If you watch old cartoons, you know that the appearance of a mouse often leads to people standing on top of chairs in fear. Perhaps they’re worried a mouse will crawl up their pants leg!
There’s even a longstanding belief that elephants are afraid of mice. Elephants? Those big creatures that could crush a tiny mouse with one step? Why would they be afraid of mice? Is there any truth to this belief?
No one is sure where this old, commonly-held folk belief — sometimes called an urban legend — about elephants being afraid of mice came from. One thing is for sure, though, it’s been popularized in cartoons, movies, books and other media for many years. In fact, the first written reference to this belief may date back over 600 years!
This could cause irritation and blockage, making it hard for elephants to breathe. However, elephant experts say there’s no support for this belief. If an elephant wanted to, it could simply blow the mouse out of its trunk with a puff of air.
To date, no one has been able definitively to prove or disprove this old urban legend. The popular television show Mythbusters tested the belief on an episode. Their findings suggest that elephants may indeed be afraid of mice. Scientists who have viewed the episode, though, believe that it’s just as likely that the elephant in the episode was merely surprised by the mouse — not afraid of it.
Evidence from zoos suggests that elephants can get along with mice. Elephants in zoos often eat hay. Mice can often be found in and around the elephants’ hay, and zookeepers have reported that elephants usually don’t pay them any attention. In fact, some elephants don’t even seem to mind mice crawling on their faces and trunks.
Elephant experts will tell you that elephants have no reason to be afraid of mice. In fact, they’ll tell you that healthy elephants don’t fear any other animals, because of their size and lack of natural predators.
So despite the old urban legend that elephants are afraid of mice, it seems that elephants aren’t all that concerned with the small creatures. Any reaction they have may have more to do with surprise than fear. Perhaps the old belief developed from how funny it would be if elephants really were afraid of mice.