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The Mahout’s Equipment

Friday 8 July 2011, by Sébastien Duffillot

1. Palanquin (howdah) This traditional Lao mahout chair provides shelter from the sun, rain and tree branches.

2. Harness (braided vines) Tied across the breast, this allows the elephant to pull tree trunks weighing up to three tonnes

3. Bell (wood or bamboo) Elephants are peculiarly quiet animals. The bell helps mahouts find elephants left in the forest at night.

4. Saddle mat Made of plant fibres, this rug reduces rubbing on the skin by the chair or pack when the elephant is working.

5. Hook (ankus) Just the sight of this hook is generally enough to make a reluctant elephant obey.

6. Tail line (rattan) This runs from the chair over the back and is tied to the tail to balance the howdah.

7. Abdominal strap (rattan) This steadies and fixes the howdah or pack.

8. Auricle Placed above the ear, this allows the mahout to hold his elephant ‘on a leash’ and to lead it submissively.

9. Foot Chains (iron) These are used to control an elephant that is irritated or in musth.

10. Shackles (rattan) Used frequently during the whole training period, these prevent a young elephant from moving and especially from kicking its instructors.

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The White Elephant

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The Mahout


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