Just like this hippo, a rare pink one, some great white elephants were pink rather than white. Some white elephants were described to have pink skin, pink eyelashes, pink trunk, pink nails, everything just pink - but probably not their ivories and body hairs including the hairs at the tip of the tail. Well, elephant hairs from the tip of the tail are used for bracelets in Burma - dark black ones indeed.
I read about white elephants in Burmese literature. There were 10 types of elephants and the white ones were giant and powerful so the normal elephants fear/respect them. White elephants were believed born from ordinary elephants - but they rather lived with their mammies and looked after them till they died. Buddhism randomly appreciates the white elephant. As a bodhisattva, a white elephant lived with his mother during the Gotama Buddha time. The love story of three elephants, the bodhisattva and his two wives, in the Pali Cannon is a famous reference to poets and writers and different artists in Burma.
So a white elephant was really rare and believed as a king of elephants or the head of its heard. And those white ones were believed as the significant beings in Buddhism.
BTW to see the hippo, click the link above.
In the future (ten) Bodhisattas will attain full awakening in the
following order: the most honourable (Ariya) Metteyya, (King) Rama, (King)
Pasenadi of Kosala, (the Deva) Abhibhu, (the Asura Deva) Dighasoni, (the
Brahman) Candani, (the young man) Subha, the Brahman Todeyya, (the
elephant) Nalagiri, and (the elephant) Palaleya.(11)