The Most Difficult Thing to Teach an Elephant: Ranking Their Toughest Lessons

Choose the thing you think is the most difficult!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on Apr 9, 2024 06:42
Welcome to StrawPoll, where your opinion truly matters! Today, we present you with a unique and intriguing ranking challenge – "What is the most difficult thing to teach an elephant?". Our gentle giants are known for their incredible intelligence and learning capabilities, but we know that some tasks are more troublesome than others. So, what do you think is the most challenging thing to teach these majestic creatures? Vote for your favorite option from our carefully curated list or suggest a missing option that you believe deserves a spot. Unleash your imagination and share your thoughts with thousands of other curious minds as we embark on this fascinating exploration – because at StrawPoll, every vote counts, and together, we create conversations that matter!

What Is the Most Difficult Thing to Teach an Elephant?

  1. 1
    Elephants are too large and heavy to fly, and their bodies are not designed for it. Therefore, teaching an elephant to fly is impossible.
    Flying is the ability to elevate in the air and move through it without any physical support. It involves the act of defying gravity and maintaining controlled motion through the use of wings or other means of propulsion.
    • Levitation: The ability to lift off the ground and stay in mid-air.
    • Aerodynamics: Understanding the principles of airflow and using it to control movement.
    • Wings or Flight Appendages: Having suitable structures like wings or other flight appendages to generate lift.
    • Strength: Possessing sufficient physical power or propulsion mechanisms to overcome gravity and stay airborne.
    • Balance: Maintaining stability and equilibrium while flying.
  2. 2
    Elephants cannot speak human language as they lack the necessary vocal cords and mouth anatomy. Therefore, teaching an elephant to speak is impossible.
    The Speaking section of the IELTS test evaluates a candidate's ability to communicate verbally in English. It assesses their spoken English skills through a face-to-face interview with an examiner.
    • Test Format: One-on-one interview
    • Duration: 11-14 minutes
    • Structure: Consists of three parts: Introduction, Individual Long Turn, and Two-Way Discussion
    • Scoring: Assessed based on four criteria: Fluency and Coherence, Lexical Resource, Grammatical Range and Accuracy, and Pronunciation
    • Task Types: Includes answering questions, giving opinions, describing experiences, discussing abstract topics, and simulating real-life situations
  3. 3
    Elephants do not have the necessary dexterity or fine motor skills to play instruments like humans. Therefore, teaching an elephant to play a musical instrument is difficult.
    Playing a musical instrument is the ability to produce melodious sounds by manipulating a physical instrument using various techniques and methods. It involves understanding and executing musical notations, rhythms, and dynamics to create music.
    • Motor Skills: Requires precise coordination between the hands, fingers, and sometimes feet to produce desired sounds.
    • Note Reading: Ability to read and interpret musical notations accurately to play the correct notes.
    • Ear Training: Developing the ability to recognize and reproduce musical pitches, intervals, and melodies by ear.
    • Expression: Expressing emotions and feelings through nuanced playing, including varying dynamics, articulations, and phrasing.
    • Technique: Mastering specific fingerings, breath control, bowing techniques, or strumming patterns depending on the instrument.
    Playing a musical instrument in other rankings
  4. 4
    Although elephants are intelligent animals, they do not have the mental capacity to solve complex mathematical problems. Therefore, teaching an elephant to solve such problems is impossible.
    Solving complex mathematical problems is the process of finding solutions to intricate mathematical equations and puzzles that involve advanced concepts and techniques. This task requires a deep understanding of mathematical principles, logical reasoning, and problem-solving skills.
    • Advanced knowledge: Requires a high level of mastery in mathematics, including calculus, algebra, geometry, and number theory.
    • Critical thinking: Involves logical reasoning, analytical thinking, and the ability to break down complex problems into smaller solvable components.
    • Creativity: Often involves thinking outside of the box and finding innovative approaches to solving problems.
    • Persistence: Complex mathematical problems often require multiple attempts and iterations to arrive at a solution.
    • Mathematical tools: Utilizes various mathematical tools and techniques such as formulas, theorems, and algorithms.
  5. 5

    Driving a car

    Elephants lack the required cognitive abilities and physical coordination to drive a car. Therefore, teaching an elephant to drive is impossible.
    Driving a car is a complex skill that involves operating and controlling a motor vehicle on the road to transport oneself or others. It requires coordination, knowledge of traffic rules, and the ability to make quick decisions in various driving situations.
    • Coordination: Precise control of the steering wheel, pedals, and gearshift.
    • Road Knowledge: Understanding traffic rules, road signs, and safe driving practices.
    • Driving Experience: Gaining familiarity with different driving environments and conditions.
    • Perception: Ability to accurately perceive and analyze the surrounding traffic and road situations.
    • Decision Making: Making quick and appropriate decisions to ensure safe driving.
  6. 6
    Elephants do not have the necessary skills or tools to cook food. Therefore, teaching an elephant to cook is impossible.
  7. 7
    Elephants lack the fine motor skills and cognitive abilities to write. Therefore, teaching an elephant to write is impossible.
    Writing is considered one of the most difficult aspects of learning a foreign language. It involves learning to write coherently and accurately using the language's grammar, vocabulary, and writing conventions. Writing in a foreign language requires a deep understanding of the language's rules and structures, as well as the ability to express thoughts and ideas effectively.
    • Language Proficiency: Requires a high level of proficiency in the foreign language.
    • Grammar and Syntax: Correct usage of grammar rules and sentence structures is crucial.
    • Vocabulary: A wide range of vocabulary is necessary to express ideas accurately.
    • Spelling and Punctuation: Accurate spelling and proper punctuation are essential.
    • Writing Style: Adapting to the appropriate writing style of the foreign language is important.
  8. 8
    Elephants are not built for ballet dancing, and their bodies are not designed to perform such movements. Therefore, teaching an elephant to dance ballet is difficult.
    Dancing ballet is a highly intricate and elegant form of dance that requires immense skill, precision, and grace. It is characterized by its beautiful and fluid movements, often accompanied by classical music. Ballet originated in the Italian Renaissance courts and later developed into a unique art form in France and Russia. It involves rigorous training to achieve perfect body alignment, control, and flexibility, making it one of the most challenging dance forms to master.
    • Technical Skill: Dancing ballet requires highly developed technical skills, including precise footwork, seamless transitions, and intricate body movements.
    • Flexibility: Ballet dancers have incredible flexibility, particularly in their legs, allowing them to achieve high extensions and perform difficult movements with ease.
    • Strength: Ballet requires exceptional strength, especially in the core, legs, and feet, to execute movements like turns, jumps, and lifts.
    • Control: Dancers must have exceptional control over their bodies, as ballet demands controlled movements executed with finesse and proper technique.
    • Posture and Alignment: Maintaining correct posture and body alignment is crucial in ballet, as it creates an elongated and aesthetically pleasing appearance.
  9. 9
    Elephants do not have the necessary balance or physical coordination to ski. Therefore, teaching an elephant to ski is impossible.
    Skiing is a winter sport that involves sliding down snow-covered slopes on skis. It is a popular recreational activity as well as a competitive sport. Skiers wear special boots attached to long, narrow skis that allow them to glide over the snow. Skiing can be enjoyed on various types of terrain, including groomed slopes at ski resorts, backcountry trails, and even in terrain parks with jumps and obstacles.
    • Equipment: Skis, boots, poles, and appropriate clothing and protective gear.
    • Technique: Skiers use various techniques involving shifting body weight and making turns with the skis to control speed and direction.
    • Types of Skiing: Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, freestyle skiing, ski jumping, and more.
    • Alpine Skiing: Focused on downhill descents, typically in ski resorts, with different styles like slalom, giant slalom, super-G, or downhill skiing.
    • Cross-Country Skiing: Involves traveling across flat or undulating terrain using a technique that propels skiers forward.
  10. 10
    Although elephants are good swimmers, they cannot hold their breath for long periods and lack the physical adaptations to swim underwater. Therefore, teaching an elephant to swim underwater is difficult.
    Swimming underwater is the skill of an elephant to move and swim beneath the water surface. This involves holding its breath, using its trunk as a snorkel, and propelling itself forward using its four legs.
    • Size: Elephants can weigh up to 15,000 pounds and measure up to 10 feet in height.
    • Breath Holding: Elephants can hold their breath underwater for up to 5 minutes.
    • Trunk Adaptation: The elephant's trunk functions as a snorkel, allowing it to breathe while submerged.
    • Buoyancy Control: Elephants use their trunk as a buoyancy control device, allowing them to stay at different depths.
    • Propulsion: Elephants use their legs to paddle and propel themselves forward in the water.

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Ranking factors for difficult thing

  1. Cognitive abilities and intelligence
    Elephants are known to be highly intelligent animals, but their cognitive abilities may not be on par with humans when it comes to certain tasks. Understanding their learning capabilities, memory, and problem-solving skills assists in figuring out how challenging it may be to teach them.
  2. Physical limitations and abilities
    Despite their size, elephants have a remarkable level of dexterity with their trunks, but there are sure to be physical limitations that would make certain tasks more difficult to teach. Consider whether the task involves movements or actions that are difficult for an elephant to perform.
  3. Methods of communication
    Establishing a clear method of communication is crucial for teaching an elephant. Although they do not understand human language, they can learn to interpret gestures or sounds when given proper training. The complexity of the task may depend on the ease of conveying instructions through these means.
  4. Motivation and reinforcement
    Elephants, similar to other animals, require motivation to learn new behaviors. Factors such as the type and frequency of rewards or positive reinforcement used while teaching can impact the difficulty of teaching a particular task.
  5. The natural instincts and behaviors of elephants
    It is essential to consider the task's relevance to the natural instincts and behaviors of an elephant. Tasks that go against their innate behaviors might be more challenging to teach.
  6. Time and patience required
    Some tasks may entail a more extended period of teaching and repetition for the elephant to learn and master. Assess the complexity of the skill and the amount of time that would ultimately be needed for an elephant to grasp it.
  7. Environmental factors
    The environment in which the elephant is kept during teaching can also play a critical role. An environment conducive to learning, with minimal distractions and stress, is essential for successful teaching.
  8. Individual personality and temperament
    Elephants have individual personalities, and some may be more receptive to learning than others. Considering the specific elephant's temperament and adaptability to new situations can help determine the difficulty of teaching the task.
  9. Previous experiences and training
    An elephant's background, including past experiences and training, can significantly impact their ability to learn new skills. Prior knowledge or exposure to specific tasks may make it easier or more challenging to teach them new things.

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most difficult thing to teach an elephant. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or thing is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 148 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each thing once every 24 hours. The rank of each thing is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.

More information on most difficult thing to teach an elephant

Background Information: Elephants are among the most intelligent animals on the planet. They are known for their remarkable memory, problem-solving abilities, and emotional intelligence. However, despite their impressive cognitive abilities, elephants are notoriously difficult to train. Teaching an elephant new tricks or behaviors requires a great deal of patience, skill, and understanding of their behavior and psychology. The most difficult thing to teach an elephant is often considered to be the ability to perform complex tasks or behaviors such as painting, playing musical instruments, or performing in circuses. This is because these types of behaviors require a high level of coordination, dexterity, and cognitive processing, which can be challenging for an animal as large and heavy as an elephant. Moreover, elephants are social creatures that thrive in the wild. They have a strong sense of community and hierarchy, and they rely on their herd for survival. When elephants are taken out of their natural habitat and forced to live in captivity, they can become stressed, depressed, and aggressive. This can make it even more difficult to train them effectively. Despite the challenges, there are many dedicated trainers and caretakers who work tirelessly to teach elephants new skills and behaviors. They use positive reinforcement techniques such as rewards and praise to encourage the animals to learn at their own pace. With patience, time, and dedication, it is possible to teach an elephant almost anything – but it is a task that requires a great deal of care and respect for these magnificent creatures.

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