Party planning tip: Don’t invite elephants

Problem drinker?: For the second time in three years, a pack of Asian elephants in India have overindulged on rice beer, leading to violent behavior resulting in death. (Flickr photo by Celeste)
Problem drinker?: For the second time in three years, a pack of Asian elephants in India have overindulged on rice beer, leading to violent behavior resulting in death. (Flickr photo by Celeste)
There are the usual suspects known for being problem drinkers: college frat boys, middle-aged rock stars and Green Bay Packer fans. Now you can add Asian elephants to that list.

Six elephants in India were killed earlier this week after creating mayhem after drinking rice beer in a remote city in northeast India. They were part of a herd of about 40 elephants that overran the town looking for food. The six found their way to a variety of plastic and tin drums that the villagers use to brew their own beers.

After getting juiced up on the rice beer, the six elephants went nuts rampaging through the town. In their fury, they uprooted an electrical power pole that led to their electrocution.

Elephants in the region are known to have a developed a taste for the rice beer. A similar incident with occurred three years ago, leading to the death of four intoxicated elephants.

This all leads to a lot of questions, but the one I really want to know is how much rice beer does an animal the size of an elephant need to consume in order to get drunk?

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Rampaging elephants (particularly drunk ones) have been a personal interest of mine for a long time. That is to say, when I get bored and I'm near a computer, I repeatedly reread Wikipedia's article on them.

Anyway, I'm surprised that I had missed this story. Drunken elephants are rare, wonderful creatures. I guess a lot of people dispute whether or not drunkenness plays any part in elephant attacks, but there are all these stories involving elephants getting into a town's booze and going nuts. They're like college kids, if college kids were strong enough to uproot telephone poles.

Even if elephants aren't angry drunks, the other reasons proposed for rampaging herds are pretty interesting. Some people claim that elephants can be vindictive, and think that young male elephants have attacked villages as revenge for cullings. Also, according to an article linked to be Wikipedia, elephants have purposely stopped traffic with the apparent intention of hijacking a sugar cane truck.

And then there's musth. Male elephants occasionally go through this state called "musth," where "a thick, tar-like liquid" secretes from glands on the sides of their heads, and they basically go crazy. Their testosterone levels increase by 6000% (it can be 60 times greater than their normal levels), and they get super aggressive. Young male African elephants in musth have been known to go around killing rhinos. Aside from the hormone things, the tar-like stuff secreted during musth runs into the elephant's mouth and is supposed to taste "unbelievably foul," and the glands that produce it swell and press against the elephant's eyes, causing pain comparable to a severe root abscess toothache (again, according to Wikipedia).

Apparently the Hindi word "musth" comes from the Urdu word "mast," which is derived from a Persian word for "intoxicated." I wonder if that word was chosen because of elephant drunkenness, or if it has lead to misconceptions as to whether elephants are in fact drunk, or just in musth?

That's what I've been thinking about. I'm glad Thor wrote this, because there was no place for musth and drunken elephants in my post from a few days ago.

posted on Fri, 10/26/2007 - 10:48am
Thor's picture
Thor says:

Hey John:

If you're really into drunken elephants, it's only about ten months until the Republican National Convention comes to town!!?? That should be a spectacle.

posted on Fri, 10/26/2007 - 2:46pm

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