Asian elephant (Elephas maximus)
Hansken at Cornelis Jacobs van Groenevelt

 ☨ ♀ Hansken  
Hansken displayed as taxidermy specimen.
Hansken as taxidermy specimen. Since 1774 the skeleton of Hansken is located at La Specola Museum of Zoology and Natural History, in Florence.
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Hansken as painting by Rembrandt.
Hansken as painting by Rembrandt.

Taxidermy locationLa Specola Museum of Zoology and Natural History, Florence, Italy


Museum accession number MZUF-734


Species:Asian elephant (Elephas maximus)
Sex and age:Female ♀ 25 years old
Born:* 1630 wild
Birth place: in Sri Lanka unspecified location
Freight:Ship from Ceylon
Dead: 1655-11-09
Death reason: unknown:
Present / last location:Cornelis Jacobs van Groenevelt, in Netherlands

Date of Arrival
(Presently sometimes errors!)

Cornelis Jacobs van Groenevelt
from Unknown
Unknown 1636-00-00
from John Maurice of Orange
John Maurice of Orange 1636-00-00
from Nieuwburg Prinsenhof royal menagerie
Nieuwburg Prinsenhof royal menagerie 1633-00-00
from Frederick Henry of Orange
Frederick Henry of Orange 1633-00-00
from Dutch East India Company
Dutch East India Company 1632-00-00
from Sri Lanka unspecified location

Document updated2020-10-07: updated locations, text and sources
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Relevant literature

† Hansken is a dead Female ♀ Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), , who died at Cornelis Jacobs van Groenevelt, in Netherlands, 1655-11-09.

The Taxidermy remains of this animal is within the Taxidermy collection at La Specola Museum of Zoology and Natural History, in Florence, Italy, since 1774-00-00.

(see detailed list).


Hansken was born wild 1630 at Sri Lanka unspecified location. and imported 1633, Ship from Ceylon

Comments / pictures

Hansken was a female elephant that became famous in early 17th century Europe. For many years a certain Cornelis Jacobs van Groenevelt criss-crossed Europe with the celebrated elephant. She toured many countries, demonstrating circus tricks, and was sketched by Rembrandt and Stefano della Bella.

Hansken was born in what was then Ceylon and was brought to Holland in 1637. Her name is a Dutch diminutive form of the Malayalam word aana, meaning "elephant". Rembrandt saw her in Amsterdam in 1637, and made four sketches of her in chalk.

Hansken toured fairs in the Netherlands and Germany. She appeared in Hamburg in 1638, in Bremen and Copenhagen in 1640, in Rotterdam in 1641, in Frankfurt in 1646 and 1647, and in Luneburg in 1650. She was probably in Leipzig in 1649 and 1651.

In the 17th century, it was believed that elephants had very advanced intellectual abilities. Following Pliny, it was thought that the elephant was the nearest to man in intelligence, and that elephants could understand speech, follow orders, and had a sense of religion and conscience. Pliny even reports that an elephant had learned to write words in the Greek alphabet. Hansken did not live up to these expectations, but she could wave a flag, fire a pistol, strike a drum, hold out her front feet, pinch money from pockets, put on a hat, carry a bucket of water, and pick up coins from the ground.

In July 1651, Hansken travelled to Zurich, Solothurn, Bregenz and St. Gallen, and on to Rome. She visited Florence, where she was drawn by artist Stefano della Bella. He also drew her corpse after her death on 9 November 1655.

Ferdinand II, Grand Duke of Tuscany, bought the dead elephant from Van Groenevelt for his collection.

2013: it was scientifically determined that Hansken is the lectotype of the Asian elephant species, Elephas maximus. A lectotype is the earliest described specimen of a species that serves as the type specimen. Later researchers can always return to the described and preserved example. Carl Linnaeus classified the species into classes. He based his description of the elephant in 1758 on older descriptions, including that of John Ray. An international team of scientists has concluded that Ray's description relates to the skeleton that is now kept in the Specula in Florence, reaffirming that this is the same elephant known as Hansken-

Hansken on elephant-news.comElephant News: articles where Hansken is mentioned on

Hansken is mentioned on Elephant News:

DateLinks which opens in new window
2013-11-04Linnaeus's asian elephant was wrong species - Elephant News

Reference listKoehl, Dan, (2021). Hansken, Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) located at Cornelis Jacobs van Groenevelt in Netherlands. Elephant Encyclopedia, available online retrieved 28 July 2021 at (archived at the Wayback machine)

Sources used for this article is among others:


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Hansken mentioned on our sister website

2013-11-04Linnaeus's asian elephant was wrong species - Elephant News

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  • Categories1655 deaths | La Specola Museum of Zoology and Natural History Taxidermy | 1630 births | Born in Sri Lanka | 1633 imports | Elephants from Cornelis Jacobs van Groenevelt | Netherlands | Asian elephants

    This document was updated: 2021-07-10 04:57:55

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