War Elephants!

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A well-trained elephant is a wonderful thing to watch, ever seen elephant football? Polo can be good too. However, when you compare a normal horse to a warhorse and apply the same to elephant --> war elephant you can imagine how terrifying and lethal they could be. As for stampeding, an untrained horse would run from battle, a warhorse would plunge in kicking and biting.
 

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War Elephants!A valuable tool or a hindrance for a medieval or ancient army?

Were they really the "tank" of the old times or were they just a clumsy and dangerous weapon?

A most valuable card on an army's side or a stupid animal which would go berserk at any time?

War elephants are hopeless in every sense of the word.

I think, in general, it must be said that elephants are too smart to act in any military way. A horse can be trained to follow orders of a rider - the mahout can be a friend of his elephant at best. They learn to trust each other, follow each others line of thought... but to follow orders is something an elephant will only do if it sees its own benefit. It endures the friendship.

The mahout is, with few exceptions, a life-long companion. Usually, this starts in the first year of the elephant's life - and will last until either dies. Since elephants easily outlived humans in ancient times, this bond had to start early in life of the human as well. If either died, it would be over. Kill the mahout, and the elephant would be uncontrollable. It will never ever bond again with another human as it did with the initial mahout. And seeing as elephants would take at least 10 years to get to any measure of maturity, the carreer of the mahout is equally finished if the elephant dies or decides otherwise.

But still, if the elephant would not like the situation it found itself in (like being surrounded with suspicious looking humans with spiky objects, not getting fed enough) - or, worse, favour interaction with other elephants - it will go berserk. And the damage done by a berserk, fully grown elephant outweighs the power of - say - a good howitzer. Either side of the line.

If an elephant sees another elephant killed, though, you're just a passenger. Most likely on your final trip. It must be said that this is possibly indeed in favour of the people who brang the elephants in the first place. However, like in police riots, I see a danger of a classic "us vs them", or elephants vs humans. Besides, if the elephants understand that the mahout wagers the life of the elephant I can only imagine that it will abandon, or possibly kill the mahout.

So, there's a lot of risk involved - and very little benefit indeed. Yes, the psychological factor is considerable. But, to me, it seems to sprout from a megalomane idea that bigger is always better in war. But, unless there happens to be a very considerable stock of trained elephans available, there is simply no point...
 
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A lot of people here mentioned that there was an issues with the elephants waist. I don’t see how. This was the “old days” they wouldn’t have cared were the elephants left a pile or if they did and the elephants wouldn’t have traveled along with the army for that reason and the fact that if they go berserk they could kill men. Some people also made a comment about food. These aren’t horses or humans were talking about here its an elephant. They eat primarily grasses, weeds, leaves and branches. I’m pretty certain that there is a lot of that around. Someone also mentioned there hard to train and don’t follow orders well…….ever been to the circus? There just like any animal, they can be conditioned, trained. Sure they might go berserk if something causes it but so would a horse. And its not like any major training would be needed. Stop, go, follow, lift, charge. They don’t need to go on there hind legs and keep a wall from falling. And also another point about the training. The Romans had a special formation invented for battles with war elephants called opening the channels. As the elephants charge you make gaps in your army and the “well trained” animals will naturally follow the paths allowing you to slaughter them from the sides.




A lot of people also mentioned they were primarily used for breaking moral. Actually their main use was to charge the enemy, trampling them and breaking their ranks. A broken and scattered army in disarray because it was attacked by a bunch of elephants is much easier to take down the a well formed battalion of soldiers. Elephants were also used to help prevent charges from the opposing side.

An elephant charge could reach about 30 km/h (20 mph), and unlike horse cavalry, could not be easily stopped by an infantry line setting spears

In addition to charging, the elephants could provide a safe and stable platform for archers to fire arrows and were eventually fitted with Culverin (type of small cannon similar to a musket)

Larger animals could also carry a protective tower on their backs, called a howdah.

There trunks where sometimes fitted with a type of chain mail that ended in small iron balls which would cause extra damage when the elephant swung its trunk. They were also fitted with armour to help protect the lower parts of their bodies making them harder to subdue.

Its been disputed that elephants are very jump and jump at most unfamiliar noise. So do horses, but once there trained and accustomed to battle they are not as jumpy.

They have there good sides and there bad, I think it depends on the situation. Such as who and were you are fighting. But I definitely don’t think war elephants were useless.

I would like to say one more thing though. If elephants are in fact useless why would they have been used so much and for so long??
 
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ahh I totally forgot about the archers and towers part! (hasn't watch LOTR in a while now)
 
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Foinikas

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The Great Adventurer has a point too!Right when I started to think that the elephants were useless,he came and made me think they are good and relatively dependent war mounts.

After all,the Indians couldn't be stupid for using them so much.
 

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Ancient records tell us that Thtmosis III, one of the greatest of egyptian military leaders, hunted wild elephants in what is now Syria; elephants ( obviously the asiatic species, Elephas maximus ) were, back then ( II millennium B.C ) only found in the wild. ¿Who were the first to tame them and use them?
 

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Elephants can be used as bulldozers, clearing the pathway or destroying fort or gates. And I agree with the significant psychological effect it have on both enemy and allies. Even if the enemy is unswayed, we could still raise the morale of the troops, with such giants tagging along.

After all,the Indians couldn't be stupid for using them so much.

In India there's plenty of raw food supply along the way to support the elephants. If one want to make use of elephants I imagine a good supply source is needed, particularly when you don't have to carry any with you.
 

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