Definition of Intelligence

From the elephant glossary Section: ethology

Relevant Literature about Intelligence

There is no doubt that the elephants with their large brain, belong to the most intelligent mammals, comparable with Whales and Primates.

With over 5 kg (11 lb), an elephant's brain has more mass than that of any other land animal, and although the largest whales have body masses twenty times those of a typical elephant, a whale's brain is barely twice the mass of an elephant's brain. In addition, elephants have around 257 billion neurons. (Wikipedia)

Many tons of wise old elephants displaying unusual intelligence and remarkable precision in their many new tricks Anon

Amy Kaufman CITES elephant trainer Gary Johnson:
You can feel the intelligence with them. Theyre so massive but yet theyre so graceful," he said. "Its just something about them. Ive done this for over 40 years now, and still one of my favorite things is at the end of the day being in the barn, just watching them eat, sitting on a bale of hay watching them interact with each other. Its just very relaxing. Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times, January 16, 2011

Pliny the Elder (AD 23–79) was ancient Roman nobleman, scientist, historian, and author of Naturalis Historia (Plinys Natural History). In the 17th century, it was believed that elephants had very advanced intellectual abilities. Following Pliny, it was thought that the elephant was the nearest to man in intelligence, and that elephants could understand speech, follow orders, and had a sense of religion and conscience. Pliny even reports that an elephant had learned to write words in the Greek alphabet.

From Pliny The elephant is the largest land animal, and also the nearest to man in intelligence. It understands the language of its country, obeys orders, remembers duties it has learned, likes affection and honours - more, it has virtues rare in man - honesty, wisdom, justice, and respect for the stars and reverence for the sun and the moon... Pliny

From Histoire naturelle by Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon In his influential Histoire naturelle (1764), Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon wrote that the elephant:
is the most respectable Animal in the world. In size he surpasses all other terrestrial creatures; and by his intelligence, he makes as near an approach to man, as matter can approach spirit. Histoire naturelle, Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon

From "The Elephant in Captivity", By W. Henry Sheak The famous circus owner John Robinson in America made the following reflection:
The following incident illustrates the intelligence and keen comprehension of this interesting mammal:

As the elephant walks beside its keeper, it lowers its pillar-like legs deliberately as though conscious of the crushing force of their descending weight. Although the author has walked around the circus ring for hours with elephants in order to exercise them, he does not recall that one ever came into contact with his foot, and such an experience would indeed be unforgettable.

One evening in the South I was pacing up and down in front of the Robinson Herd. The night was cold and I was trying to keep warm. Tom, a small bull with very long Tusks, began rubbing against a center pole. The lamps at once commenced to swing as in a crazy dance. I shouted, “Tom, that pole!” He started to get away, but he was very slow and deliberate in all his movements, especially in doing things you asked him to do. Queen, a big cow who stood by him, put her head against his flank and gave him a push that landed him well away from the pole. She was not very obedient herself, but she knew what I wanted him to do and saw that he did it.

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.

We fed the Herd a mash of bran and oats once or twice a day, placing a pile of this food between each pair of elephants. Tillie and Queen, the two largest members of the Herd, stood together. Almost invariably Tillie would divide the pile, quite equally and fairly, pulling her share over closer to her. But when Queen was looking the other way, she did. not scruple to reach over and take a handful (or trunkful) off Queen’s pile.

Sheak also writes about the African elephant:
I think the tallest elephant I have ever seen alive is the big African now in the New York Zoological Park. He is 9 Feet, 3 ¼ inches tall, and is estimated to weigh 6ooo pounds. He is vicious and cannot be handled. He has worn off his Tusks back beyond the lips by Fighting the bars of his enclosure. One needs only to look at the rounded forehead and much smaller brain case of the African elephant to expect less intelligence from him than from his Asiatic cousin. W. Henry Sheak

From Smithsonian Magazine, 2021 By exposing elephants to mirrors, scientists have spotted a hidden side of the giant creatures: the ability to recognize themselves. Self-recognition in mirrors is rare among animals.

To test that theory, Reiss and two colleagues from Emory University placed mirrors in the yard where three Asian elephants live at the Bronx Zoo in New York. All three elephants displayed unusual, self-directed behavior in front of the mirror. Such behavior included pulling their Ears back and forth with their Trunks and eating hay in front of the reflection, often swinging the bales as though testing the image.

Only one of the elephants, named Happy, completed the highest level of mirror self-recognition, known as the "mark test." During part of the study, the researchers placed a white "X" above one eye of each elephant. After approaching the mirror, Happy touched the mark with her Trunk 12 times in 90 seconds — a high rate for an atypical behavior.

To make sure the sight and not the feel of the "X" caused the excess touching, the researchers also placed an invisible "X" of the same texture above her other eye. Happy never tried to touch this false mark, Reiss' team reports in the Nov. 7 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Smithsonian Magazine, 2021

Internal relevant links on website

Intelligence mentioned in The Elephant Database
  • No country match the word Intelligence in the database.

2 locations holdings in the elephant database match the word Intelligence.

7 elephants in the elephant database match the word Intelligence

Reference list Koehl, Dan, (2023). Intelligence. Elephant Encyclopedia, available online retrieved 20 September 2021 at (archived at the Wayback machine)

Sources used for this article is among others:

Links about Intelligence

Selected external links for this article about Intelligence:

External relevant search

Search more on the web for elephant+%22Intelligence%22 (Opens in new window and the word elephant+%22Intelligence%22 is already submitted into the link, just click on the link for relevant results)

Categories glossary | ethology

About this documentThis document was created: 2021-09-20. Latest update: 2021-10-08 11:42:36 included 7344 characters with valid HTML5 Valid CSS

Elephant Encyclopedia and database

Established 1995
Established 2006
Your ip:
Kulen Elephant Forest