only fourteen species of animals that are considered domesticated out of the thousands of animals that existed both then and in present day. So what factors made ancient man select these fourteen? One of factors was fear level. If an animal, like a deer or buffalo, has too high of a flight factor as a species, it’s impossible to contain or herd. Another was hierarchy, the animals had to herd together well and pay attention to the human herding them. They couldn’t be too small or it wasn’t worth their time and too large meant too much feed. Humans starving to feed their livestock hardly made sense.

When Dad and I went to California recently, we had the opportunity to spend time at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and that is always a pleasure. My fav animal? Of course, the elephant. I feel little stupid saying their like big cows, but their social structure is very similar to the bovines I’m familiar with. It’s easy to just stand there and watch how the females interact and the males try to climb out of their pens to get to them.

Very farmy indeed :p

Cattle were domesticated, though, not elephants, mainly due to their size. Humans had no way of containing elephants in fences and if the giant critters wanted to wander off, I can’t imagine the gooseboy they sent to watch them up in high pasture had much choice in the matter. Even in captivity today, elephants are large enough to be dangerous, so while taming them is possible, domestication, more than likely, is not. But that hardly detracts from the amazingness of their intricate and lifelong social systems and incredible capacity to care for and take care of one another. PBS has a wonderful series on elephants titled Echo of the Elephants, following a herd on the Kenyan Amboseli National Park.

Fun elephant facts for the day:

  • An elephant can drink 80 gallons of water per day.
  • It’s trunk alone can hold two to two and a half gallons of water.
  • It’s the only mammal that can’t jump.
  • In 1916, an elephant was tried and hung for murder in Erwin, Tennessee. (Only in the south.)
  • An elephant can live up to the age of seventy, or in some cases even more.
  • Elephants purr just like a cat. It’s used as a means of communication.
  • An adult African elephant eats approximately six hundred pounds of food a day, almost four percent of the elephant’s body weight!


Rowenna said...

I don't know about elephant fact #3--some would say that white men, as well, can't jump :)

I also enjoy elephants--and am amazed that they can be broken to ride. Fun historical elephant fact--first use of field artillery in battle was in India, and was mainly to frighten the elephants :)

Ax said...

Didn't Alexander the Great use elephants like that? Scared the hell out of the Persians?

Rowenna said...

I think so...and the Carthaginians used them too, but they didn't make it over the passes into Rome (I think...)

Wouldn't it be terrifying to have an ELEPHANT charging across a battlefield toward you? "Well, shoot, this sword really ain't going to do a heck of a lot."