Hamster

Mr. Rich, a classroom pet. (AP Photo/Jill Bleed)++

And the award for best headline of 2021 goes to …

(drum roll, please)

… the Atlantic, for “You Have No Idea How Hard It Is To Get A Hamster Drunk.”

The magazine’s December piece delves into the little-known world of the very serious study of drunk hamsters, a topic that’s been inspiring headline writers since at least the 1950s, when researchers started getting the tiny rodents wasted in the name of science.

More recent studies conducted by Gwen Lupfer, a psychologist at the University of Alaska in Anchorage, again confirmed just how well the creatures can handle their liquor. “Wobbling” tests showed that hamsters that should have been three sheets to the wind were nearly as steady as those in the tee-totaling control group.

Did you know that a hamster would rather consume alcohol than water?

If no one cuts them off, they will drink the equivalent of a “‘standard man’ drinking 21 bottles of wine each day,” according to English critical-care doctor Tom Lawton, whose tweets last November helped the reignite the discussion and draw attention to Lupfer’s work. The conversation spread like a drunken yawn.

Thanks to superefficient livers, hamsters’ bodies are able to filter out the drunk-making ethanol before it reaches their bloodstreams. That megatolerance allows them safely consume stored grains, which ferment over time.

Their power-livers also protect them from cirrhosis, a disease that any human who came close to their habits would certainly face, Lawton said.

“Their livers are really quite impressive (and comparatively larger than ours),” Lawton tweeted.

Hamsters aren’t the only super expensive date in the animal world.

Studies of Central and South American bats, who dine on fermented fruit in the wild, showed that flight and echolocation skills weren’t significantly impaired, even in animals with a blood-alcohol level of 0.3%. Certain tree shrews in Malaysia booze it up nightly on fermented palm nectar.

Other animals enjoy a tipple, but aren’t so great at handling their booze.

Elephants are notorious lightweights. As too, apparently, are moose.

A man in Sweden came home from work in the fall of 2011 to hear frantic bellowing, and find a moose (aka elk, to the Swedes) dangling from a neighbor’s apple tree, only one foot on the ground.

“At first I wondered if it was the crazy neighbors, but then I heard it again and went and checked,” Särö resident Per Johansson told CNN. “It must have been drunk after eating fermented apples and as it was reaching out for more fruit, it must have slipped and fallen into the tree.”

Drunken elk are common in Sweden in autumn, when there’s plenty of fermented fruit to forage.

Fire and rescue workers used a winch to bend the tree enough so the moose could free itself. It promptly collapsed, to sleep off the hangover.

Reporter

Stephanie Earls is a news reporter and columnist at The Gazette. Before moving to Colorado Springs in 2012, she worked for newspapers in upstate NY, WA, OR and at her hometown weekly in Berkeley Springs, WV, where she got her start in journalism.

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