The elephant mascot for Republicans was created by political cartoonist Thomas Nast in 1874, four years after he popularized the Democratic donkey.
The donkey and the elephant were both chosen for their negative traits: The stubborn donkey had first been adopted decades earlier to depict President Andrew Jackson and his policies, but Nast revived it for his cartoons.
The elephant was chosen because one day when Nast needed a political symbol, a mass animal escape from a New York zoo was in the news.
He merged rampaging elephants with the opinion that Republicans were practicing random destructiveness in their policies.
Eventually, both parties put a spin on the negative animals they’d been saddled with, officially adopting their animal mascots and giving them positive characteristics.