Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) at
Cornelis Jacobs van Groenevelt in Netherlands

dead elephant ☨ ♀ Hansken  dead elephant
Hansken displayed as museum specimen.
Hansken as museum specimen. Since 1774 the skeleton of Hansken is located at La Specola Museum of Zoology and Natural History, in Florence. This image is inline deepink from an external server, inline linking does not directly infringe copyright but can be removed on request.
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
Imported:1633 by Dutch East India Company
Freight:Ship from Ceylon
Dead: 1655-11-09
Death reason: unknown:
Locations - owners
Present / last location:Cornelis Jacobs van Groenevelt, in Netherlands

Date of arrival

Cornelis Jacobs van Groenevelt
from Unknown

from John Maurice of Orange

1636-00-00John Maurice of Orange
from Nieuwburg Prinsenhof royal menagerie

1633-00-00Nieuwburg Prinsenhof royal menagerie
from Frederick Henry of Orange

1633-00-00Frederick Henry of Orange
from Dutch East India Company

1632-00-00Dutch East India Company 1632-00-00
from Port of Colombo

Port of Colombo
from Sri Lanka unspecified location

Record history
History of updates2021-01-04

Latest document update2021-09-15 14:00:03
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† Hansken is a dead Female ♀ Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), , who died 1655-11-09 at Cornelis Jacobs van Groenevelt, in Netherlands, .

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


Hansken was born wild 1630 at Sri Lanka unspecified location. and imported 1633 by Dutch East India Company, 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.Hansken in Cornelis Jacobs van Groenevelt

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.com

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Articles where Hansken is mentioned on elephant-news.com
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2013-11-04 Linnaeus's asian elephant was wrong species - Elephant News

Reference list


Koehl, Dan, (2024). Hansken, Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) located at Cornelis Jacobs van Groenevelt in Netherlands. Elephant Encyclopedia, available online retrieved 23 May 2024 at https://www.elephant.se/database2.php?elephant_id=1816. (archived at the Wayback machine)

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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

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