March 1 is the anniversary of Chunee’s murder by soldiers at the Exeter Exchange on the Strand in London in 1826. He was an Indian elephant who was imported into Britain in 1809 or 1810. Like many wild-caught elephants who are forced into slavery, he rebelled against his captivity not least because of musth–the periodic condition which elephants experience when they become dangerous.
The excellent new book by Diana Donald, Picturing Animals in Britain, inlcudes the wood engraving (page 172), “The Elephant, As he laid dead at Exeter Change,” and the following
In the position he liked best. He seem’d to drop, to sudden rest. Nor bow’d his neck, but still a sense. Retain’d of his magnificence. For as he fell, he raised his head. And held it, as in life, when dead.