Can an elephant stand up after laying down?

On Rome recently, one of the characters mentioned that if an elephant is layong on his side, that means he’s going to die, because they can’t stand up again after laying down.

Straight dope?

Lying down, not laying down.

Thanks, I really do feel better now.

Don’t worry:

See a pictorial record from the Ele-Cam of an elephant successfully getting up after lying down. No problem! :slight_smile:

FWIW, I’ve seen wild African elephants get up after lying down. They didn’t make it look like a desperate move - rather routine, I would have said.

And so “Elephant Tipping” is shown not to have the lethal results often attributed to it. Rest assured that Elephants are not really seriously injured when you push them over in the night.

Lethal for whom?

My Wife used to work animal control.

She once received a call.

“There is a horse laying down and all the other horses look very concerned.”

A Masters or Doctoral thesis on how such stories get started might be interesting. I’ve got to believe that getting up after lying down can’t be a problem for any animal. It would be quite anti-survival if an animal was off its feet and couldn’t get up wouldn’t it?

FWIW, I’d never heard it, but a character on Rome said it, so maybe we’ve learned a lot since then.

I thought maybe they slept standing up, or maybe were able to pull their feet under them.

I guess it would be anti-survival, but I can’t think of too many circumstances that would make an elephant fall to his side, either.

We have indeed. Although Romans had some pretty impressive accomplishments in the sciences, some of the things written up in their books of beasts are off-the-wall. See Pliny’s Natural History and similar texts. An absolutely wonderful book is The Bestiary, a translation by T.H. White (who wrote **The Once and Future King, he Sword in the Stone, ** and The Book of Merlin, among others)of a medieval Latin Bestiary, or book of beasts. Based upon the kind of Roman works like Pliny, plus other input, it tries to accurately describe the world of zoology, with a surprising amount correct and a surprising amount wildly uinaccurate, with picture by illustrators who had often never seen the animals and worked from the descriptions alone. So an “Estridge” is a huge flightless bird with feet like a camel – not a bad description of an Ostrich – only the picture lookls more like an oversized Eagle with literal camel feet. The “Crocodrilus” looks nothing at all like a Crocodile. And so on.

Over the weekend, I read David Quammen’s Boilerplate Rhino, a collection of essays he wrote for Outside magazine. (Quammen, BTW, is a wonderful writer on natural history – his Song of the Dodo was a total page-turner.) The title essay refers to Durer’s wood-carving of a rhino, based on a description provided by someone who had seen it, which he had not. Quammen was talking about the amazing distribution of this picture which was one of the first mass-produced images. His starting point is that the depiction wasn’t particularly true to life, due to the fact that Durer hadn’t seen the rhino – but he realizes at the end that the specific type of rhino that Durer drew did, in fact, look like the medievally armored beast he drew.

I think what you heard was a misinterpretation of the fact that elephants cannot spend much time in sternal recumbancy (i.e. resting in their sternum - think of a camel in the cush position or a cow chewing its cud). They can lie in lateral recumbancy - flat on their sides - just fine.

The reason for this is that their lungs are stuck to their chest walls (in most mammals the lungs are not and inflate or deflate within the chest cavity). Respiration is dificult for them when they are sternal, and if they were forced into that position for a prolonged period of time they could die.

Just being in sternal for a few minutes won’t kill them any more than being under water will kill a person. But they move from lateral to standing fairly quickly.

I seem to recall that they usually (though not always) sleep upright, though. But they also enjoy rolling around in the dust while fully awake (this helps them deal with various skin parasites). Presumably, it would be no harder for an elephant to stand up from a nap than it would be from a dust bath.

I seem to recall that they usually (though not always) sleep upright, though. But they also enjoy rolling around in the dust while fully awake (this helps them deal with various skin parasites).QUOTE]In this, elephants seem to be nothing more than fat, gray horses.

“Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t giddyup!”

And then you can tell them that you’re sorry, but you don’t make horse calls.

Hey, these jokes just write themselves. :slight_smile:

It might behoove you to, uh, cut them off at the pass. :wink: