The Elephant in Captivity

We once had a large female elephant that did an act with a very small pony. At one stage of the act the little pony would lie down in the ring and let the big pachyderm step over him. She was very much attached to the pony and was so afraid she might step on him that her extreme caution became humorous. She moved her feet so slowly that the trainer had to jab her with the hook to hurry her up a little.

The likes and dislikes of the elephant are very pronounced and these create some of the hardest problems elephant men have to solve. With the Robinson show we had a small female known as Queenie. Tillie, the star performer of the herd, was very much attached to Queenie, and if the latter made any noise while the elephant act was in progress, Tillie would break away and race back to the menagerie, with the whole herd at her heels. At Cumminsville, a suburb of Cincinnati, we had such a stampede, and the people lost their heads and rushed down on to the hippodrome track. The whole herd went through the crowd on the double quick without hurting a single individual, illustrating the exceeding carefulness of this, the largest of the world’s land mammals. Some big strong man with a tent stake always had to be set to guard Queenie and make all sorts of dire threats as to what he would do to her if she dared open her mouth.

The elephant often becomes affectionately attached to his keeper and will fight for him. Tillie formed a close attachment for a nine-year-old girl belonging to one of the circus troupes. Every evening the child came into the menagerie, and the big beast would fold her trunk Though in their general disposition resembling the little girl who “when she was good, she was very, very good,” the elephant when he has once “gone bad” is apt to grow steadily more horrid. When the temper of such an elephant reaches the danger point, it becomes necessary to kill him. gently about her, fondle her, and express in many ways her liking. If any one approached the little girl, Tillie would step back and throw out her ears in a threatening attitude.

No animal is quicker to resent an injury or insult, or supposed insult. Charles Alderfer, now manager of the Alderfer Circus, began his life as a showman with the elephants of the Wallace menagerie. One day in winter quarters the head painter wanted some wagons moved and Alderfer volunteered to bring out an elephant. He brought out Pilate, notoriously surly in disposition. In backing one of the wagons, the pole, or tongue, struck Pilate on the side. He thought it was Alderfer’s fault and started for him, his ears spread out like the sails of a yacht. The painter said for a few minutes he would not have given fifteen cents for Alderfer’s life. The latter ran at top speed and jumped over a fence. Then he put the hook into Pilate, climbed back, led him to the elephant house, chained him up, and whipped him severely. Pilate apparently recognized the injustice of his suspicion for after that he was always the friend of Alderfer.

No animal hates more intensely, or avenges himself more cruelly on his enemy, be that enemy human or of his own species. In October 1892, there was an exciting elephant fight at the Wallace winter quarters. It occurred on Sunday evening. The show had been in from the road only a few days. There were five elephants in the herd, four of them big bulls. After an early supper, the keepers left their charges, each chained to the floor by the left foreleg, and went to town. In some unaccountable way, four of the elephants got loose. Pilate and Diamond had always had an antipathy for each other and at once began fighting. Their trumpeting made the night hideous. The lions and tigers in a near-by building added their roaring and screaming to the awful chorus and the neighbors for miles around thought bedlam had been turned loose. The two vicious brutes fought savagely until Pilate had one of his tusks broken, whereupon Diamond put his head against his antagonist’s side and pushed him clear through the outer wall of the building, a solid brick wall fourteen inches thick. They had gored each other until the building looked as if a river of blood had flowed through it. But, strange to relate, neither of them was seriously hurt and in a few days, barring Pilate’s broken tusk, they appeared to be in as good condition as ever.

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