Researching the logistics of Hannibal's march I can not find any reference to whether his elephants wore protective footwear. Hannibal was a supreme field commander so it's impossible to imagine he didn't care for all elements of his army equally. I have a reasonable database and seem to recall a note that Hannibal provided additional kit for the nubian cavalry and their mounts but nothing on whether the elephants were also provided with protective wear for the mountains. However I can't find the relevant original source/reference. The question arose as protective wear would improve the daily distances when considering considering Least Cost Path Analysis.

Ref: Aplicació de l’anàlisi de camins de mínim cost (LCP) pel cas del pas de l’exèrcit d’Anníbal Barca durant l’etapa catalana-Pirenaica [Aina Muñoz Fernández1 2020

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    Supreme field commander? He lost half his army in the Alpes, due to his own actions. Crossing the Alpes without proper logistics in place, other than 'we'll see when we get there', is not my idea of a supreme commander.
    – Jos
    Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 0:30
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    @Jos - IIRC, he didn't have many elephants left by the time he descended from the Alps either.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 12:39
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    @ Jos anyone else would have lost them all, dropping into the Po valley was a complete surprise to the Romans. The world would now be a different place is he had more support from home.
    – user56240
    Commented Nov 5, 2022 at 9:18
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    @ TED just one survived and yet Hannibal managed extraordinary victories, he was a supreme field commander, strategist and inspirational figure. He received more elephants eventually and belatedly. "The Senate members were impressed enough to vote sending 4,000 Numidian horse, 40 elephants and 500 talents to Italy, and Mago was instructed to raise additional 20,000 foot and 4,000 horse from Spain for Hannibal.Mago's army, numbering 12,000 foot, 1,500 horse and 20 elephants, with 1,000 talents was raised slowly, perhaps due to anti Barcid intrigues.. Peddie, John (2005). Hannibal's War
    – user56240
    Commented Nov 5, 2022 at 9:32
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    @T.E.D. Why do you claim that few of Hannnibal's elephants reached Italy? As I remembr the ancient sources don't give any elephant statistics.
    – MAGolding
    Commented Nov 5, 2022 at 16:16

1 Answer 1


Elephant feet are rather odd.

Elephants like many other animals walk on the toes but they have a big soft circular pad behind the semi circle of their toes, and those pad support much of their weight. Because their toes can move a bit and the pad is flexible and can be controlled a bit, elephants can change the shapes and weight distributions of their feet a lot.

Elephants normally walk slowly and deliberately which gives time for their feet to adapt to the ground they step on and avoid putting too much weight on hard objects like stones.

So any shoes or footwear for elephants will have to be designed to allow the feet to change shape without the footwear falling off. The elephants will also find them strange at first and will try to take them off.

Humans do make footwear for elephants.




The British Alpine Hannibal Expedition of 1959 crossed the Alps with an elephant named Jumbo loaned from the Turin zoo.

The members of the expedition originally planned to call the 5,700 pound (2.6 t) elephant Hannibella, however, the animal could not be made to respond to the new name and thus remained Jumbo.3 Jumbo was 11 years old and equipped with leather boots and knee pads for the most treacherous passages. A specially made coat was provided to keep her warm.5 Despite a diet consisting of 150 pounds (68 kg) of hay, 50 pounds (23 kg) of apples, 40 pounds (18 kg) of bread, 20 pounds (9.1 kg) of carrots, and a vitamin B supplement per day, she lost an estimated 300 pounds (140 kg) during the first 4 days of the trip,2 and nearly 500 pounds (230 kg) in total. On arrival in Italy, she consumed cake and a Magnum bottle of Chianti.5

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Alpine_Hannibal_Expedition#The_expedition Photos here;


We can hope that Hannibal's elephant handlers took as good care of them but I don't know of any evidence one way or the other.

Added 11-05-2022 Despite the comments by T.E.D. and Surus Tours to the original question I am unaware of any ancient writers who mentioned whether any elephants died crossing the Alps or if so how many.

Empoeror Maximilian II's elephant Suleiman crossed the Alps from Italy to Austria in the winter of 1561-1562 over the Brenner pass.


The performng elephant Hansken toured Germany and neighboring countries for years. In 1651 she visted cities in Switzerland, and then went on to Italy, probably crossing the Alps.


For decades in the 19th century traveling circuses traveled by foot and by wagon until travelling by railroads became usual for circuses. Thus their large circus animals had to walk whenever a circus crossed the Alps, presumably including any elephants. It is quite possible that there are records of 19th century circuses crossing the Alps with elephants.

In 1936 Richard Halliburton crossed the Alps with an elephant named Dally from the Paris Zoo. They used the Saint Bernard Pass.


And I aleady mentioned above the The British Alpine Hannibal Expedition of 1959 which crossed the Alps with an elephant named Jumbo.

Wild elephants don't like climbing up and down because it uses more energy than walking on the level. But wild elephants do climb on occassion such as crossing hills or mountains on migrations, and elephants are known to climb down into caves to reach salt deposits.

There is a legend of an elephant skeletion called "icy Mike" 15,000 feet up on Mount Kenya.

Here is a link to photos of elphants on mountains:


People don't cross the Alps by climbing over the tops of mountains and then back down again. People and domestic animals like horses, donkeys, cattles, etc. cross the Alps through passes between mountains, trying to use as low and as level a route as they can find.

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