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The first historically recorded elephant in northern Europe was Abul-Abbas, an Asian elephant given to Emperor Charlemagne by the caliph of Baghdad, Harun al-Rashid, in 797. (801?)

Abul-Abbas's journey to Europe started with crossing the Mediterranean Sea by ship, which landed at Portovenere in October 801, together with his mahout, a Jewish North African named Isaac. They spent the winter in Vercelli, and in the spring they started the march over the Alps to the Emperor's residence in Aachen, arriving on July 1, 802.

Abul-Abbas was exhibited on various occasions, when the court was assembled, and was eventually housed in Augsburg in southern Bavaria.

In 804 the Danish king Godfred attacked a trading village near Denmark and moved the people by force to his newly-built trading village in Hedeby; his goal was to secure Denmark's part of the trade in the northern countries. Charlemagne mobilized his troops against the Danes, and sent for his elephant to join in the mighty battle.

Abul-Abbas was in his forties, probably in ill-health, and not yet used to the European climate. He died of pneumonia, probably after swimming the Rhine, in 810.

See Also

History of elephants in Europe, War elephant