Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Arden from Booneville , NC. Arden Wonders, “How come elephants are afraid of mice?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Arden!
Are you afraid of mice? Many people are! The fear of mice is a phobia that goes by three different names: musophobia, murophobia, or suriphobia.
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 belief came from. Many claim it’s an urban legend. 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!
Some people believe this urban legend may have something to do with the elephant’s trunk. According to some, elephants are afraid of mice, because they fear that mice will crawl up their trunks.
This could cause irritation and blockage, making it hard for elephants to breathe. However, elephant experts say there’s no support for this belief. An elephant could simply blow a 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. Their findings suggest that elephants may indeed be afraid of mice. Scientists who have viewed the episode, though, disagree. They say it’s just as likely that the elephant 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. Zookeepers have reported seeing mice in and around elephants’ hay. They say this doesn’t seem to bother the elephants at all. 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, are elephants afraid of mice? It seems the answer is likely no. Any reaction they have to the tiny creatures may have more to do with surprise than fear. On the other hand, many people are certainly startled by the sight of a mouse! Are you one of them? If so, it’s okay. If you avoid mice, they’re likely to do the same to you.
Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1