The ancient Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca famously led his troops, including 37 elephants, across the Alps mountain range to fight the Romans. Unfortunately, all but one of Hannibal's elephants died while crossing the mountains in 218 BC. Although 36 of the 37 elephants Hannibal brought on the journey were African elephants, most likely from Morocco and Algeria, it was the sole Asian elephant that survived. Historians believe that the surviving elephant was the one Hannibal rode most frequently; historical records indicate it may have been named Surus, or “the Syrian.”
More about Hannibal's elephants:
- With the elephants in tow, it took two weeks for Hannibal and his troops to cross the Rhone River on the way to the Alps. There is no definitive evidence for how the elephants crossed the river, but the most likely theories are that they swam or were ferried across on rafts.
- Historical legend says that Hannibal gave the elephants alcohol and stabbed them in the feet, in order to anger them into attacking the Roman troops.
- The Romans reportedly defended themselves against Hannibal’s elephants by blowing trumpets to cause them to stampede.