In prehistoric times, there used to be a dwarf elephant species in many Mediterranean islands.
They were about 1.5-2 meters high, but probably became extinct before the arrival of the first human beings

If these elephants were still alive at the arrival of the first human beings (and managed not to be made extinct by them), and they had been domesticated, I was wondering if and how it would have any meaningful impact in the development of mediterranean civilizations (Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans...).

So, my question is: for a mediterranean civilization of the Classical age, what could be the use for a dwarf elephant (if any)? Or their breeding would still be too costly compared to their utility?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How smart are these Elephants? Smarter animals don't do as well for domestication. How big are these Elephants? What domestication niches have you already discarded and why? Food, milk, security, travel, burden... $\endgroup$
    – kleer001
    Commented Jan 27, 2020 at 23:26
  • $\begingroup$ @kleer001 I don't think there is an estimate of their intelligence. I think it is safe to assume they are as intelligent as a full size elephant. Full size elphants are very expensive to breed, but the upkeep of an elephant the size of a horse (or even a bit smaller) should be "cheap" enough for them to be bred for a wider range of purposes (even as food, since mammoths were actually eaten...) $\endgroup$
    – McTroopers
    Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 22:06
  • $\begingroup$ @McTroopers Elephants taste bad. Apparently a few were eaten in France during the big wars (can't remember if 1 or 2)... not very appetizing meat. $\endgroup$
    – John O
    Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 22:31
  • $\begingroup$ @kleer001: Why do you think smarter animals don't domesticate as well? Of course it depends on whether you're domesticating mainly for food (cows, pigs, chickens, &c) or for other uses, like dogs & horses. The dwarf elephant might be a good replacement for draft oxen &c. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jan 29, 2020 at 0:42

4 Answers 4


Dwarf elephants are still elephants. They're hella strong. They'd probably be used for the same things regular elephants were used for:

  • Construction
  • Warfare - not sure who's going to fight you if you have an elephant on your side, and a relatively portable one at that. Interestingly, because these elephants are relatively small, island nations in the Mediterranean could learn to dominate their regions by deploying elephant cavalry with incredible speed, because these guys might even fit on a boat! Rome's mighty legions would be replaced with Rome's mighty small elephant navy!
  • Ivory farms - unfortunate possibility
  • Tourism - we don't need to be too imaginative
  • General transportation - who needs horses
  • Pets
  • Exotic food

Hope this helps!


Rich people's pet.

cleo and elephant

Rich folks like exotic animals as pets. They have ligers and binturongs now but the ancients definitely had cheetahs and monkeys. Docile little elephants would make great additions to courts of the ancient world.



Except these would be more like elephant fights. Bring your elephant to the ring, see how it matches to other people's elephants. The smaller form factor means they would be easier to control than the big ones we got today - it would be like the bull and camel fights that are held in countries like Oman and Saudi Arabia. And if my experience with dogs has taught me anything it's that the smaller the breed is, the more crazy and aggressive it is. Don't know if it applies to elephants but it would make for critters with a hella lotta fight in them.

Disclaimer: I am totally against this kind of thing and I would never put an animal to fight another. If it puts your conscience at ease, imagine the scenario above involves pokéballs.


Riding food and labor. this could all be ways depending on what your civilization has around if there something a better alternative then the might not use the elephants but if there is not they would use the elephants for those three. War could also be used they would make a greek shock cavalry.


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