Elephants Are Afraid of Mice

posted: 04/11/12
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As seen in "MythBusters: Shooting Fish in a Barrel."


Explanation: Way back in A.D. 77, Pliny the Elder started the impressively persistent rumor that "the elephant hates the mouse above all other creatures." For millennia, people have taken the Roman philosopher's word for it, but MythBusters Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman figured it was just too far-fetched for an enormous mammal to be frightened by a minuscule mouse. Fully expecting to bust Pliny's myth wide open, the MythBusters traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, to set a few mice loose around wild elephants and see what happened.

To slip the mice into elephant territory, Jamie and Adam placed the rodents in mouse-sized holes in the ground and covered them with balls of elephant dung. When a pachyderm approached, they yanked away the dung to reveal the mice.

Much to their surprise, the mice stopped the elephants dead in their tracks. Once the lumbering giants noticed a potential critter confrontation, they backed away and plodded off in the other direction. Thinking it might've been the dung-ball disturbance that explained the nervous reaction, the MythBusters tried to scare the elephants by moving the dung without any mice around. But only the presence of mice could sufficiently startle them.

So, while the rodents didn't incite any stampedes, the elephants' cautious behavior was enough evidence for Jamie and Adam to declare Pliny's proposition plausible.

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