More than 200 years ago, the famous explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt was the witness of an unusual scene in South America, where electric eels and horses fought to the death.
The story was regarded as nothing more than a fantasy until recently, when Dr. Kenneth Catania, a professor of biological sciences specialized in neuroscience and animal sensory systems from Vanderbilt University, developed a study in which he created similar conditions to establish how the horses and eels would react. Catania eventually learned that Humboldt was probably right.
Therefore, it seems that there is a real side of the naturalist’s story. The explorer paid local fishermen to provide him with electric eels to simulate the conditions of the incident which he previously witnessed. Furthermore, during the experiment, the fishermen brought 30 mules and horses in a pool where there were electric eels.
Then, Humboldt carefully observed the behavior of eels in that situation. As a way of defending themselves, the unusual fish started pushing themselves against the horses while emitting electric shocks. The fishermen prevented the mammals from fleeing by climbing into trees, waving branches and shouting to make the creatures scared enough to stay in the water.
The results were that two horses drowned, while the rest of them collapsed by the edge of the pool because of shock. Furthermore, the eels were so tired that they were no longer able to emit electric shocks, so fishermen were then able to capture them.
After working with his own eels, Dr. Catania made the association between his experiment and Humboldt’s story. He later added that what we learned about eels from documentaries was quite correct. They are indeed some creatures that we should avoid.
Many researchers are working nowadays with eels using special suits and gloves that prevent the electric animals from shocking them. Furthermore, thanks to special devices, scientists managed to establish that electric eels are capable of releasing such a powerful shock up to 4 times stronger than the maximum limit a human is capable of withstanding.
Plus, many people know about a popular video in which an alligator tried to kill an electric eel. Unfortunately for the alligator, the eel released a 20 to 30 seconds electric shock that eventually killed the large reptile.