Are elephants really afraid of mice?

Do you know of the popular tale about elephants being afraid of mice? Well, it seems entirely absurd, doesn’t it? Considering how unlikely it appears that an enormous pachyderm like an elephant would scuttle away in fright from a tiny little mouse. We owe this crazy belief to Pliny the Elder, a prominent Roman thinker who lived around A.D. 77. In his wildly popular book, Natural History, he wrote, “the elephant hates the mouse above all other creatures” ‚Äď and the rest is history.

Pliny the Elder seems to have had a fixation with elephants though, in addition to the ‘fact’ about their fear of mice, he also accounted for the origin of the mineral cinnabar as owing to a battle between an elephant and dragon, where their blood combined and resulted in the creation of the ore. Furthermore, he wrote of a purification ritual practised by the gentle giants at the time of a new moon, as well as a slow-witted elephant that slugged away at his assigned duties after hours in order to perform impressively in front of others. His accounts seem to be quite fanciful, but the myth of the elephant and mouse seems to have been the most persistent of the lot. But is there any truth to the claim?

Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman from Mythbusters firmly believed the myth was anything but true, prompting them to travel to Cape Town to test the theory for themselves. By hiding a rodent underneath a makeshift dung ball that was operated by a string, they would pull at the dung and reveal the mouse as a lumbering elephant approached. Much to their surprise, the elephant was stopped dead in its tracks upon seeing the mouse, resulting in the Mythbusters rating the myth as ‘plausible’.


The elephant doesn’t react with absolute terror but is distinctly affected by the presence of the mouse. Who knew?

It’s not exactly advisable to test the myth out for yourself, but to simply see some live elephants head to¬†Woodall Addo Elephant Park¬†for an incredible