Rhinoceroses were once considered extraordinary curiosities, the 'true unicorns' of the world.
In 1741, Clara, a young rhino captured in Assam, was transported by ship to Holland where she would begin a Grand Tour of Europe to be displayed before ordinary people and the grandest of royal courts.
A rhinoceros eats up to 70 kilos of vegetation a day - two and a half tons a month - and Clara developed an uncommon fondness for sweets, beer and tobacco.
In an age before railways and modern roads, the 3-ton Clara had to travel in an enormous coach drawn by eight horses.
For seventeen years she journeyed across mainland Europe and to Britain where she became a great favourite of heads of state, including Frederick the Great; she modelled for scientific portraits and etchings; and she inspired poems, songs, fashions and expensive trinkets.
As Clara's popularity threatened to decline, her owner orchestrated a series of recognisably modern publicity stunts: releasing news of Clara's certain imminent death, there would be a massive upsurge in interest, sympathy - and bookings.
Clara eventually ended her tour in London, where she died of her own sweet tooth, a victim of bread and cakes.Glynis Ridley has wrought a sparkling portrait of this wonderful animal and the fascination and adoration she commanded, in an era that saw the rhinoceros as both the object of marvel and a challenge to both fundamental philosophical and theological beliefs.
- Format: Paperback / softback
- Pages: 240 pages
- Publisher: Atlantic Books
- Publication Date: 14/07/2005
- Category: European history
- ISBN: 9781843541479