In order to test the suitability of the horse as a nutritional model for elephants, digestibility studies were performed with six captive Asian elephants on six different dietary regimes, using the double marker method with acid detergent lignin as an internal and chromium oxide as an external digestibility marker. Elephants resembled horses in the way dietary supplements and dietary crude fibre content influenced digestibility, in calcium absorption parameters and in faecal volatile fatty acid composition. However, the absolute digestibility coefficients achieved for all nutrients are distinctively lower in elephants. This is because of much faster ingesta passage rates reported for elephants. No answer is given to why elephants do not make use of their high digestive potential theoretically provided by their immense body weight. Differences in volatile fatty acid concentrations between these captive elephants and those reported from elephants from the wild are in accord with a reported high dependence of free-ranging elephants on browse forage.