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Re: THOSE ELEPHANTS ARE NOT GETTING FASTER



GSP1954@aol.com wrote:

<snip>

> Elephants do not, as Jonathon suggested, pace like giraffes, camels or
> trained horses. A pace is the functional equivalent of a trot, and includes a
> suspended phase. The elephantine amble is a slightly modified and sped up
> walk that includes no suspended phase, because at least one foot always
> contacts the ground.

Uh, Greg?  I realize that you're quite confident of your assertions and
your sources, but . . . well, y'see, on very, very rare occasions, other
people have sources too:

        "The elephant walks with an ambling gait.  The two right feet move
forward together, then the two left.  In this it is like the camel, the
bear, and the giraffe.  With dogs and horses, on the other hand, the
right fore foot goes forward with the left hind foot, and vice versa.
        "Elephants can make good speed over a short distance with a fast amble,
and they are very much at their ease in water." -- from THE NEW LAROUSSE
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ANIMAL LIFE, c. 1980, p. 581.

"Are elephants dangerous to man?  Under certain conditions, decidedly
so.  They have enormous strength and are capable of a speed estimated at
twenty miles per hour." -- DANGEROUS TO MAN, Roger Caras, c. 1975, p. 79

"The first few strides [of an elephant's charge] are misleadingly slow;
in a moment the pace is far in excess of any speed a man can
approximate." -- ibid., p. 84

"Despite its colossal size, the African Elephant (and the Indian
Elephant also) are far from being as clumsy as they might seem.  It is
true that they do not move faster than a speed of 4 to 6 km per houyr,
but when attacking, they can charge at a speed of 30 to 35km per hour."
-- THE ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MAMMALS, p. 252. (note: this equates
to 18-22mph, neatly bracketing the 20mph figure that Caras gave.)

KILLERS IN AFRICA by Alexander Lake (one of the last of the "white
hunters" from the great age of hunting safaris) gives no particulars on
an elephant's charge, but is clear that you only try to outrun a
charging elephant if you're ready to die.  If you want to live, you take
cover and freeze. 

I happen to know a gentleman who has spent most of his professional life
as an elephant-keeper at various zoos; he should be able to give a
reliable answer.  I'll drop him an e-mail and see what he says.  Until
then, I consider the LaRousse Encyclopedia reference to be especially
reliable, for what it's worth.  I have never found that book to be in
error on any substantive point.  

As a more direct approach to the matter, does anyone know the length of
an elephant's stride?  An elephant at top speed certainly takes at least
two strides per second.  20mph = 29.333 feet per second.  I kinda doubt
that even the largest elephant ever known could cover fifteen feet in
one stride, but eight or ten feet per stride seems possible.  Three
strides per second, and there's your 20mph figure.

-- JSW