The Animal Story Book - online children's book

Edited By Andrew Lang And With Numerous Illustrations By H. J. Ford

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322                 MORE ABOUT ELEPHANTS
elephants and horses are nearly related. Of course in the East, where countries are so big and marches are so long, it is necessary to have an animal to ride of more strength and endurance than a horse, and so elephants, who are, when well treated, as gentle as they are strong, were very early trained as beasts of burden, or even as ' men-of-war.'
In their wild condition they have a great many curi­ous habits. They roam about the forests of India or Africa in herds, and each herd is a real family, who have had a common grandfather. The elephants are very particular as to the number of their herd; it is never less than ten, or more than twenty-one, but being very sociable they easily get on terms of civility with other herds, and several of these groups may be seen moving together to­wards some special pond or feeding ground. But friendly as they often are, each clan keeps itself as proudly dis­tinct from the rest as if they were all Highlanders. Any unlucky elephant who has lost his own herd, and tries to attach himself to a new one, is scouted and beaten away by every member of the tribe, till, like a man who is punished and scorned for misfortunes he cannot help, the poor animal grows desperate, and takes to evil courses, and is hunted down under the name of ' a rogue.'
Elephants have a great idea of law and order, and carefully choose a leader who is either strong enough or clever enough to protect the herd against its enemies. Even a female has sometimes been chosen, if her wisdom has been superior to that of the rest; but male or female, the leader once fixed upon, the herd never fails to give him absolute obedience, and will suffer themselves to be killed in their efforts to save his life.
As everyone knows, during the dry season in India water becomes very scarce, and even the artificial tanks that have been built for reservoirs are very soon empty. About the middle of this century, an English officer, Major Skinner by name, had drawn up to rest on the em­bankment of a small Indian tank, which, low though it
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