Are Elephants Afraid Of Mice?

No, elephants are not afraid of mice, it is just a myth that elephants are scared of mice and they make elephants go crazy. In reality, they pay as little attention to mice, as you would pay a sparrow in your garden or in the street.

A lot of old and new cartoons, books, and films portray that the elephants are afraid of mice and you might be surprised how can little tiny mice frighten a giant elephant?

You have a legitimate question in your mind. It is actually a misconception that the elephants are afraid of mice. In reality, elephants do not pay much attention and also are not terrified by tiny mice.

There are many folk tales and fables from ancient Greek times (77 AD), which are responsible for this misunderstanding that elephants are afraid of mice. According to these ancient stories, once a mouse climbed up inside an elephant’s trunk and drove him crazy. This is the primary reason people believe that elephants fear mice. They believed that a mouse could enter into the elephant’s trunk and block it due to which elephants cannot breathe and can get annoyed. It is not possible because elephants can blow air through their trunks at such as high speed that it will just take a small puff of air to throw mouse out of the trunk.

credit: nriol

You can also watch the myth buster video by Discovery UK channel in which they created a situation with an aim to find out if elephants are really afraid of mice. In this experiment, they hide a mouse under dung of dome and attached a string to the dung such it will topple and release the mouse. Now they kept it in the path of elephants and when an elephant was approaching, they released the mouse. They found out that the mice surely got the attention of the elephant and the elephant backed out and took a diversion to avoid the mouse. After watching this scenario, they got confused about whether it was a mouse or the movement of dung that surprised the elephant. In order to find out, they set up another experiment in which they just kept dung of dome attached to string without the mice in the route of elephants. This time they found that the elephant didn’t react to the movement of dung. Now it was clear that the elephant reacted in the first experiment due to the mouse. To confirm their hypothesis, they again set up the first experiment. Again this time also, the elephant’s reaction was the same. The elephant’s reaction was not like it was afraid of mice or went crazy but it was like an elephant spotted a small living creature by surprise and don’t want to crush it. Therefore, he backed out and diverted its path.

This type of similar situation also occurs with us, when we suddenly spot something (that does not scare us) by surprise in our path. We can call this situation as an element of surprise instead of being afraid. For example, you are jogging in a lush green park with earphones playing your favorite music and suddenly a cute little dog comes out of the dense green bushes. Now think about your reaction. Your reaction will be similar to that of an elephant.

According to an Elephant researcher Josh Plotnik from the University of Cambridge in England, the sudden movement of any living creature such as dogs, cats, snakes, or any animal in the forest can surprise the elephants.

Based on various research reports and experiments, we can finally resolve the mysterious question “Are elephants really afraid of mice?” that created myth from ancient Greek times. We can conclude that mice do not terrify elephants. It is just the element of surprise that spook elephants otherwise they are the king of the forest as they don’t have any natural predators.

Professor Atom

View posts by Professor Atom
Professor Atom is a science enthusiast and alumni of IIT Bombay. According to him, every question can be solved with curiosity and mind mapping. ( Curiosity = Asking Questions = Learning )

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