The Thai elephant is the national animal of Thailand. It is an Indian elephant that is a subspecies of the Asian elephant. The Indian elephant is much smaller in comparison to the other subspecies of the Asian elephant. In the early 20th century, there were about 100,000 elephants in captivity but at the start of the decade, there were only 3,000 domesticated and 1,000 wild elephants in the country. The elephant was chosen as the national animal and symbol of the country because it has been part of the society for many centuries and has contributed immensely to the Thai culture. The elephant symbolizes durability, strength, and longevity.
History of the Elephant in Thailand
Elephants have played a great role in present and ancient Thai societies. They were used for manual labor, a tool for war, and they were a symbol of royal iconography. In the past, these animals were captured and trained to transport logs in the forest. Historically, they were also used as tools of war because of their strength and intelligence. Soldiers trained the more aggressive male elephants and used to them to run over enemy defense posts. For centuries, the elephant was also considered a sign of royal status. All white elephants were considered the property of the king. After logging became an illegal activity in the country, most elephants were trained and used for entertainment in zoos and circus. They were taught to lift objects, paint, play with soccer balls, and perform stunts that wild elephants could not do.
There are several works of literature, artwork, and national emblems that refer to the elephant. As a Buddhist state, the royal palaces and temples in the country have drawings and paintings of the animal. Between 1843 and 1917, the national flag of Thailand contained a white elephant at the center of a scarlet background. The modern flag of the Royal Thai Navy bears the portrait of the white elephant. The elephant is also part of the official emblems in many of the country's provinces.
Elephants are the primary attraction of several events and festivals because of their status in the country. Thousands of people flock to the flock to the Surin Elephant Round-up in November to watch elephants take part in ceremonies and play sports. Hundreds of polo players visit Thailand during the King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament to get the chance of playing the sport while riding the animal.