Are Elephants Afraid of Mice?

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One of the more humorous questions that persists among animal lovers is ''Are elephants afraid of mice?'' The image of elephants shrieking and running at the sight of a mouse has been a staple of animation and popular culture for decades. Whether or not it is true, however, is a whole different matter.

Beginning the Rumor

The elephant is the largest land mammal on the earth and the field mouse is the smallest. It would seem strange that an elephant would be scared of a mouse. So where did the origin for such an assessment come from?

Believe it or not, the person in recorded history who put forth the notion was the Roman author Gaius Plinius Secundus, who was known as Pliny the Elder. It was he who noted that the elephant hated the mouse more than any other creature.

It can be considered plausible that elephants have a fear for mice. That said, Pliny stated that elephants have a hatred for mice. He did not state they feared them. Words carry meaning and, sometimes, when the original words are misconstrued, false impressions arise.

Performing a Test

The stars and producers of the television show MythBusters traveled to South Africa to test the theory of whether or not elephants are afraid of mice. They put mice in a hole and covered the hole with elephant dung. When the elephant approached the dung pile, the MythBusters crew pulled the dung away and revealed the scurrying mice.

Surprisingly, the elephants stopped immediately in their tracks. They were clearly upset by the presence of the mice and kept a cautious distance. The elephants were not seriously frightened, however, and they did not stampede away from the mice.

The end result of the experiment is an unofficial conclusion that elephants are concerned about mice, but not necessarily scared of them.