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Strange Maps

Southern Ontario, Home to Canada’s Only Native Elephant

Tilt your map 90 degrees to the right, and the elephant reveals itself

Elephants are native to Africa and India and… Canada? Well, not really, but if you tilt your average north-oriented map of Ontario 90 degrees to the right, the province’s southern peninsula will show a more than passing resemblance to an elephant, tooting its trunk.

This Southern Ontario Elephant gains added clarity due to the fact that the peninsula is bounded by lakes (Erie, Huron, Ontario, Simcoe) and other bodies of water, such as Georgian Bay and Niagara Falls.

”The only ones who weren’t amused by [the Southern Ontario Elephant] were those in rather unfortunately-placed Owen Sound which, much to our amusement, became known as The Elephant’s b*tth%le,” writes Dave Collins, who sent in this map.

For the record: Owen Sound has been known as the ‘Chicago of the North’ and ‘Little Liverpool’ and at present as ‘the Scenic City’. On the October 18, 2006 episode of The Colbert Report, host Stephen Colbert asked viewers to suggest bad things to say about Owen Sound, not being able to come up with anything himself. I guess he had never heard of the Southern Ontario Elephant, let alone the position of its posterior.

Finally, just for fun, here are 10 facts about elephants you might not know:

  • Elephants are not only the largest land animals, but also the second-tallest, after the giraffe.
  • The Buddha’s mother dreamed a white elephant gave her a lotus flower on the eve of his birth. Possession of a white elephant has since been seen as a blessing by the monarchs of Southeast Asia. Because these animals were exempt from work, their upkeep was very expensive, and therefore also a bit of a curse. Hence the term ‘white elephant’ for prestige projects that cost (a lot) more money than they bring in.
  • In South Asia, elephants were used to execute the condemned, by crushing them underfoot.
  • The 37 war elephants used by Hannibal in his famous military campaign against Rome (in 218 BC) were probably North African forest elephants, a now extinct, smaller subspecies of the African elephant.
  • Just as humans are either left- or right-handed, elephants are usually left- or right-tusked. The ‘master tusk’ is typically more worn down than the other one.
  • The Prophet Muhammad was born in the Year of the Elephant (app. 570 AD), so named because the (Christian) king of Yemen attacked Mecca but failed to reach the Ka’aba because Mahmoud, a white war elephant, refused to enter the city. The story is related in the 105th surat of the Qur’an, entitled al-Fil (‘the elephant’).
  • Harun al-Rashid, the caliph of Baghdad, presented Charlemagne, emperor of the Frankish empire, with an elephant in 798. This elephant, named Abul-Abbas, actually only arrived in the empire’s capital of Aachen in 802. It was sent forth in battle against the Danish under king Godfred in 804 and died a few years later of pneumonia, possibly caught while swimming in the Rhine.
  • The hunting of elephants for their tusks has increased the mating chances of elephants with the absent-tusk gene, raising the percentage of tuskless elephants from 1% (1930) to 30% now.
  • Old elephants adapt to their last, worn-out set of teeth by moving to marshland with soft foliage. When their last teeth finally fall out, they die of starvation.
  • Elephant Appreciation Day is on September 22nd.
  • Strangely, the Southern Ontario Elephant is not the only example of a cartographically concealed pachyderm. Check out the Gold Coast Elephant here.

    Strange Maps #340

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