Can elephants be trained like horses?

  • There aren’t many obvious similarities between equines and elephants — but a world-renowned trainer thinks they’ve got more in common than we might think.

    Dr Andrew McLean has been working with the Working Elephant Programme of Asia as a scientific adviser to develop a new way of training working elephants by using dressage techniques, both from the ground and with riders on board.

    And he’s just returned from a trip to Asia, where this approach is improving the lives of elephants and their handlers.

    “Humane training provides a basis for confident and safe elephants,” said Dr McLean. “Do elephants or horses need to respect us? No, all we need to do is to instil habits and reward carefully. Then rapport is built.”

    He has discovered that, like horses, elephants learn in a logic-based manner and demonstrate conflict behaviour in the same way.

    Using equine training methods, Dr McLean has created a step-by-step programme for the animals and has set up a foundation to raise awareness of the plight of working elephants.

    Visit www.h-elp.org.

    This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (16 June, 2011)

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