Morgan Tears 3.

Elaine Morgan (
Sat, 28 Oct 1995 13:48:00 GMT

Question Three. Is it true that elephants weep?

"The Indian elephant is known sometimes to weep. Sir E.
Tennent, in describing these which he saw captured and bound
in Ceylon, says some "lay motionlass on the ground, with no
other indication of suffering than the tears which suffused
their eyes and flowed incessantly". Speaking of another
elephant he says "When overpowered and made fast, his grief
was most affecting: his violence sank to utter prostration,
and he lay on the ground, uttering chopking cries, with tears
trickling down his cheeks" (Darwin, the Expression of the
Emotions in man and animals, Univ of Chicago Press, 1965,

"In the Zoological Gardens the keeper of the Indian elephants
positively asserts that he has several times seen tears
rolling down the face of the old female, when distressed by
the removal of the young one." (Ibid. The elephant man in the
London Zoo told me exactly the same thing in 1971 but as I am
not Darwin and did not tape the conversation I do not expect
this to count as evidence. )

"On a abbatu l'elephant du Jardin des Plantes. Il a pleure.On
va le manger." (The elephant in the garden of plants was
killed. He wept. They are going to eat him.")
(Victor Hugo, Carnet Intime, 1870-1 Henri Guillemin, Paris,
1953. p 88)

(Of a shot elephant) "I fired six shots at the same part with
the Dutch six-pounder. Large tears now trickled down his eyes,
which he slowly shut and opened, his colossal frame quivered
convulsively, and falling on his side he expired."
(R. Gordon Cummings,quoted in R. Carrington, Elephants: a
short account of their Natural History, Evolution, and
Influence on Mankind , Chatto and Windus, 1958 pp 154-155.
The samme passage was quoted by Mark Twain.)

Sadie, a circus elephant, punished for trying to run out of
th ring, The two men who were training hr "stood dumbfounded"
when she began to weep,,"the tears streaming down her face and
sobs racking her huge body".
(Ivan T. Anderson: The dynasty of Abu: A History and Natural
History of the Elephants, London, Cassell, 1960, sorry no page
number. Quoted in Sacred Elephant, Heathcote Williams,
Jonathan Cape, 1989)

Counter-claims: Darwin records in a footnote to the second
edition of his book that A Rev Mr Glenie wrote to him that
his native hunters had never seen a wild elephant weep. Darwin
felt that the positive evidence outweighed this comment.
Some have observed (a) that only captive elephants weep. But
the one Cummings shot was not captive. Maybe the wild ones
have less to cry about. (b) that they usualy cry when lying
down, and it may have something to do with gravity and the
nasolacrimal glands. But in these accounts they are not all
lying down when they begin to cry, though they not
infrequently end up on the ground.

Three other instances are reported in "When Elephants Weep",
Masson and McCarthy, Jonathan Cape 1994, p 133.

By the way, as counterbalance to my assertion that land
animals do not weep, the above volume refers to tears from an
injured horse and an eggbound grey parrot, No source or
quote is given for the horse story. I'm not quite sure how the
parrot fits in to anybody's ideas on this subject. Perhaps she
was having a real bad time. I seem to remember shedding tears
during parturition, but it was certainly not from grief.