While most elephants work hard to serve man, some are born lucky. They are brought to the royal palace with the status of a royal master.
The elephant is probably one of the world's best-known animals with its mammoth size and intelligence that can be considered not far behind the dolphins and the higher primates.
Two kinds of elephants exist, the African and the Asian elephants. Thailand is one of those few countries blessed with this kind of animal. Elephants can only be found in Africa, India and some parts of Southeast Asia. In most countries, they are held captive in zoos, menageries or trained to do cute tricks for the circus.
In Thailand, this majestic mammal, with its endurance and noble bearing, was the national symbol of old Siam. Ancient Siam's insignia had an elephant on it indicating how elephants were revered during those times. It was also the Thai kings' royal means of transport to battlegrounds and special ceremonies
Elephants often roam in herds of 30 to 50. They have established social frameworks and a way to communicate with one another. The leader, the "Pray elephant" is a strongest and protects his herd from any danger. Males are larger than females and can grow to 7 tons mass. Young animals are cared for within an extended family structure, and the group will cooperate in searching food and water when necessary.
Elephants generally don't like cold weather and take pleasure in the sun. But they like to live in cool environment, near groves with swamps and streams where they can bathe and drink. They are vegetarians. They can consume about 250 kg of grass per day. Ripe fruits are their favorite. The ivory tusks, are used to retrieve food, dig for water, and occasionally, to flight.
An average elephant's life expectancy is 80 years. A baby elephant stay close to its mother for 3-4 years. The mahouts will then take the young elephant to tame it and train until he is 10 years old. After that, it's all hard work for him until he reaches 50. Elephants have been essential in the economy of Thailand with the kind of labor they have been doing for their masters through time.
Throughout history, the Thai elephant has truly been the beast of burden with the kind of heavy work they do for their masters. Elephants are commonly trained and often used for forestry work especially in the north and the south. They are found in every province with timber forests as livelihood. They have also been used for transportation, in battlefields, and in royal ceremonies. They can cross rivers and trek mountains with ease. An elephant can load more than 100 kg and walk for about 20 km per day for 4 km/hour.
Thais utilize elephants until they can no longer work because of old age.
In the ancient time, elephants were a powerful force in the Thai army. They were like tanks attacking enemies, and the army would come home victorious with their elephants. Kings have won over battles on their tank beasts. During the Sukkoth period, King Ramkamhaeng the Great, riding on an elephant, won over Kun Samchon, the ruler of Chod City. In Ayutthaya, King Jakkrapad the Great fought against Prince Prae on his elephant. Most important was the victory of King Naresuan the Great against the Viceroy of Hongsawadee Empire (now known as Myanmar).