Sanctuary Elephant Mourns Loss of Best Friend

A dog famous for befriending an Asian elephant at a Tennessee sanctuary passed away earlier this week.

A remarkable odd couple that made for one of the most famous and admired animal friendships in the world, Tarra and Bella have been featured in countless videos, on numerous television shows, and have even appeared in a children’s book.

The dog and the  8,700 pound former performing elephant spent their days together at the 2,200-acre sanctuary in Hohenwald, TN. A co-founder of the sanctuary said that knowing Tarra and her love of Bella, it was likely the elephant would spend some time mourning the loss of her companion.

In a statement released yesterday The Elephant Sanctuary said that Bella was found earlier in the week suffering from injuries that appear to have been caused by a coyote. Rob Atkinson said Bella was found near Tarra’s barn: sanctuary employees believe Bella was attacked elsewhere, and that the heartbroken elephant carried her home.

In a written statement he said: “It was only later when we had pieced together the whole picture that Tarra’s behavior at Bella’s grave made sense. Our poor, brave, loving Girl knew what had happened to her beloved Bella and, in the dark hours of the night as she carried her body home, had come to terms with her death.

Tarra’s sisters will help her through her sadness. Although we cannot take away Tarra’s pain immediately or the pain of all those that knew Bella, I do know Bella knew true love and true freedom. It will always be so for animals that find Sanctuary.”

Founded in 1995, The Elephant Sanctuary is the largest natural habitat for Asian and African elephants in the US.

See the video that made Bella and Tarra famous.


  1. So sad. They were so sweet together.

  2. Danny says on  10/29/2011 at 9:29 pm

    =( Breaks my heart.

  3. Oh, no. So sad. I’m literally crying. This is my favorite animal friendship I’ve ever heard of. Poor Tarra.

    • Anonymous says on  10/31/2011 at 6:28 am

      I feel the same way, I’m sitting here in years as I write this. When I 1st saw this a couple of years ago I thought it was amazing….It totally touched my heart…..Now as I read this, I feel like Iv’e lost a friend….This is so sad I can just imagine how Tara must feel…….RIP Bella…..

  4. Baxley,Ga. says on  10/29/2011 at 11:27 pm

    Their story has been so sweet and beautiful from the start. We should all be so blessed to have a true friendship like Bella and Tarra’s. Thank you for sharing their loving friendship with us. God Bless You, as I’m sure your mourning right along with Tarra.

  5. Amber says on  10/30/2011 at 12:15 am

    This broke my heart! I hope Tarra and Bella find each other again someday

  6. Ver sad news. It truly brings us to tears. RIP, sweet Bella. Run free, little one.

    Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, Ciara, and Lightning

  7. Tracey says on  10/30/2011 at 10:25 am

    Oh what a beautiful story. I hope that Tarra will okay.

  8. Rita m Read says on  10/30/2011 at 10:40 am

    RIP Bella, what a special pair, I hope Tarra will be okay, Thankyou for letting us follow their special friendship.

  9. These animals are so intelligent and so caring towards one another. I have to share this on my blog!

  10. Helen says on  10/30/2011 at 11:22 am

    I loved those guys and am so sorry.

  11. Anonymous says on  10/30/2011 at 12:31 pm

    RIP Bella, and someday you and Tarra will be together again. My heart is breaking for you both.

  12. I remember how much joy I felt learning of their unique companionship a few years back.
    Thank you for sharing, I’m glad Tarra’s sister is there to try and help ease the sorrow.
    As I posted in the video comments, if different species can find a way to live in harmony, why can’t humans? :/

  13. I remember you posting about this story before. So sad! This made me tear up.

  14. Stories of this nature are wonderful. All God’s creatures have the ability to love and bee kind. Humans just miss the mark sometime. Hopefully relationships such as this will open some human eyes and hearts. We have been blessed to know of these wonderful animals. May God bless the animals and all their caretakers. Be kind to Tarra as she adjusts to the loss of her BFF.

  15. Anonymous says on  10/31/2011 at 2:57 am

    I always worried what would happen when the dog passed away. One could see that the dog was quite elderly, and I worried that the elephant would be very distressed. She was distressed when the dog was ill one time and could not be out with her.

    Bless her. I hope they find her another companion

  16. jennifer says on  10/31/2011 at 1:59 pm

    I am heartbroken over this–it feels like a personal loss to me- I have loved the bond Bella and Tarra shared since first seeing this video- I would think of them hanging out together and it would just warm my heart- their loyalty and devotion to each other, stronger than most humans experience-Poor little Tarra I share her grief over the loss of her beloved Bella-I pray God will remove her pain and leave her with nothing but wonderful memories of her time spent with her Bella-I grieve with her over this monumental loss.
    I pray that little Bella did not suffer and I damn that coyote!!

  17. Anonymous says on  10/31/2011 at 3:29 pm

    i hope you kill these coyotes!!!!!!!!! poor tarra & bella.bella had to go through horror of coyotes tearing at her,& tarra lost her buddy.not fair.hate coyotes

  18. Myra says on  10/31/2011 at 9:49 pm

    so sad!

  19. Jeanne Craigmile says on  10/31/2011 at 10:38 pm

    Don’t totally curse the coyote for doing what comes naturally. And I am sure it probably didn’t get away without a scratch or ‘bump’ on it. I have seen the ‘family’ side of elephants, and they can protect their family very well. Bella was an older dog and may have gotten curious about the ‘dog’ on her turf. Once the coyote had her it was really only luck that she got away in one piece, (seen what a coyote can do to a fighting animal). They usually aren’t this bold, but something may have made it a bit more so than usual. I know the sadness that Tarra is feeling and hurt right along with her. Glad to hear she has elephant family to help, along with all her humans fans and family, since they are a herd animal and need the company at this time. Also Elephants in the wild have been known to hang at a dead relatives side till the need for nourishment or water forces them to leave their side. And even then, they are still slow to leave. She will meet up with her buddy on that Rainbow bridge many years down the road, I hope. Also, given time she will take up with another pup, if given the chance. I worked with an elephant similar to her, and she was very maternal towards small animals. I miss Zola and her silly goofy sounds, and cherish every day I spent with her. She was like no other. As I am sure you feel about Tarra. Bless you all for the beautiful property you are allowing her to roam on and live her life in relative peace. May you see her thru this rough patch and see that she will bounce back. Angels every one of them. And Bella?, well she aint losing to any coyotes anymore and is waiting for her BFF, on the otherside

  20. Denise from Salisbury South Australia says on  11/01/2011 at 7:41 pm

    What an exquisite story, Darling Bella you had such a good friend in Tarra and you will catch up again, some day!

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