Elephant’s Head or a Cow?


Noah Robin sent in what appears to be a Hindu motive obtained from the ceiling of the Rameshwaram Temple in Rameshwaram, India. Noah was right when he presumed this one seems to be along our lines. My question to you is whether the head portrayed below belongs to an elephant or is it cow’s head instead? I guess whichever is holier in that part of the world! Or could it be both at the same time? I guess we’ll never know!

  • talcianna

    i think its a cow head…

  • Itz an elephantz head coz a cow doesnt have 2 ears && it doesnt have that thing going uhp in the back lyk a camel… && the elephant has a hole coz someone shot him :D .. cool doe

    • Gregory Padilla

      You sir, are prehaps unfamiliar with the brahma type of cow?

    • It’s both, the elephant’s head is easy to see but the oxen (the Indian cow) is not so easy, but if you look closely you’ll can see the bump on the elephant’s head is the oxen’s nose and the bottom lip and tusk is the oxen’s ear and horn, and finally the elephant’s trunk is the oxen’s famous hump.

      cows and Elephants are counted as sacred deities in the Hinduism Religion and the killing of either could result in you losing your life.

      cows are also sacred animal to Jainism, Zoroastrianism too.

    • Shar

      Actually some cows do have a small hump and lick of fur there, mainly bulls though. And a cow/bull would have a set of ears and a set of horns.

    • Shar

      And actually breeds of cattle in India do have a rather large hump right there, I found out after further research.

    • Vineeth

      its elephants head..as cow is on the other side of the image..

    • Sreejith Balakrishnan

      Hi Guys, Just a small correction. That is supposed to be a Bull. That is Lord Shiva from Hindu Mythology (at the background)and he has a Bull as his animal. That might also explain the hump on the back :)

    • Okkz

    • anon

      you need a dictionary…

  • ali

    very cool, it’s both at once. I think it’s an ox rather than a cow though because of that hump[img]http://www.datastorageconsultants.com/hunting/Africa/images/oxen.jpg[/img]

  • ruedli

    @ Lil’ Smily: This cow doesn’t have two pairs of ears it has ears and horns. And abozt the thing on the back like a camel, take a look at this: http://goldendrake.de/Reisen/Indien/M_Indien_Strand_Kuh.jpg this is what a cow in india looks like. :-)

  • Patrik

    it is a cow, but because it have that thing at back and cow ears, head and have horns. (but if you look closely, you will see elephant too)

  • Marisol

    I like it. Duality.

  • This one is great. I see both animals. The cow (actually it’s a bull) is a brahma and they do have humps. and the poor elephant got shot in the head.
    It’s a cowlephant

  • sushanta sahu

    There is no cow in the picture. The picture is a mix of elephant head and OX head (Not Cow). Cow is female and Ox is male. There is no female species in the picture. Elephant and Ox……….. Good illusion.

  • illusionist

    it’s both. and technically it’s a water buffalo, hence the hump

  • Johnny Jack Pompolla

    WOW… this type of illusions existed so many years ago!!

  • Clif

    What you mean is: Is that an elephant or a bull? A bull and cow are different you know. The question should probably be: Is that an elephant or a brahma bull.


  • tubes

    I would say it’s both considering both animals are extremely sacred in India. Left would be the elephant & right being the cow. Also if you look a little closer you would notice the utters or something on the cow.

  • It is an elephant head. Everyone knows that cows cant look up.

  • its obviously both. This is pretty amazing, and I don’t say this just because I’m Indian.

  • Yanni:)

    its an elephant eating a cow!!!


    Is it just me??? I can see a seal too….

  • Bulle48

    At first all I could see was the elephant head, but if I turn my head 45 degrees to the right all I see is the cow’s head (which looks more like a dog face than a cow).

    There are many flaws in this image such as the cow’s head being disproportionate compared to the body, the missing ear/horn and the relative size of the 2 animals. Nevertheless it’s still a great illusion!

  • Sven

    its an Elephant because cows cant look up.

  • I think it was intended to be both depending on who the person was praying for. Some people believe in the worship of certaim animals…..Amen…..

  • Care Bear

    A cow swallowing an elephant’s head perhaps? Guess they just got tired of hanging out with each other. Great pic. Love the colors.

  • Sarah-Jane

    the first one i saw was the elephants head :) I couldn’t see the cows head at first but i looked a little harder and i saw the cows head. Now i think it is most likely the cows head because if it was the elephants head it would have a strange squiggle on his forehead which is supposed to be the cows nose ;)
    Love it ;)

  • Gil Pinheiro

    I think it’s meant to be both since both an elephant and a cow are holy symbols in the indian culture.

  • qwertyuiop

    i think that its an elephant head because why would a cow have a random swirling lump in its back (the end of the elephants trunk)

  • Nina

    I bet to the elephant. Use logic the cows neck doesn’t connect to the head

  • Bubbaloo

    Are you sure it is the two political parties trying to eat each other?

  • chris

    it looks more like an elephant because the head is more apparent, and the tusk is visible (even though it is basically conjoined to the cow’s back)

  • I see both of each animals bodies. when one looks at it, and continuing to view it u see the face of the cow and when looking a second time because you already know both animals are being shown one way or the other then do you see the head of the elephant appear. The answer to any present question is: both animals.

  • a person

    maybe its both but the elephant wuz shot, and the cow has sum kind of plant growing out of the back of its head.

  • essayn


  • Roy

    Its actually pretty cool – if you have some additional insights into hindu mythology – the image at the back is also of 2 morphed deities, on the right is shiva who always has a bull ( you can google Nandi Bull) for company, and on the left is Vishnu, the creator – while not directly associated with the elephant – does have all kind of creatures with him in mythical pics – the best part is how the horns of the cow are also the tusks of the elephant ! Very very cool…

  • Johnny C

    Well, if you see either an elephant or a cow, ( actually, a bull, as the hump on the back is clearly a male feature, as is another slight, decidedly male, clue ), that is not surprising as that was obviously the artist’s intention. However, am I the only viewer who sees a plump little bird, complete with rounded head, beak, wings and tailfeathers?

  • Rick

    It’s a elephacow..The holiest of holy.

  • Falon

    Elephant. Cows don’t have horns. (:

  • Sitroentje

    Elephant, You can clearly see the trunk of the elephant, and I can’t imagine what a cor could do with a curl on his back.

  • That is a Elephant on Left and OX on Right Side …. if you see Holy Gods above they are also presenting two personalities … Left side is Lord Vishu and on Right side it is Lord Shiva … Lord Vishu rides on Elephants and Lord Shiva rides on OX as per Hindu religious holy books …

  • it’s a hefffalump

  • Mars

    its a two bodied monster

    aye, that’s what it must be. obviously.
    I think, though, its hindu, and I remember that theres a god whos symbols are the elephant and the cow… the whole univerality thing.

  • John

    Holy cow! It’s an elephant!

  • Manav

    i think its a cows head

  • hello


  • the one on the left is an elephant but on the right it’s a cow

  • tom

    I don’t think it’s an “either-or” situation … it’s “both” … that’s sort of the whole point …

  • J Aurora


    first of all, it’s not a cow, but a white bull called Nandi. If you notice, the picture of deity above is also combination of two deities. They are Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Lord Shiva had a white bull called Nandi according to Hindu Mythology. The elephant must be related to Vishnu or one of his several incarnations. Maybe he is the Airavat elephant that is considered by many Hindus as incarnation of Vishnu.
    The Union of these two gods is significant as Vishnu is the preserver of life, while Shiva is the destroyer and restorer.

  • This image shows both Elephant and a cow. Though Cow is sacred in Hindu Religion but it’s elephant. I Think this pictures has no intentions being an illusion but it’s a complicated creation of both animals.

  • Mary Beth

    It’s both. Clearly both.

  • kezza53

    It’s both. The cow is a brahman and yes both equall importance

  • Julia Schaffer

    Uhh Lil Smily… A cow has two ears. Sorry if I ruined your dreams of a cow with either one ear or more that two ears.

  • ZL123

    So cool!
    An in India, an elephant is very common, but a cow is very holy and you cannot kill it :D

    I’ve been told…

  • Rickford

    It is both. The elephant’s head is fairly obvious. The cow’s head is looking up at an angle that would block the elephant head except for the ear. Very clever.

  • Jani T

    Actually, it’s both. In the Hindu religion, both elephants and cows are significant. That’s why the painting has been drawn that way, to portray the significance of both animals.

  • Lunar

    People need to stop saying it’s definitely one or the other.

    The fact there are two bodies and only one interchangeable head shows it’s MEANT to be an illusion and is therefore BOTH.

    • Sophia

      I really liked this. Simply awesome. Nice and informative replies by Dr.Prasanna, prabuddha, dr sonam, Rajesh, ramu.

    • Shobhit

      It is both cow and an elephant.

      In order to kill a demon both Lord Shiva And Goddess Parvati have to combine their body.

      When their body combine their animals also gets combine.

  • Shub

    this is a cow head, you can see an elephant never had a dump on its head.

  • funkyskunk

    LOL “a cow doesnt have 2 ears”! Since when??

    The left one is an elephant and right one is a cow. It’s obvious if you look at the legs and feet.

    me likes

  • BlindCupid

    LOL at Lil’ SMily’s grammar ^

  • rkrules

    I’m from India and I know that both animals are equally holy. I guess whoever painted was lazy and decided to cheat :-).

  • Mattbazooka

    I seen an elefents head the first time i looked, than a duck, than the cows….

    • Mattbazooka

      actualy it might be a baby duck or seal..

  • Voigt

    Niiiice. I agree that it is both.

  • Ouida

    Maybe it’s just meant to communicate the opinion that both animals are equally holy?

  • Ashley

    Or perhaps the key lies in the god’s face above. Note that one side seems to be one deity and the other side the other. Perhaps the elephant is sacred to one god and the cow to the other, and the indication with both the face and the animal(s) is that the two gods are merged?

  • K-Chan

    It’s both and it’s used to represent both the gods in saying that they are in a sense all the same and interconnected.

  • bg

    I can see a bird too on the top of the cow face

  • Dr.Prasanna

    I am myself Hindu. The above picture is not an illusion. It is just representing the combination or union of two things or concepts. Can u see the first picture of faces. Well it is actually union of two half faces- The right hemiface belongs to Lord Vishnu & left one belongs to Lord Shiva. Similarly the animals below, important in ancient Indian culture, are shown to be united in their bodies predominantly in their heads. Each animal or God is representing a particular behaviour or way of life. The picture shows that ideal life should have union or balance of these things.

    • kali charan

      i am totally agree with Dr.Prasanna says on 21 jan 2011, that is both our gods Lord Vishnu & left one belongs to Lord Shiva.

  • it’s combination of two head cow and elephants, but it’s we can elephant is straight and com is moving it’s head up..

  • prabuddha

    ha ha .. what a debate over such issue…
    it nepal rightly mentioned its combination of both head.. cow and elephant. boty of them have their own value and both are equally holy. Please scan through the links you will clear your doubts..
    (decribes gestalt theory)
    http://www.adityarudraksha.com/images/lord/ARDHANARISHWAR%202%20MUKHI.jpg (pic of God at eh back Ardhanarishwar)
    their elephant headed (elephant considered wise.. etc also story behind this) son ganesh http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ganesha
    and improtance cow..

    hope this will clear up the doubt..

    I am a Hindu from India and graphic desiger by profession so refering to gestalt theory also.


  • dr sonam

    this is picture of “HARI-HAR”
    HARI means vishnu and HAR means shiva

  • ts quite clear that its an elephant on the left and a cow on the right.You can guess it by looking at their legs


    its amazing but i think the people did not realise the this a bull instead a cow.bull presenting LORD SHIVA.

  • I really liked this. Simply awesome. I agreed with Rajesh thats bull.

  • ramu





    PRAKRITHI COMPRISES THREE GUNAS ie., satva, raja and tamas. IN SHORT THE PAINTING STRESSES THE UTILITY VALUE AND THE EXISTENTIAL VALUE OF ALL THE ATOMS IN THIS UNIVERSE, Which clearly shows that all the atoms are the reflections of the same consciousness. shakthi is the force of shiva

    • ?

      Okay, I’m really confused with all of the complicated Indian gods and principles. You lost me at ardhanarishvara.

  • Abbey

    its weird becaise i see them both at time- am i crazy?

  • Mayank

    but here one is elephant and other one is bull.

  • MAhesh

    HInduism is not only a religon, it is a styl of living.

  • Bharathi

    The above drawing is to represent that the gods both The Hari and The Shiva are equal….It is done in that image by combining the two rides(animals) of those gods….This should have been drawn during when the Shaiva and vaishnava fight was at it’s peak……..

  • narencz

    Mayank says:
    August 2, 2011 at 2:28 am
    but here one is elephant and other one is bull.

    Yes. Its a bull(male).

    Lord Siva means the Cosmic force in the universe. Its the Yang energy of the universe.

    Lord Krishna is also positive energy.
    In my opinion Lord Krishna is planet Jupiter.
    Here positive or male cosmic rays of planet Jupiter is being combined with the Yang energy of the universe(Lord Siva )

    Please note that Goddess Parvathy is not present. She is the yin energy of the universe.

    what will be the outcome of the combination?
    Pure yang energy.

  • bobi

    i havent read all the comments but from where i am looking at this, it is both i saw the elephant first and then the cow lol

  • Princess

    It is an elephant because cows don’t have curls on their backs!

  • SDS

    It’s meant to be both, to appear as both, but not either or. It has to do with the religion, or can’t you see the lady with the half blue face above it?

  • Kiz

    This painting is of both animals an elephant/bull. After Lord Shiva beheaded Ganesh he swore the next living thing he saw he would behead he saw two animal mating an elephant/bull after mating the elephant was exhausted so he behheaded the elephant.

  • BMani

    This is a painted reproduction of a famous sculpture at Darasuram Temple (12th c.) in Tamilnadu (http://www.pazhs.com/gallery/darasuram/bull-elephant.jpg), discussed in Maheśvarānanda’s “Maharthamanjari v. 28 and its commentary.

  • sargfdfgju

    I can only see the elephant head.

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