Tag Archives: Elephants

Elephant self-portrait

A couple of friends told me about this last night and while I might be the last person to find out about it, I also may not be. So, for those who haven’t seen this video already, I bring you an elephant painting a self-portrait.

Previous elephant posts on Duenos:
* “Elephant Stories and Psychology Part 1”:http://duenos.net/article/468/ElephantStoriesandPsychologyPart1 : a look Topsy, the world-famous elephant from turn of the century Coney Island.
* “Elephant Stories and Psychology Part 2”:http://duenos.net/article/469/ElephantStoriesandPsychologyPart2 : Batyr, an elephant in Kazakhstan that was known to mimic human speech.
* “Elephants Stories and Psychology Part 3”:http://duenos.net/article/476/ElephantStoriesandPsychologyPart3 :Ruby, another famous painting elephant.

Elephant Stories and Psychology: Part 3

One of Ruby's paintings

Ruby, an Asian elephant primarily associated with the Phoenix zoo, became famous in the late 80’s for her abstract paintings. After her keepers noticed the elephant scratching in the dirt with sticks, they offered her a paintbrush, and Ruby the (very profitable) Painting Elephant was born. Art collectors from all over the world joined what became 18-month waiting lists for a painting from the elephant. An individual painting sold for up to $5,000.

According to her “CNN obituary”:http://www.cnn.com/US/9811/06/dead.elephant/, Ruby’s paintings raised about $500,000 for the zoo. She died in 1998 at 25 years of age and at 9,000 lbs. during complications from an attempted c-section.

Elephant paintings have since become something of a fad, and there are multiple other endeavors to sell paintings done by the animals; “this NOVICA article”:http://www.novica.com/news/index.cfm?articleid=51 details just a few. Multiple kinds of animal art has been sold in auctions such as Christie’s. A team of two Moscow-born entrepreneurs, Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid, have even organized elephant painting-only auctions; they “began with dog art,” have exhibited photographs taken by a chimpanzee, and after their elephant project intend to “work with beavers using processed wooden boards on an architectural project” (read more about Komar and Melamid “here”:http://archives.cnn.com/2000/STYLE/arts/03/22/life.art.reut/).

Elephant Stories and Psychology: Part 2

Batyr, The Talking Elephant (1970 – 1993)

In 1977 the young elephant Batyr made his ability to mimic human speech known to his keepers at the Karaganda Zoo in Kazakhstan. Batyr apparently learned to produce about twenty words by using his trunk–placing it in his mouth and using his bottom jaw and tongue. A. N. Pogrebnoj-Aleksandroff studied Batyr, recording the elephant’s speech and writing many articles about him. “Wikipedia”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batyr says that Batyr “delighted zoo-goers at large by asking his attendants for water and regularly praising (or, infrequently chastising) himself.”

Batyr had been rejected by his mother as a young calf and hand-reared by humans. He had no interaction with other elephants after his infancy.


According to Pogrebnoj-Aleksandroff, Batyr was able to reproduce the following words, phrases, and noises:

Баты́р — Batyr — abruptly (the trunk in the mouth)

Я — I’m — very abruptly and to combination of his name, at a long pronunciation so “I’m-Batyr,” sounded almost together

Ба́ты́р — Batyr — thoughtfully-tenderly and lingeringly (the trunk in the mouth)

Батыр, Батыр, Батыр… — Batyr, Batyr, Batyr — joyfully running in a cage (the trunk in the mouth)

Воды́ — Water — ask (the trunk in the mouth)

Хоро́ший— Good — as is good fellow (the trunk in the mouth)

Батыр хоро́ший — Good Batyr — (the trunk in the mouth)

Ой-ё-ёй — Oh-yo — (it is very sonorous — the trunk in the mouth)

Дурак — The Fool — seldom and abruptly (the trunk in the mouth)

Плохой — Bad — it is rare (the trunk in the mouth)

Батыр плохой — Bad Batyr — it is rare (the trunk in the mouth)

Иди́ — Go — (the trunk in the mouth)

Иди (на) хуй — Go onto penis (on-similarity the American expression ‘fuck you’) — the obscene Russian slang; first and unique time during telecast shooting (the trunk in the mouth)

Хуй — The Russian slang of the penis — seldom and abruptly (the trunk in the mouth)

Ба́-ба — the short of “babushka” — the grandmother; short children’s sound “ba” (the trunk in the mouth)

Да́ — Yes — (the trunk in the mouth)

Дай — Give (me) — (the trunk in the mouth)

Дай-дай-дай — Give, give, give… — (the trunk in the mouth)

Раз-два-три — One, two, three — dancing, being turned and hopping (the trunk in the mouth)

A whistle of human

The words of human speech said at level of infrasonic and ultrasonic frequencies

A gnash imitation of rubber or polyfoam (foam plastic) on glass;

The peep of rats or mice

The bark of dogs

The natural blares of elephants

In 1993, Batyr died; I have found two different accounts: that Batyr didn’t wake up from sedation after being put under for foot care, or that he died from complications regarding inflammation of the kidneys and kidney stones.


A short list works about or including the story of Batyr:

The most truthful history or who are talking? An Elephant?!
A.Pogrebnoj-Alexandroff, 1979-1993. ISBN 0972126600.

A.Pogrebnoj-Alexandroff, 2001. ISBN 097212666x.

Speaking Animals
A.Dubrov, 2001. ISBN 5879690865.

Speaking Birds and Speaking Animals
O.Silaeva, V.Ilyichev, A.Dubrov, 2005. ISBN 5944290161.

Elephant Stories and Psychology: Part 1

Outside of Jumbo (and, in fiction, Dumbo), Topsy (1875 – 1903) is probably the most famous elephant in American history, and hers is a story worth knowing–definitive of a time, place, and moment in circus history.

Topsy was part of the Forepaugh Circus at Coney Island’s Luna Park. In three years, she killed three trainers–the last of whom was an abusive alcoholic who threw a lit cigarette into her mouth. Because of this, it was decided that Topsy needed to be put to death: she was sentenced to hanging. The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) protested that this was inhumane; New York State had just replaced the gallows with the electric chair.

And so it was that Thomas Edison, currently battling George Westinghouse and Nicola Tesla about electric current (Westinghouse and Nicola argued that alternating current was safer, Edison was currently living off patent royalties after establishing direct current as the standard), designed Topsy’s death by alternating current–meant to add evidence to Edison’s stance on AC as deadly. On January 4, 1,500 came to watch Topsy’s electrocution. She was fed cyanide-laced carrots, and fitted with wooden sandals with copper electrodes connected through a copper wire to Edison’s electric light plant. Topsy was twenty-eight years old. Edison captured the event on film and released it with the title “Electrocuting an Elephant,” found “here”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkBU3aYsf0Q on YouTube.

In 2003 a memorial to Topsy was created for the Coney Island Museum.