The Story of the Elephant
by George Langford, Sr., Joliet, Illinois, after 1920 and prior to 1947
Edited and Copyrighted by George Langford, III, 2010
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Loxodon, the Lozenge-Toothed Elephant

Having passed the transition from Mastodon to Elephant, we reach the first stage of True Elephant progress which leads to final perfection.  The later Stegodons may be said to have attained this stage, but the earlier ones are more mastodon-like.  The Elephant's onward march parallels that of the Horse as regards teeth, both races developing from comparatively small browsing animals into large grazers.  In other respects, however, these two races progressed along different lines, the Elephant confining his specializing to teeth, trunk and tusks, the Horse to teeth and feet.  We have become so accustomed to considering southern Asia as headquarters,from which the most of Mastodon and Stegodon activities originated, that it comes as a shock, when we learn that the Lozenge-tooth next in line is entirely absent.  His bones are missing in the upper layers of the Siwaliks rocks, nor can he be located anywhere else in Asia.  He may be there for all we know, but as his remains are plentiful along the shores of the Mediterranean, it can only be inferred that he originated in Africa.

To be exact, the Lozenge-tooth (Loxodon) was not what scientists would precisely define as a True Elephant, his molars being below par.  It may seem a trifling matter, and yet the fact remains that teeth above all things determine caste, and if we live up to learned precedent already established in these matters, the "Lozenge-tooth" must be black-balled.  He may stand on the threshold and look in, but that is about as far as he will get, and all because of slight irregularities in his teeth.  However, although these latter were a bit lower crowned and coarser as to surface than they should have been, nevertheless in structure, composition and growth, they were the same as those of more advanced elephants.  Such being the case, it would be as well for us to know wherein an elephant's tooth differs from a Mastodon's.

The raised transverse ridges of the Mastodon molar, which were increased in number and otherwise modified in the Gable-tooth, are now entirely changed.  The whole structure is changed too, the tooth being composed of plates standing on end and inclined slightly forward.  These plates are of dentine or ivory incased in enamel jackets, all packed together and solidified with cement.  When the tooth is subjected to wear, the enamel coating at the end of each plate protrudes in two thin ridges, as the dentine which it envelops and the cement on both sides of it becomes worn away.  The tooth-surface is now in reality a horizontal section view of the whole structure, showing bands of three kinds running across it, the highest and thinnest being paired enamel ridges enveloping a band of dentine and with a band of cement on each side of the paired ridges.  It is a most effective instrument for milling tough substances, as the dentine and cement being softer, wear down and expose the enamel cutting edges.  Hard foods are in fact necessary to keep an elephant in a healthy condition, for if the cement and dentine are not worn down enough, the tooth surface becomes too smooth to be effective and the animal suffers.  Wear is amply provided for, as the mass of plates standing on end, gives the tooth a columnar structure which may be used far down to the roots.  This is the high-crowned (Hypsodont) grazing tooth of the Elephant as compared with the low-crowned (Brachydont) browsing tooth of the Mastodon.  Species of Elephants are generally determined by the number of plates composing the second or third molars and by their shapes in cross-section as shown upon the wearing surface.  In the Lozenge-toothed Elephant, these plates are few in number, and the cross-section is distorted into a lozenge-shaped pattern.  The enamel and plates are thick ,and altogether the tooth is coarsely constructed; a much more effective instrument for masticating roots than for grinding hay or grain.  It is also shorter-crowned, narrower and longer-rooted than that of the True Elephant and therefore cannot be subjected to as much wear.

One of the earliest and best known of the Lozenge-toothed Elephants is the Straight-tusk (Loxodonta Antiquus) a European resident in early and mid-Pleistocene times.  He much resembled our modern African Elephant, and like the latter, his tusks were comparatively straight.  Presumably he used these to uproot trees whose roots and branches were his food.

His first appearance in Europe, probably as a migrant from northern Africa, was during an early interglacial epoch of the Pleistocene period.  This was shortly after the beginning of the "Ice Age." The Pleistocene had inherited the Pliocene's mild seasonable climate, but this soon underwent a change.  Land levels arose and because of this or other reasons, the mountains of Scandinavia and the Alps began discharging their ice-burdens into the lowlands of northern Europe.  A gradual lowering of temperature ensued and the climate became like that of more northern Latitudes.  Vegetation died out or became hardier, and animal life shifted headquarters, accommodating itself to such surroundings as suited best.  After many thousands of years and when all things had become accustomed to the change, glacial activities ceased, the northern ice-fields retreated, and the seasons grew milder.  The epoch of cold and. dampness is known as Glacial and the return to normalcy as Interglacial.  Careful students of these matters have concluded that about four Glacial and three Interglacial Epochs took place during the Ice Age and that the sum total must have aggregated more than 500,000 years.  The Straight-tusked Elephant is believed to have entered Europe during the First Interglacial and made his home there until the Second Stage of glaciation.  Although somewhat inured by this time to the climate of western Europe, extreme cold and dampness were distasteful to him.  He retreated southward to the shore of the Mediterranean, and his place in Europe was taken by hardier animals descending from the north.  The second return to normalcy which followed was a long period, the second Interglacial Epoch, and may have endured for 200,000 years.  Meanwhile, the Straight-tusked Elephant had returned to northern and western Europe.  He had with him the Broad-nosed Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros Merckii) and an African lion; one a friend, the other a mortal enemy.  The bones of these animals have all been found together.  We know that he came in contact with very ancient prehuman beings, because of the Heidelberg Man's (Homo Heidelbergensis) famous jawbone discovered in 1907 near Heidelberg, Germany.  It lay buried in ancient river sand seventy feet deep, and remains of the Straight-tusk lay close by.  The human remains represent a race which is believed to have lived over 250,000 years ago; forerunners of the later Neanderthals, a very strange and primitive people.

The Straight-tusk appears to have again moved south for the Third Glacial and returned for the Third Interglacial, the latter a comparatively short period, wherein his acquaintance with human-kind was renewed by encounters with the Chellean race of Western Europe.  These men have left many roughly-hammered flint implements behind them at the famous prehistorical site, Chelles on the Marne River near Paris.  In the gravels are also bones of the Straight-tusked Elephant.  The Chelleans merged into the Acheulians, whose flint-industry is represented in the old river gravels near the village of St. Acheul-on-the Somme River, also not far from Paris.  Remains of the "Straight-tusk" occur in these Acheulian deposits.  These two ancient human periods no doubt mark the progress of the Neanderthal race in Europe, but the type of Neanderthal Men with whom we are quite familiar, because of their numerous skeletons and associated flint implements unearthed, is not recognized until about 50,000 years B.C.  The Fourth Glacial Epoch had by this time begun, and the Straight-tusked Elephant was well on his way southward to oblivion, taking his Broad-nosed Rhinoceros with him.  He must have spent his declining years in the Mediterranean region, when land-levels were subsiding, for fossil remains of pygmy forms, counterparts of the straighttusk, have been found in Sicily, Crete and Malta, the smallest of which (Loxodonta Creticus) was only three feet high.  They did their best to accommodate themselves to their restricted quarters, when the Mediterranean waters arose about them, but after dwindling in size they passed away.  Such as reached the African mainland eventually succumbed too, and the world - African and European - saw them no more.

A contemporary of the "Straight-tusk", also a Lozenge-tooth (Loxodonta namadicus) lived in southern Asia , ut not very much is known of his life history and nothing as yet has been discovered as to his experience with mankind.  A later member of the family (Loxodonta Atlanticus) was an African, who visited Spain by way of Gibraltar in Pleistocene times.  A descendant of his is also known to have taken similar excursions, and he is the only Lozenge-tooth who lives today (Loxodonta Africanus) the African Elephant.  He is a Lozenge-tooth because his molar teeth are composed of comparatively few plates, three in the first premolar, increasing by degrees to seven in the first molar and ten in the last, and because the cross-section of each plate is lozenge-shaped.  The tusks or upper incisor teeth, enormously developed, are composed of very fine dentine or ivory and grow like trees from pulp cavities at their bases.  Each tusk is built up in conical layers conforming to a similarly-shaped cavity at its base.  The layer enclosing this cavity is the last one to form being pushed forward by the next layer in preparation in the pulp-filled cavity.  The African animal furnishes the bulk of ivory now used, although a very small percentage is derived from the Indian Elephant.  It is because of their great size that the tusks of the former are so persistently sought, and so the burden of supplying the world's needs falls almost entirely upon the African Elephant.  Both the males and females have tusks, but the largest and finest are worn by the males.  One nine feet long, weighing 150 pounds, would be considered large.  Ten feet two inches long, twenty-two inches circumference at the base and 225 pounds weight is about the biggest modern elephant tusk on record.

Tusk development may have had something to do with molar tooth pattern in the case of the African Elephant.  His coarse grinders work best on boughs and roots, and so he digs up trees to feed on.  His fine tusks, however, threaten his very existence.  Before the days of high-powered rifles and explosive bullets, he had a good fighting chance, but since then, systematic slaughter has brought him to the verge of extinction.  If he and Man could arrive at some understanding whereby the Elephant would come when called, stand still and have his tusks sawed off and then trot off to grow some more, all might be well but the African Elephant is not that kind.  The only way to get his ivory is to kill him, and Man finds that the most satisfactory method as affecting his own safety.  Our experience with the more tractible Indian Elephant has placed his impetuous African cousin in more or less disfavor.  We say that he has an outrageous disposition at times and is not easily trained, also that he tears up the trees and crops in his native home, but this is his nature.  He is not always mild-mannered, it is true, and he uses his tusks - often carelessly no doubt - because that is good sound elephant sense.  It may be too that his spells of bad temper are due in part to his dislike of being eternally hunted and having his tusks cut up into billiard balls.

In general the outward characteristics of the African Loxodon which distinguish him from the Indian Elephant, are his flat forehead and huge fan-shaped ears.  His trunk consists of many telescopic rings or segments and each lip of the trunk-tip is a prehensile finger.

P. T. Barnum's famous Jumbo was an African Elephant about 21 years old.  Prior to his circus fame fame, he was an inmate of the London "Zoo."  The African species is rarely met with in captivity because of its rarity, and so when Barnum purchased this animal, it became one of the circus' greatest features.

It was my good-fortune to see this remarkable animal and in an interesting way, when I was a boy about eight years old.  "The Greatest $how on Earth" was to disembark and establish itself in our city for a day's performance, so I, in company with a host of other small boys, arose with the sun and hastened to the railroad yards.  I can see now the circus roustabouts setting a heavy gangway against a huge box car and rolling the doors aside, so that he who was within might come forth and descend to the ground in safety.  The air resounded with the din of clanging bells and shrieking whistles, and what with the shouts, roars, squeals and scurrying about, those railroad yards might have been likened to the infernal regions.  But I had eyes and ears for none of it.  "The Largest Elephant in Captivity" claimed my entire attention, and the contents of that box car was all that I cared to see or hear.

My heart was in my mouth when the moment of realization came.  As the car doors were rolled back by circus attendants, a huge head appeared in the opening; a monstrous head with tremendous ears and writhing trunk and a colossal hulk showing dimly behind it in the dark recesses of the cavern on wheels.  A ponderous forefoot tipped with nail-like hoofs set itself upon the gangway.  I had seen elephants before, the Indian variety, and some of them big ones too, but this African giant was tremendous.  The others would have appeared like pygmies beside him.  All of us sucked in our breaths.  Words failed us.  The human language contained no words expressive of our true feelings.

But gradually our stupefaction became imbued with curiosity.  The great elephant stood shaking his head from side to side and flapping his fan-like ears; but he did not emerge.  Men came running up.  Attendants, fearless of the huge head and waving trunk, bearded the beast in his lair, venturing into the car beside him.  One of them, who seemed to be in authority, prodded and pulled the recalcitrant with a steel-hook-and-pike-shod staff.  Jumbo, for it was he, might have destroyed one and all of his tormentors with with a whisk of his trunk, but he replied merely with protesting squeals and peculiar coughing grunts, meanwhile shaking his head vigorously and thumping the gangway with his forefoot as much as to say: "Steady her up boys. There are seven tons of me and the thing feels shaky."

Aha !  Even we inexperienced youngsters began to see light.  Our wonder and curiosity were now tinged with sympathy.  The chief attendant turned away from his charge and examined the gangway, then launched furious invectives at the circus roustabouts.  To the latter, this was but a part of the day's work - a common occurrence.  Jumbo was right and reasonable in his demands.  The gangway had not been firmly set at its lower end and teetered when he tested it with his foot. T he roustabouts fixed it, and evidently all was well this time, for after trying it with one foot then another, the colossus emerged from his retreat, half-walking, half-sliding down to his good old Mother Earth.  Those few moments of disembarkation were no doubt the most trying ones in the brute's daily experiences.  Even now I can almost hear his grunt of relief as he stamped all four feet and assured himself that he was on solid ground at last.

Jumbo might have been a formidable war-elephant, had he lived in the days when the ancients fought with one another.   African and Asiatic animals were both thus employed and their
fighting powers were beyond question, although at times in the confusion of battle whenmounted or frightened, one of them forget his teaching and treat all men alike.  Under such circumstances, he often inflicted as much damage upon his friends as upon his foes. The Indian Elephant, who will be described later, has considerable regard for his own safety, being careful as a rule. When charging upon an enemy, he is carefulto roll up his trunk so that the least possible damage may occur to that very sensitive member.  As for the African animal, he brandishes his trunk more recklessly, often blowing through it and producing trumpetlike squeals.  The Indian Elephant also shuns the direct rays of the sun to which his African cousin pays little attention.  In many other ways, these two races exhibit marked contrasts in disposition and habits, and what with their structural differences, were it not for intermediate species now extinct, they would be considered as only very distantly related.  There are over ten variations of the African Elephant, some so pronounced that they have been defined as separate species.  The most interesting of these (Loxodonta Africanus Pumilio) is the Congo Pygmy Elephant, an animal scarcely seven feet tall and with comparatively small ears.

However, this and all of the other related species may be included in one family - the African Lozenge-toothed Elephant.  The beast's range was - until Man restricted it - the whole of Africa except the Desert of Sahara, to say nothing of jaunts along the southern Mediterranean coast and across the Isthmus of Gibraltar in Pleistocene times.  His race still exists in considerable strength in central Africa but human persecution has driven him far into the wildest and most impenetrable forests.  The net of civilization is closing about him, however, and before many years - even though the beast is now favored with Man's particular care - the world will probably see the last of the Lozenge-toothed Elephant.

[from the original, typewritten draft with hand-written corrections - GL,III, ed.]