The elephant of Napoleon
Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) at
Versailles menagerie in France

dead elephant ☨ ♀ The elephant of Napoleon  dead elephant
The elephant of Napoleon displayed as museum specimen.
The elephant of Napoleon as museum specimen. This image is inline deepink from an external server, inline linking does not directly infringe copyright but can be removed on request.
Alternative name: Shanti
Taxidermy locationPavia Natural History Museum, Pavia, Italy



Species:Asian elephant (Elephas maximus)
Subspecies: Elephas maximus indicus
Sex and age:Female ♀ 12 years old
Characteristics: skin
Born:* 1770 wild
Birth place: in Asia unspecified location
Imported:1772 by Jean-Baptiste Chevalier
Freight:by the ship "Ganges" of the French East India Company
Dead: 1782-09-25
Death location: Versailles menagerie Versailles park
Death reason: accident: drawned after falling into the waters of a canal in the park
Locations - owners
Present / last location:Versailles menagerie, in France

Date of arrival

1773-08-19Versailles menagerie
from King Louis XV of France

1773-08-19King Louis XV of France
from Port of Lorient

1772-12-14Port of Lorient
from French East India Company

1772-02-12French East India Company
from Port of Calcutta

1772-02-12Port of Calcutta
from Jean-Baptiste Chevalier

1772-00-00Jean-Baptiste Chevalier 1772-00-00
from West Bengal Unspecified location

Record history
History of updates2020-10-06

Latest document update2021-07-05 07:47:28
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Relevant literature


† The elephant of Napoleon is a dead Female ♀ Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), , who died 1782-09-25 at Versailles menagerie, in France, . Official death reason described as drawned after falling into the waters of a canal in the park.

Museum locationThe Museum specimen remains of this animal is within the collection at Pavia Natural History Museum, in Pavia, Italy, since 2015-00-00.


The elephant of Napoleon was born wild 1770 at Asia unspecified location. and imported 1772 by Jean-Baptiste Chevalier, by the ship "Ganges" of the French East India Company

Comments / pictures

Shanti, Napoleon's elephant, is probably the third oldest taxidermized specimen of Elephas maximus .There are older finds only in the museum Bourges (1803) and Madrid (1778).


In 1772, Jean-Baptiste Chevalier, last French governor of Chandannagar decided to gift an elephant to King Louis XV. The elephant was a two-year-old Indian elephant (Elephas maximus), which on February 12, 1772, accompanied by his cornac Joumone, left aboard the ship "Ganges"of the French East India Company.

After ten months of sailing, probably doing stops in Pondicherry, Île de Bourbon and Île de France, the ship "Ganges" docked in the middle of winter at Lorient in Brittany (Bretagne). It was December 14, 1772. The elephant and her cornac remained in Lorient waiting for the summer, and then left on foot, with a small escort and under the watchful eyes of curious crowds, on their way to Versailles. They reached their destination the Palace of Versailles in Paris on 19 August 1773 after having traveled about 500 kilometers. Houel (1803)

There, it remained at the Court of the King as an animal attraction for the guest of the palace and naturalists, among them, Petrus Camper, a Dutch anatomist who eventually published a volume on the natural history of elephants (Camper, 1803).

The elephant died sometime in the night between 24th and 25 September 1782.

After breaking its chains and the stable door, it walked out in the park, and drowned after falling into the waters of a canal in the park. The body was taken to the Jardin du Roi in Paris and was dissected by prominent anatomists, Jean-Claude Mertrud (1728–1802) and Daubenton le Jeune (Edme-Louis, 1730–1785) (Candegabe et al., 2015).

The skin was on display in the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. In 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte donated the elephant skin to the Natural History Museum, the University of Pavia, along with other zoological specimens.

The curator Vincenzo Rosa took care of the creation of the specimen and mounted it in 1812. Due to the museum's policies, the specimen was kept away from the public eye and remained inaccessible for more that two centuries, stored at Visconti Castle from 1960 to 2014.

In December 2014, the elephant specimen was transferred to Palazzo Botta for restoration. It underwent careful cleaning and was subjected to major restoration work in order to repair the damage suffered over the centuries caused by mold and wear and tear. The restoration project was part of a Universitiamo campaign, which was the crowd funding platform for the University of Pavia. The restoration was completed with additional funds from Regione Lombardia.

In the spring of 2015, after more than 60 years of being stored in the attic of Visconti Castle in Pavia, the elephant was put on display at the University of Pavia.[14] The elephant exhibition was held at Palazzo Centrale from 30 April to 31 October 2015 and attracted more than 10,000 visitors. On 27 October 2015, the elephant was named Shanti, which was chosen by Carlo Violani, one of the donors of the 2015 Universitiamo campaign.

On 8 April 2017, the university arranged for an event "A Day for the Elephant" (Italian: Un giorno da Elefante) at Palazzo Botta, which included a tour of the Natural History Museum.

A book on the history of the elephant specimen was written by Paolo Mazzarello, a professor of History of Medicine in the University of Pavia, titled "The Elephant from Napoleon, an animal who wants to be free" (Italian: L'elefante di Napoleone, un animale che voleva essere libero)
Reference list


Koehl, Dan, (2024). The elephant of Napoleon, Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) located at Versailles menagerie in France. Elephant Encyclopedia, available online retrieved 24 February 2024 at (archived at the Wayback machine)

Sources used for this article is among others:


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Categories1782 deaths | Pavia Natural History Museum Taxidermy | 1770 births | 1772 imports | Elephants from Versailles menagerie | France | Asian elephants

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