Previously, the perception of rhinos in Europe was that they were huge, frightening animals. This was largely due to Albrecht Dürer’s portrayal of a rhino dressed in armor, seemingly ready to head off into battle.
However, the image of the rhinoceros shifted when a rhino named Clara arrived in Europe in 1741. Clara was born in India in 1738.
After her mother was killed by poachers, she was adopted as a pet by the director of the Dutch East India Company and served as entertainment at parties.
When she grew too large to be kept as a house pet, she was passed on to a Dutch sea captain named Douwemout van der Meer, who planned to parade the exotic animal across Europe. He took care of Clara until she died in 1758 at the age of 20.
To get Clara to Europe, he had to ensure that she would survive a six-month trip by ship. Van der Meer kept her hydrated by slathering her hide with fish oil.
Along the way, the crew on board even gave her some of their ale, which she ended up enjoying for the rest of her life.
After arriving in Rotterdam, Clara immediately became a sensation. She traveled to several cities, impressing royal figures and everyday citizens alike.
Clara was carted from place to place in a large wagon that was pulled by eight horses. And she required 70 pounds of hay, 25 pounds of bread, and 14 buckets of water per day for nourishment.
She was the inspiration for many paintings, poems, songs, and statues. Two major paintings depicting the female rhino have survived throughout the centuries, and one is even displayed in a London gallery today.