A Brief History of Animals Getting Drunk

“I’m not as officer as you drunk I am *starts mauling police officer*”

~A Drunk Monkey

 mice with wine

Humans separate themselves from the rest of the animal kingdom through their advanced culture, their intellectual pursuits, and their appreciation of Shark Week.  Sure, there might be more to the difference between man and beast, but at the end of the day, many creatures on this planet are a lot like us, only much tastier.  It’s this disconnect between our similarities and differences with the animal world that finds us constantly striving to anthropomorphize pets and wild creatures—you put a sweater on your severely overheated poodle and it’s cute, because he thinks he’s people.  We like seeing animals “act human” but it’s typically pretty forced.  Yes, that is a cute YouTube video of a dog walking on its hind legs, but that’s just because he was incessantly trained to do that.  But there is one area where, with minimal human interference, animals are just like us.

They like to get drunk.

So, we will take a momentary break from our established credo of “Fuck Nature” to give our furry animal friends a break, and talk about how they like to get shitcanned drunk, just like us.  Granted, if some of you take that to the logical conclusion that the alcohol probably makes these cute little critters taste even better, we won’t stop you.

A Brief History of Animals Getting Drunk

 drunk dog

Humans are the only species to have really mastered the preparation, distillation, and fermentation of alcohol, but we’re not the only creatures to imbibe.  To get all boring and sciencey, we evolved to be able to drink liquor and get drunk, partly because we like to party, and also because the ability to process alcohol was pretty important when our ancestors would find themselves eating spoiled fruit that had started to ferment.  Now, we were quick to learn that this process was awesome and as soon as we were able to form thoughts more complex than “food or fuck?” we figured out how to turn fruits and grains into delicious, mind-numbing booze. From there, we used our insights to create some of the world’s best things.  Fine wines.  Aged whiskeys.  Choco-tinis if that’s the kind of thing you’re into.  We also made Budweiser, but hey, not all of them can be winners.

The animal kingdom has nowhere near the level of sophistication when getting their denizens blotto, but we have managed to track down a small list of stories, either confirmed of apocryphal, of animals drinking.

Elephants Actually Don’t Get Drunk in the Wild (But They Have Attacked to Steal Booze)

 passed out elephant

Scientists have been pretty adamant about elephants being unable to get drunk in the wild.  It doesn’t mean they don’t like booze—in 1984, for reasons likely linked to comedy, a study was performed seeing if elephants were willing to consume alcohol.  They gladly, without prodding, drank a 7% solution of unflavored vodka, which means that, much like your functionally alcoholic friend trying to lose weight, elephants are a big fans of vodka and soda.  Some even did drink to the point of getting physically impaired.

The main problem with drunk elephants in the wild is that people assume that the marula fruit, which elephants enjoy eating, can ferment and cause them to get drunk, but the sad truth is that elephants are simply too massive to eat enough fruit for it to even give them a minor buzz, no matter how alcoholic rotten marula can get (it tops out at around 3.2% ABV).  But don’t worry, that doesn’t mean we don’t encounter drunk elephants from time to time.  Murderous, angry drunk elephants.  In India, for example, it’s uncommon but not unheard of for wild elephants to break into tribal communities looking for food, and end up drinking enough locally fermented rice beer to get themselves trashed.  It happens elsewhere, with other kinds of stored booze, so while we’re sad to report that elephants don’t go around getting drunk on the regular, a handful of particularly assholish violent ones are willing to break into your house and rummage through your liquor cabinet.  Elephants are basically nature’s version of that one 16-year-old kid in your high school that got held back a few times and has a lot of unresolved anger issues from when his dad left.

Elk Get Drunk in Sweden on the Regular

 drunk elk

While some are skeptical of the claims, due to the size of the animals, there is at least one story out there of an elk getting drunk on fermented apples getting trapped in a tree (pictured above), and that article claims that this is a relatively common phenomenon during the autumn season.  To be fair, the scientists saying that Elk can’t get drunk from this admit to not being experts on elks, so we’re holding out hope that this is true, and that Sweden in autumn is full of elks staggering around, drunk from apples.  Yes, it would take a lot of alcoholic apples to affect them, but what if they’re just lightweights?  That’s entirely possible, science.

Vervet Monkeys Steal Tropical Drinks, Love Getting Drunk As Monkey Teenagers

drunk monkeys

Vervet monkeys are animals who have gotten drunk both on their own in nature as well as through controlled lab testing—specifically, Vervet monkeys in the Caribbean.  While this species originated in Africa, they made their way across the ocean on various slave ships, being kept as monkeys and then either escaping or being released on Caribbean islands.  They have adapted well to island life, and over the past 300 years they would eat sugar cane, coming to develop a taste and appreciation for burned and fermented cane that could be found on plantations.  Now, they’re (relative) lushes.  Studies showed that when offered sugar water, or sugar water mixed with booze, about 20% of the monkeys prefer the booze, and probably have some very unpopular opinions about social topics that only come out at the Thanksgiving table.

These studies also show that the younger monkeys tend to drink more often than the older monkeys, but outside of studies we have further proof that these monkeys like booze, since they’re constantly stealing fruity cocktails from hotel bars and restaurants, which means we’ve finally found a dream pet that we can train to steal drinks for us.  We don’t know what kind of legal loopholes we’ll need to get ourselves a real life monkey bartender, but goddamn it there is nothing we want more in this world now.

Tree Shrews Can Drink Us Under the Table

 tree shrews

The Tree Shrews (one shown above, possibly flashing you aggressively) is one of seven species that spend all day drinking fermented nectar from the bertam palm plant that, for whatever reason, have an inhuman (well, technically every about them is inhuman) alcohol tolerance.  In particular, the Pen-Tailed Tree Shrew knows how to get down.  The nectar in question gets up to about 3.8% ABV, and these sons of bitches drink it all day.  That gives these little guys a blood alcohol level that is several times above the legal limit for us, but they never get drunk.  Ever.  It’s like a super power that’s also really a curse.  Either way, the important thing to focus on here is, if you’re ever out with your buddies drinking, and no one remembered to DD, just grab a Tree Shrew.  Look at him, guys, he’s totally sober, he’s good to drive.

Chimps Get Drunk, Whatever, You’re Not Their Dad

 drunk chimp

It would make sense that Chimpanzees get drunk, as they are one of our closer ancestors, but it wasn’t until relatively recently that we found concrete proof.  At least, we spotted it happening in Guinea, where villagers in Bossou would regularly tap raffia palm trees for sap and harvest it in plastic containers, which they left alone to ferment into palm wine that would build up to between 3.1 and 6.9% alcohol.  They weren’t getting as much as they would have liked, however, because chimps on numerous occasions were found fashioning drinking vessels out of leaves, taking on average a full liter worth.  One particularly Gerard Depardieu monkey was spotted stealing from the traps enough to account for fourteen of the 51 instances that they recorded.

So not only do Chimpanzees like booze, they like it enough to fashion ways to drink it, and when they do they make sure to have enough to get nice and drunk.  We’ve never been so proud of Hollywood’s insistence of putting Chimps in random comedies as we do now.

And that finally leaves us with…

There Are Alcoholic Bears (In Russia, Naturally)

 drunk polar bear

Every once and a while you’ll run into a story about a bear getting loose in some liquor and getting drunk, and you want to believe that because that sounds hilarious, and you don’t want to believe it because you value your face and very much would not like it ripped the fuck off.  But we just personally love this story from earlier this year that refers to two Russian bears who have lived outside a Sochi restaurant for 20 years and in that time, have become alcoholics.  The bears lived in cages, so they weren’t free roaming alcoholics, but Russians being, well, Russian would see the bears in the cage and think, “Hey, let’s give them some beer.”  So that happened for 20 years until they got dependent enough that the current best option would be to send them to a bear sanctuary in Romania where, and we shit you not, they could go through rehab.

Yes.  There is bear rehab.  Wait, it gets better.  The reason bear rehab even was developed was that dancing bears tended to develop alcohol problems.  God, Russia, you are hilarious and terrifying at the same time.

But remember, America, of all the animals that get drunk, there’s one that’s truly more important to the rest.  And that animal is you.  Bottoms up.

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