The Quick 10: 10 Famous Elephants

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Who knew there were so many historical elephants? I was aware of Dumbo (fiction, I know), and I was aware of Jumbo (P.T. Barnum's famous elephant), but they are just the tip of the iceberg. Here are 10 more who have left their footprints in history (get it??).

1. Abul-Abbas was Charlemagne's personal pet. He was exhibited for the public many times, especially when Charlemagne's court was together. He died pf pneumonia in his 40s in the year 810"¦ probably after a session of swimming in the Rhine River.

ruby2. Ruby, a petite 4.5 Asian elephant, was famous for her paintings. Her keepers saw her basically doodling in the dirt with her trunk and gave her a brush and some paint, and her career as an artist was born. She died in 1998 during birth "“ her 320-pound calf had died in the womb and a massive infection had spread through Ruby. She had to be euthanized.

3. Batyr was also known as the "Speaking Elephant" because he could replicate human noises. He lived his whole life at the Karaganda Zoo in Kazakhstan and never came in contact with another elephant. He first started "talking" at the age of eight; he often asked his attendants for water and praised himself. Among his words were Batyr, water, good, bad, fool, yes and give. He also could imitate dog barks and human whistles. He made the noises by pushing his trunk into his mouth and manipulating his jaw and tongue. He died in 1993 at the age of 23.

4. Hanno was Pope Leo X's pet white elephant. Pope Leo loved him immensely and was devastated when he died at the young age of six. Supposedly he died when he was given a treatment for constipation that was worse than the constipation itself. Nonetheless, he died with the Pope at his side. The Pope wrote Hanno's epitaph himself and had a fresco by Raphael commissioned.

5. (and 6). Poor Castor and Pollux. Paris was under siege from the Prussian army in 1870, citizens killed various zoo animals for their meat. Horses were first; cats, dogs and rats soon followed. Then the zoo animals got the axe "“ antelope, camels, yaks and zebra. Sadly, Castor and Pollux suffered the same fate. The citizens really had no qualms about eating the beloved elephants that had been popular for rides around the park "“ writer Henry Labouchère gave the meat a review as if he were dining at Nobu: "Yesterday, I had a slice of Pollux for dinner. Pollux and his brother Castor are two elephants, which have been killed. It was tough, coarse, and oily, and I do not recommend English families to eat elephant as long as they can get beef or mutton."

7. Murderous Mary is another sad tale, in my opinion. She killed an assistant at the circus when he prodded her behind the ear with a hook; she was immediately given the death sentence. But how do you kill a five-ton Asian elephant? You hang it, of course. Obviously, the standard tree or gallows wouldn't work, so an industrial crane was procured. The first time they tried to hang her, though, the chain snapped. She fell and broke her hip. The second time, she died. I find the picture terribly sad and disturbing, so I won't publish it here "“ but if you're interested, here's the link.

john8. John L. Sullivan was named after the famous boxer. Why, you ask? Because he boxed, of course. He had a glove put on the end of his trunk and then sparred with his trainer. He retired after a while and became known as "Old John". He still proved to be useful, though "“ he would watch the performers' children, led the rest of the elephants around and lifted heavy items. In 1922, he walked 53 miles to pay tribute to one of the first elephant in America, who we will get to in a second. He laid a wreath at her grave.

9. Old Bet was one of the first "“ if not the first "“ elephant in the U.S. She was an African elephant purchased by a farmer in 1808 to help him around the farm, but she ended up being so fascinating that he traveled around and charged people to see her instead. If you didn't have any money on you, a two-gallon jug of rum would work just fine. She was basically assassinated by a fellow farmer in 1816 who thought it was a sin for people to be spending money on such frivolous things. Old Bet is memorialized by the Elephant Hotel and statue in Somers, New York"¦ which is where Old John paid tribute to her in 1922.

hansken

10. Hansken was on tour throughout Europe in the mid-1600s. Even Rembrandt was enamored of her and drew four chalk sketches of her. Her talents included pickpocketing, drumming, firing a gun and waving a flag.

September 9, 2008 - 10:57am
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