The rumor that elephants are scared of mice is very persistent and there are whole collections of jokes circulating on this topic. However, these jokes are just as incorrect as all the stories about women who scream and jump on the nearest chair at the sight of a mouse. Basically, elephants flee from danger and are afraid of whatever they don't know. Zoo and circus elephants, however, know practically everything about their environment, and they certainly know mice. Whenever large quantities of hay and straw are delivered to a stable, there are often a few mice hidden in the bales. In their search for food, mice quickly discover the elephants' many leftovers. Furthermore, a stable is an ideal home for a mouse. It has everything it needs: food, nesting material, warmth and quiet hiding places. Since mice can carry diseases, the elephant keepers work hard to keep down their numbers. Another wrong assumption is that elephants are afraid that while they are asleep, a mouse might crawl up their trunk and suffocate them. Even if this were likely to happen, it would most certainly trigger an enormous sneezing fit which would prove disastrous for the mouse in question. It therefore seems reasonable that many of the myths about elephants being afraid of mice should be rewritten to indicate that it is really the elephant keepers who are afraid of the mice, and not the elephants themselves.
If there's any truth to this legend at all, it likely comes from elephants' being anxious about nearby sounds or movement they can't identify, such as that caused by mice darting around underfoot. Elephants may be afraid of very little, but unlocatable sounds and small, fast objects that are difficult to follow can add up to something unidentifiable, one of the few things that signal "danger" to them. However, such a reaction could just as easily be triggered by something other than mice, such as small dogs.
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