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Mythbusters: Are Elephants Afraid of Mice?


You know the answer, right? Well so did I, and so did the mythbusters. That's why you should watch. It's pretty amazing.

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35 Comments

Didn't anyone consider the possibility that it was rolling piece of excrement attached to a string that made them sidestep? Wouldn't YOU step to the side?

said Michael on November 26, 2007 2:39 PM.

I agree, it seems the moving dung would have been more of an attention-getter than the mouse that doesn't move.

said Mighty Mouse on November 26, 2007 6:01 PM.

because they did that where they removed the mouse and just rolled the dung in front of the elephant and it walked right by like nothing happened. So yes they did consider that, and then test and prove it!

said Michael obviously didn't watch the whole thing... on November 26, 2007 8:52 PM.

That is true. They should have done a test without the mouse in it, and just the dung. And another thing...does anyone see the wires going across the screen in one of the close up slow-mo shots at the end? Maybe the elephant saw the wire fence, and turned around because it didn't want to go through it. Stop it around 3:18-3:21

said Kyle on November 26, 2007 9:38 PM.

I saw this episode. The guys ran the test three times. The first with a mouse the second with just the dung ball and the third with the mouse again.

In the second test, the elephant never even twitched. I believe it was the mouse that caused the effect.

said Ed on November 26, 2007 10:28 PM.

In the actual episode, they did a control to see if it was just the moving dung that startled 'em. The elephant noticed the moving dung and just walked by unfazed.

said mahonmeister on November 26, 2007 10:49 PM.

I have every bit of faith in the Mythbusters. They do make slight oversights but not so obvious ones. If they were stunned by the results then they must have made every effort to make sure that they were correct.

said thedesolatesoul on November 28, 2007 10:09 PM.

Ever consider that elephants don't want to hurt the mouse and so step aside?

said ashabot on November 29, 2007 1:09 AM.

haha.. that guy with the black jacket is sick! he put the mouse in his mouth.. the same mouse which was inside the elephant dung.. lol.. what these guys would do in the name of science..

said didnt you notive? on November 29, 2007 3:09 AM.

okay the mice are white come on what if it was a brown one ? what if you put a white rabbit it would do the same thing because of contast of the ground.

said eiant.com on November 29, 2007 4:43 AM.

I wonder if the color of the mouse had aught to do with it.

said Samantha on November 29, 2007 10:16 AM.

What if the elephant was just cautious not to step on the little creature?

said Lilo on November 30, 2007 6:59 AM.

I heard that Elephants are indeed shy of mice. They fear that the mice can enter the Elephants trunk and cause problems up there.

said ronerx on November 30, 2007 11:17 AM.

What would of happened if the mouse was a different color?
Say, brown/gray instead of white?

said Jessica on November 30, 2007 6:33 PM.

During the first test, the elephant sees the dung move, but doesn't actually stop until it sees the mouse. Watch it closely. Did anyone else notice the reaction of the elephant? It seemed more disgusted than scared.

said Steve on December 2, 2007 12:23 AM.

They did a run with no mouse and just the piece of dung and there was no response. The elephant just walked on by.

said nospacesallowed on December 5, 2007 4:24 PM.

@Jessica, while watching this I had the same thought. These elephants live in an environment where everything is brown, tan, or green. A white mouse sticks out like a sore thumb and of course would scare the heck out of them. They should have also tested this with a different colored mouse(black, brown) to see if it gave the same result.

said Heather on December 6, 2007 12:15 PM.

The reason elephants are afraid of mice is actually very simple. If a mouse comes in contact with a sleeping elephant it will chew its way into and underneath its 'toe nails' i know it doesn't seem like they have any, but they do. So the mouse chews through, the elephant can't feel it but the mouse hole is then expanded into the foot of the elephant and it is in tremendous pain after a few days. Why mice do this is beyond me but my grandfather worked at the zoo, he was among the first to bring an elephant into a Russian zoo. He told me about this phenomenon when I was a little girl. Sure enough myth busters just confirmed this.

said sasha on December 6, 2007 3:10 PM.

HEY! I believed this until I saw the shot of the fence. There are hardly noticeable WIRES there and the elephants are moving away from them so they don't trip themselves, not the mice...

said Sierra on December 8, 2007 3:10 PM.

oh well.. just as they are afraid of mice, other large objects are also afraid of small things. like for example a big gasoline station or a large hall of fireworks would be so afraid of a tiny flame from a match stick... (isn't it logical?) haha

said ticz on December 10, 2007 1:49 PM.

Actually, (to Sierra) the wiring didnt bother the elephants in the control experiment shown in the full episode. and as mentioned, they control run showed that the moving pile of dung did not seem to bother the elephants. also, any human smell wouldnt have caused the reaction either because these elephants have been around humans, they are fed by humans so.... it seems to the be the mouse in this particular scenario.
Still, I have seen many articles saying otherwise, but whatever. mythbusters is fun! yea! ;D

said Josie on January 5, 2008 8:19 PM.

omg u people. they just did the freakin thing!! just let it go okay... the elephants obviously noticed it and i dont think it was because of color OR string so just shut up and face the facts.

said wow.. on January 13, 2008 2:58 PM.

I think it's important to keep in mind the difference between a "plausible" and "confirmed" myth. Mythbusters are only saying there is a chance this myth is true...not that it definitely is not.

said Me on January 23, 2008 9:54 PM.

The elephants likely were startled by the sudden appearance of something white on the ground. They should have used a dark coloured mouse. I checked out this myth and found an entry at the Snopes website which states that the myth is false. They said if there is any truth to the legend, it "likely comes from elephants being anxious about nearby sounds or movements they can't identify, such as that caused by mice darting around underfoot. Other websites (such as the ABC news site and the upali.ch site) also state that elephants are not afraid of mice.

said Nelle on February 14, 2008 11:22 PM.

Just because you can see the fence in the shot dosen't mean it was even remotly close to where the elephant was. If the fence is anywhere between the camera and the subject it will show up....the fence still could be 20' from them and look right there in the image.

said AY on February 15, 2008 8:07 AM.

To borrow the words of another, "hey, I'd be freaked out too if a mouse came out of a piece of my crap."

said BK on May 16, 2008 6:10 PM.

i just watched the episode, if you listen to when they first where the "myth" originated it was said that if it went anywhere near their food they wouldn't eat it, perhaps it is something to do with contamination or something, also when they moved the dung without the mouse the elephant moved forward un-fazed AND walked through the string, it clearly WAS the mouse that affected the elephant, why? i dont know, maybe they hate the smell of a mouse, the test showed that an elephant DOES react to a mouse! maybe they hate the popping noise when they stand on them...lol

said geoff on August 18, 2008 12:03 PM.

Maybe the Elephant was cautious of the mouse because they were worried about stepping on the little creature and harming it. They have a strong nit family and probably cast that onto other animals. They are among the mot intelligent creatures in the world along with humans dolphins and other apes. So maybe it was just being cautious of another life below its foot.

said Ryan on January 11, 2009 3:06 AM.

This experiment needs several additional controls
1) Dung plus some other foreign thing coming out from under (e.g. how about a remote controlled hot wheel car). How normal is it for mice to be popping out of nowhere in the wild... during the day? Most wild animals are fearful of novel objects at first or objects/animals that suddenly appear in unexpected places. it's a survival mechanism for keeping them out of danger.

2) Same thing with a mouse that's more the color of what they would see in the wild (e.g. grey, agouti, etc)

3) Same thing with mouse just loose (so it doesn't suddenly appear)
4) Same thing with other animal that elephant doesn't usually see or that appears suddenly (or both)

Sophia

said Sophia Yin on March 23, 2009 7:43 PM.

I know the truth about why elephants are afraid of mice, it could prove to be very beneficial to fields of study if we could spread the TRUTH about the long unanswered question!

said Donnie on May 4, 2009 2:54 AM.

OMG!!!!! elephants are color-blind!! so, how could they even see the whiteness of the mouse??? and it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever that they are "afraid!!!" to kill the mouse. there is no reason for them to be scared to hurt a mouse, what, will they go to prison if they do?? and why would the elephant be afraid of a peice of sh** rolling on the ground?? would u be scared half to death if a ball rolled around outside in front of u? DIDN'T THINK SO!!! oh, and THAT has to be the most stupid reason of them all: they were afraid that if a mouse was near its food, it would get a disease. Does everyone forget that its an elephant?!?!! really, does an elephant think to itself, "oh, these berries im eating might be full of disease because a mouse was near it. im going to stop eating them and go over to that purple mushroom over there thats puffing out green smoke." and also, the wire fence was there not to trip them, but most likely to keep the elephant from wandering off too far. smart one, do u want an elephant making its way to a close by city, destroying everything in its way?!?!?!?! thats all i gotta say. byeeeee

said Susan on November 3, 2009 8:47 PM.

I think you got too close to that mushroom! lol

said amyswinningways on November 3, 2009 9:56 PM.

That isn't a fence. That is the wire they're using to pull the dung off the mouse!

I agree with Sophia... they need to test out more theories with that.

And they need to put the wire flatter on the ground to hide it better.

oh, and the ABC news piece states that he tested it with circus elephants. Almost all of the other sites that actually investigated (not just assumed) discussed circus elephants or zoo elephants. Maybe because they're trained, raised in a non-wild environment, they aren't as afraid?

I'd imagine that the elephants have no desire to harm something that hasn't harmed them. However, I can't see how we'd know WHY they're afraid.

said valena.charn on January 5, 2010 7:03 PM.

Hey susan! Before you go talking about color blindness maybe you should do your research! There are different types of color blindness and one of them people or animals can't see red or green as it is, but everyone who has a type of color blindness can and will see white as being white! So therefore the elephant indeed did see the white mouse! As for elephants being afraid of mice the mythbusters said that it was plausable so moreover its not true and its not false! clearly in the first and in the third test the elephant noticed the mouse and both times it got startled and walked in the other direction. The first one he clearly sees the dung move and doesn't react but then once he notices the mouse he jumps back and walks the other way and for the fence, it was fishing line for god sakes and in one of the tests you can cleary see the elephant walk on by taking the line with him! Before all of us start arguing about weather elephants are afraid or not of mice maybe we should all research more about it!

said Shemarah on January 26, 2011 9:58 PM.

Hey susan! Before you go talking about color blindness maybe you should do your research! There are different types of color blindness and one of them people or animals can't see red or green as it is, but everyone who has a type of color blindness can and will see white as being white! So therefore the elephant indeed did see the white mouse! As for elephants being afraid of mice the mythbusters said that it was plausable so moreover its not true and its not false! clearly in the first and in the third test the elephant noticed the mouse and both times it got startled and walked in the other direction. The first one he clearly sees the dung move and doesn't react but then once he notices the mouse he jumps back and walks the other way and for the fence, it was fishing line for god sakes and in one of the tests you can cleary see the elephant walk on by taking the line with him! Before all of us start arguing about weather elephants are afraid or not of mice maybe we should all research more about it!

said Shemarah on January 26, 2011 9:58 PM.
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