10 Facts 

National Elephant Day: Top 10 facts about the gentle giant

1. This date was chosen to celebrate March 13, 1963 when Thailand chose the white elephant as the country’s national animal.

2. White elephants are not white, they are grey or pinkish in colour.

3. The phrase “white elephant” for anything costly, burdensome and useless, dates back to 1721.

4. The phrase is said to have originated in a habit of kings of Siam presenting ruinously costly white elephants to courtiers who displeased them.

5. The phrase gained popularity when Barnum and Bailey’s circus added a white elephant to its travelling shows in 1884.

6. An 1884 campaign for Pears Soap described its soap as the real secret of the white elephant.

7. Elephants are not afraid of mice but they do keep their distance from ants and bees.

8. In English, an elephant was originally known as an oliphant.

9. There is a city in New Mexico called Elephant Butte. It is named for a butte, or steep hill, said to resemble an elephant.

10. Siam (now Thailand) had a white elephant on its flag from 1855-1916. Laos had a three-headed elephant on its flag from 1952-1975.

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