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A brief history of Elephants.

Byline: By Peter Leathley

According to Hindu mythology, the first elephants had wings and flew through the air cavorting with clouds.

Then one day, a holy chap was teaching his pupils beneath a tree when a flying elephant landed on a branch above him.

The branch snapped and the elephant fell to the ground, squashing his pupils.

Having lost his students, the angry teacher called on the gods to deprive the elephants of their wings. And from that day forth, elephants were destined to trample across the ground.

Pope Leo X kept a pet elephant called Hanno.

Hanno arrived in Rome from India in 1514. According to a poem commemorating the event, Hanno knelt on the ground in front of his Holiness then "straightened up in reverence to the Pope".

While Hanno entertained the papal court, elephants in India were committing gruesome deeds.

Condemned criminals often found themselves crushed to death beneath an elephant's bottom.

Mughal Emperor Jahangir was particularly fond of this form of execution and took great delight in watching men being squashed by his royal elephants.

In America, the National Recording Registry is home to Neil Armstrong's first words from the moon, speeches by Woodrow Wilson and a collections of sounds made by Asian elephants.

But even if you had lugs as big as an elephant, you wouldn't be able to hear much, as their frequencies are inaudible to the human ear.

Thailand's elephants have had a more successful musical career than the infrasonic elephants in the American archive.

Saved from a life of logging, the xylophone- playing elephants of the Thai Elephant Orchestra released their second album, Elephonic Rhapsodies, in 2004.

African elephants ( like ladies and modern gentlemen ( need to take regular baths to keep their skin moisturised and supple.

However ( unlike ladies and modern gentlemen ( they can release 2,000 litres of methane gas into the atmosphere and deposit up to 220lbs of dung in a single day.

Elephants symbolise different things throughout the world.

In China, they represent energy, strength, and power. For Buddhists, the white elephant symbolises patience and wisdom.

But they also were also emblematic of the call to war for the Christian Crusaders, which made them the obvious choice of logo for George Bush's Republican Party.

In 2001, a rare albino elephant caught in the Burma was awarded the official title of Glorious Elephant King when it arrived in the capital Rangoon.

The government saw the elephant as a sign of good times and gave it a grand welcoming party ( and elephants sure know how to party.

In north-east India elephants have developed a taste for rice beer, which they guzzle down and then go on a rampage.

One party ended in tragedy, however, when four stampeding inebriated elephants were electrocuted after they knocked down an electric pole.

And finally ( despite what you may have heard about elephants being big scaredy-cats when it comes to mice ( if an elephant saw a mouse it would probably stand on the mouse's head rather than run away screaming, especially if was drunk.
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Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 28, 2005
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