This film is part of Free

The Taming of the Elephant

A ‘Khedda' – the practice (now banned) of trapping and taming wild elephants using already tamed elephants – is here recorded in detail by the fascinated film-maker.

Home movie 1929 20 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales


Khedda: acceptable training practice or the obtaining of dominance by cruelty? Either way, the trapping and taming of wild elephants using already tamed elephants fascinated W H Buckley, a member of the Buckley's Brewery (Llanelli) family who was stationed with the 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards, a calvalry regiment, in Bengaluru (Bangalore), Karnataka state (Mysore) in the late 1920s and who was amongst a crowd of spectators watching part of the process.

These are stirring and detailed images. Among the spectators is Sir William R Birdwood, Field Marshall and Commander-in-Chief of the British Indian Army. The Khedda – of long tradition - involved tracking elephants and corralling them all into an enclosure, some then being roped to trees and deprived of food so that they would learn to obey their keeper (mahout). Every day they would be taken to the river to wash – this being essential to maintain health – and the wild ones would be roped to those already tamed to prevent any escape or rampage. The roping up of the elephants, as can be seen, was a task fraught with danger for the keepers. The last Khedda was held in Karnataka in 1971, it was then banned.