Elephants usually sleep twice during the twenty-four hours, viz., in the heat of the day and at midnight. They sleep both lying down and standing. When lying down they like to rest their heads on higher ground than their bodies SO as to be able to rise easily. They sometimes snore loudly while sleeping in that position. When dozing on their feet they stand still, merely flapping their ears and swinging their trunks slightly every now and then. Calves always lie at their mother's forefeet.
The most characteristic trait of elephants is their restlessness. When in health they are never quiet for a moment, always swinging their heads and trunks, rubbing their legs together, napping their ears and blowing with their trunks. It is a certain sign that an elephant is ill if it stands motionless with hanging head and flaccid trunk. The statement that " man is the only creature which uses tools" is controverted by the fact that elephants often use bits of stick to scratch themselves with, and branches to fan themselves. They are fond of rubbing themselves against trees to relieve the irritation caused by little parasitic insects which infest the wrinkles in their thick hides. It is for the same reason no doubt that they throw earth over themselves. It is a common practice with them to gash the trunks of trees with their tushes probably to relieve some pain or irritation. They suffer a good deal from intestinal parasites, to get rid of which they eat quantities of earth periodically, which has a purgative effect on them.
Bull-elephants are capable of propagating their kind when from fifteen to twenty years old, and cows generally have their first c lives at about the same age. Much nonsense has been written as to the modus cnpulandi and many absurd statements made in connection with the same subject,-some of which are still believed by natives such as, that tuskless bulls are of the neuter gender, that male elephants have their testes in their heads, that the females are influenced in their sexual desires by the phases of the moon, that they are of so modest a nature that they will not allow the males to cover them in the presence of men, that each female will consort with only one male, and that the first-born of every female is a tusker-calf. It has, however, been proved beyond doubt that the bull-elephant has connection with the cow in the manner common to all quadrupeds, [and that from first to last there is nothing abnormal in the provisions of nature for the propagation of the elephant race.
When any female is in the condition to receive the male, the wandering bulls rejoin the herd and there is frequent fighting for her possession till the biggest and strongest male drives off his rivals. He then follows her about continually as is the custom of all animals in such circumstances. The half-grown bulls do not attempt to fight but hang about, slinking away quietly when the big successful bull approaches and utters threatening rumbles. After a few days the bulls all leave the herd and resume their solitary wanderings.
When unable to satisfy their sexual desires bull-elephants get into a dangerous condition called " must," one sign of which is the slight discharge of an oily fluid from the temporal glands. While in this state, which may last a week or two, they eat very little and are very excited and restless.
In fighting, elephants butt each other and try to bear each other down. Should one knock its enemy on to its side it will go on pounding it with its ponderous head, without allowing it to rise, till it has crushed the life out of it. They do not always fight fair, having a vicious habit of tail-biting. Stump-tailed elephants are not at all uncommon. Elephants often kick heavily, swinging out their hind legs with surprising quickness. They can also strike heavy blows with their trunks.
Females carry their young about eighteen or nineteen months. There does not appear to be any particular time for them to drop their calves. They have usually only one call* at a time, but twin calves are sometimes born. A newly-born calf is a comical long-legged little creature about three feet high and 200 lbs. in weight with staring eyes and short inflexible trunk. The natives say that the mother throws earth over it directly after birth, probably to protect it from flies. After a few hours the calf staggers to its feet, but is not able to go about and join the herd for several days. The dugs of .the cow are between its forelegs, and the calf sucks standing in front of its mother who fondles it with her trunk. Mothers suckle their calves for two years or more and they have been seen suckling two calves of different ages. The milk is plentiful and very rich.
The number of persons annually killed by wild elephants is very small. When a death of this kind is reported it is always said to be the work of a "rogue." Such loss of life is, however, nearly always accidental, the unfortunate man having come suddenly on the elephant, which being taken by surprise and its instinct of self-preservation roused, rushed at him, knocked him down and trampled on him and then bolted panic-striken at its own violence. When an elephant really means murder, it will kick or shuffle its victim backwards and forwards between its legs and crush him to the ground with its huge head till it leaves him a shapeless mass of flesh and bones. They have been known to afterwards carry the bodies of their victims in their trunks for some distance.
Real "rogues" which infest a certain forest and lie in wait for travellers and deliberately trample on them or tear them to pieces are extremely rare, there being few recorded instances. Every year notices appear in the " Government Gazette " offering rewards for the destruction of "rogue elephants." Some of these are said to have killed men, the circumstances not being stated, and others are reported to have scared tappal-runners and delayed the mails. Nothing is said in these notifications as to the size, sex or marks of the proclaimed " rogue," and it is difficult to understand how " proof of the destruction of the animal" is to be given under such circumstances; especially as there are probably a dozen or more bull-elephants wandering about alone in the forest specified.
"Rogues" are popularly supposed to be elephants which have been turned out of the herd for misconduct! The fact, however, that a "rogue's" career of murder is generally very short seems to prove that it is simply a bull suffering from temporary sexual excitement. As soon as the fit of "must" has passed, it probably becomes a quiet inoffensive beast again. This theory is strengthened by the fact that female "rogues" are never heard of. A tame elephant which has gone wild is said to make the worst kind of "rogue," having lost its fear of men. There have been not a few cases of supposed "rogues" killing buffaloes and cattle.
Of all wild animals, elephants are most dreaded by jungle villagers, more on account of their impressive size than of danger of attack from them. They do a great deal of harm to the paddy-fields and chenas and are constantly fired at by the watchers. Almost every wild elephant caught, is found to have a number of boil-like lumps on its hide, being old bullet-wounds.
They live to a great age. In wild districts old solitary bulls may not infrequently be met with which are quite deaf from old age, and partly blind. They pay no attention to shouts, giving the impression of being peculiarly wicked "rogues," but should they get the wind of any human being in the vicinity, they will bolt at once.