How Long Can an Elephant Stand After It Dies?

An anonymous questioner asks, “How long can an elephant stand after it dies?”

I thought they might actually mean, “How long can you stand an elephant after it dies?” But on consulting prominent elephysiologists, I learned that elephant post-mortem standing is a matter of some controversy in that field.

Deceased elephant being held up by a man

A deceased elephant can stand indefinitely with some assistance.

Obviously, the elephant can continue to stand for some time if assisted. However, students of this question are more interested to know how long it might stand without help. Like human knees, an elephant’s legs can lock, and four legs give it stability. So in theory, it should be possible for it to stay upright for at least a minute, before whatever tiny initial imbalance there may be in the weight distribution starts it slowly tipping one way or another. This is of course assuming that the manner of death doesn’t impart significant momentum. Shooting the elephant, for instance, would push it in the direction of the shot, so even if it died instantly you would still be shortening the standing time. You would have to select a cause of death that doesn’t apply force, such as poison.

However, it’s difficult to get an elephant to co-operate in this so that it could actually be tested. We don’t know how to explain the experimental protocol to the elephant, obtain her consent, and ask her please to lock her leg joints and stay carefully balanced while we try killing her. And even assuming we were able to find an elephant willing to give her life for Science, it may be hard for the elephant to maintain focus on her posture while she’s being poisoned or whatever. The process of killing an elephant is distracting to the elephant.

So, this is an open question. If you can figure out an ingenious way to test it, your name will be inscribed in a place of honor in the annals of elephant lore, behind Freida Hull, who designed the elephonium, but before Shofar Ramanujan, the record holder for longest rope made out of elephant tail hairs.

Posted in animals, science, silly Tagged permalink

About Tyler

Tyler attended the University of Free Luna at Aristarchus, where he mostly participated in the Irrelevancy Studies department. In a freak accident, he was sent back through time. We should be back on the moon by now. Really, people!

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How Long Can an Elephant Stand After It Dies? — 12 Comments

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