Five Facts About Elephants (That Aren’t Really True)

  • May 14, 2010
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Elephants Can Paint Self Portraits

We’ve known for years that when it comes to painting, questionable “works” could be done by chimpanzees, sea lions and pretentious fine arts majors.


Don’t be impressed, that’s the fifth picture of a mangled herring he’s done this week.

Recently though, chain emails have brought word of elephants breaking into the art scene. And not content to simply smear feces around on a canvas like some modern artists and/or orangutans, they’ve been shown to be adept at forming shapes, patterns, and even self portraits. For those who are eternally jaded by the internet and its endless photoshoppery, there’s even a video of the giants in action.

So where did these Dumbo Da Vinci’s come get the ability without a pricey 4 year degree? Natural talent? Space aliens? Or, like your date to the senior prom, is this a classed up version of the some old trick?

As it turns out, the latter. All it takes it to use the same talents that earned them their “never forget” credentials, and utilize the same techniques that have made them a circus mainstay since your great-grandpappy’s day. Elephants can learn patterns, shapes and colors. Teaching them to replicate them is simply a matter of repetition... it takes about a month to drill it into their thick skulls as it turns out. Naturally, the elephants lack the ability comprehend abstract shapes or make associations with real world objects, not unlike myself at any time after 3 PM on an average day.


I’m don’t know what this is, but I’m gonna get so much melon for it.

So can elephants paint their own self-portraits? Only in the most literal and misleading sense of the word. They can make shapes that resemble themselves to us, if we teach them. But only if we bribe them to do it. And they don’t understand what they’re making. The whole thing is so exploitative and embarrassing for our species, it almost makes you want to curl up and die.


Elephant’s Have Their Own Graveyards

Aside from its use in jokes revolving around the death of Rosie O’Donnell, John Goodman or the big guy from Lost, few people can give a reason why the phrase “Elephant Graveyard” is in the lexicon. At best, most people could probably remember that it provided a spooky backdrop for that one scene in the Lion King.


I gotta watch that again. Did you know Cheech Marin was one of the hyenas? Serious.

Supposedly, elephants instinctively know when they were going to croak. And rather than hang around with their loved ones or go to see some kind of baboon doctor, they instinctively head to the family resting place to await death’s icy grip. Elephants, like the mother you should call more often, apparently never like to be a burden. The phrase itself has come to mean “a venerable repository or resting place for a collection, group or type”.

This plays into the never forgetting thing from earlier. Elephants were assumed to have some mystical knowledge of their doom and destiny. The truth is in fact a lot more sciencey. A number of factors can contribute to elephants seeking out a place that becomes a boneyard, and they all revolve around the watering hole.


An elephant water cooler. Frankly, we’re surprised Google Image Search gave us anything at all.

For the old elephants the myth specifically addresses, there is a very obvious sign when they are likely to die soon. Whereas humans have lawn obsession and watching Matlock, elephants have their teeth. These teeth grow from the back of their mouth and move forward. They get 6 sets in their lifetime, with the next one coming in as the old ones wear down. When all their teeth are worn by the woody food they eat, they start becoming malnourished. In captivity, they can be fed soft food or possibly outfitted with some giant, hilarious dentures. In the wild, they seek watering holes with softer water vegetation. Eventually, they can’t eat enough to stay alive or become too weak to fend off an attack, and they die.

Other elephants that are starved seek out water as well, contributing to the corpse roundup. These same watering holes are also among the most dangerous places for many animals as they attract predator and prey alike. By the time a waterhole is dried up for good, there may be a number of skeletons adorning it, kind of like Kim Cattrall’s living room.

kim cattrall

That’s right, she kills people. I’m off to my shrink to discuss my issues with women.

People coming across these collections of bones mistook them for a mystical elephant ritual. Either that or they just looted them for some precious, precious ivory.

Written by Kevin Mack – Copyrighted ©

Image Sources

Image sources:

  • - Elephants Are Afraid of Mice:
  • - Elephants Are Angry Drunks:
  • - An Elephant Never Forgets:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,taylor25.jpg
  • - Elephants Can Paint Self Portraits:
  • - Elephant’s Have Their Own Graveyards: