The ancient Romans enjoyed exotic animals and showed them off in the Colosseum. They enjoyed watching them perform tricks, being hunted and killed. Wolves, bears, wild boar, deer and goats were native to Rome and elephants, leopards, lions, ostriches and parrots were imported in the 1st Century B.C. They were followed by the hippopotamus, rhinoceros, camel and giraffe.
Elephants were especially popular in Rome. They were used for show, for building and for military purposes, and became a symbol of the power of the Roman Empire. In 46 B.C. Julius Caesar paraded with 40 trained elephants to celebrate his victory over Pompey.
Horses were used as farm animals, for chariot racing and for the military. Only one case of a horse being kept as a pet is known: the Emperor Caligula had a particularly spoiled pet horse called Incitatus.
Fish and birds were kept by the Romans as ornamental pets. Peacocks, parakeets and parrots were often kept in elaborate expensive cages. When they outlived their usefulness, these animals would often be eaten.
The ancient Romans also kept dogs for a variety of purposes. Diana the huntress is generally shown with at least one dog by her side, and indeed dogs were used for hunting purposes. Dogs were also used in war and dog fighting was a popular sport. Dogs were also occasionally sacrificed to the gods. They were also used for herding.
Today, Italy still allows animal entertainment and the Moira Orfei, for example, a world-renowned Italian circus, advertises acts with elephants, tigers and camels as well as horses and parrots.
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