How much did a pound of elephant trunk cost during the 1870 siege of Paris?

45 francs a pound.

During the four month German attack on the city which occurred forty years before WWI, residents were reduced to eating pigeons (when they were not being used to deliver messages out of the city), dogs and sometimes rats. (Horses had been an occasional part of Parisian diets for at least twenty years before then. Three horse butchers still have stores in Paris today though none does much business.) During the siege, a savvy butcher bought two elephants from the zoo in the Latin Quarter’s Jardin des Plants and sold what he could at very high prices (though 45 francs a pound is a bit dubious as the French use kilos not pounds.)(1) Monkeys were considered too human to be eaten, but kangaroo stew was relatively cheap. Unlike the elephants, the zoo's hippo was too expensive for anyone to buy. In fact, the zoo animals were butchered more to indulge the rich than feed starving locals. An estimated 3,000 Parisians died a week by January of 1871.

80 years earlier in 1789, an previous generation of Parisian elephants where used in an experiment at the zoo by scientists testing the effects of chamber music on ‘uncorrupted’ minds. After various symphonies caused various degrees of reaction, the hired musicians played a catchy up-beat love song. Just days after hearing the song Ça Ira, the elephants made love in sight of Western observers for the first time in recorded history.(2)

(1) "Castor and Pollux (elephants)." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 15:52 UTC. 18 May 2009 <>.06/08/09.

(2) Johnson, James. Listening in Paris, A Cultural History. University of California Press: Berkeley. 1996. p.131.