Elephants are naturally non-aggressive animals. In fact, they are known to be one of the most emphatic and kind species in the whole animal kingdom. Their caring nature is well documented in dozens of videos online displaying their sensitivity and caring behavior both towards people and other elephants. Nevertheless, their very size, along with certain situations can make they very dangerous to humans. If elephants do attack humans or other animals, it is normally because they were provoked. Most attacks are acts of self-defense or the protection of their calves. Of course, there are other reasons, such as when they feel threatened or when they are harmed, ill, or mistreated. Females can be extremely aggressive when their young ones are nearby, similar to a mama bear. Male elephants are sometimes aggressive when displaying their dominance, or if they are experiencing musth, which is caused by a huge surge of testosterone, about 60 times the usual amount, and it makes even usually very calm bull Elephants aggressive. One other reason that elephants can be aggressive toward humans…sadly, is if they are trained to be aggressive toward humans.

In Ancient Asia, death by elephant was no accident…it was a popular form of execution. In this practice, elephants were trained to slowly break bones, crush skulls, twist off limbs, or even execute people using large blades fitted to their tusks. In some parts of Asia, this method of execution was still popular up to the late 19th century. A form of capital punishment, execution by elephant was used in South and Southeast Asia, particularly in India, where Asian elephants were used to crush, dismember or torture captives in public executions. It was a form of capital punishment, but also used as a type of sport for the captors, and intimidation for everyone else. Depending on the “sentence” the elephants were trained to kill their victims immediately or to torture them slowly over a prolonged period of time, before killing them. It was a cruel and hideous form of “punishment” most commonly employed by royalty. Owning Executioner Elephants signified both the ruler’s power of life and death over his subjects and his ability to control wild animals. Elephant executions have been recorded in contemporary journals and accounts of life in Asia by European travelers. Before long, outrage over the cruelty of such practices brought about its eventual suppression by the European colonial powers that colonized the region in the 18th and 19th centuries. The practice was mostly confined to Asia, but it was occasionally used by Western and African powers, such as Ancient Rome and Carthage, particularly to deal with mutinous soldiers.

While some elephants were trained to be cruel and aggressive, the fact remains that this is not their natural behavior. In fact, there have been many accounts of elephants helping humans, and many of these were not because they were told to help, but rather that the elephants sensed that the human was in need of assistance. They are incredibly smart, and they see things around them clearly. They can even paint the things they see. They feel, they love, and they cry. Training these beautiful animals to kill was just as cruel to them as it was to their victims. I’m sure those executions were something the elephants could never forget.

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