What's the Best Animal to Get Drunk With?

Let’s bring a whole new meaning to “party animal.”

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Dec 31 2014, 12:00pm

The holidays provide ample opportunity to get drunk, from fireside hot toddies to winter beers and the requisite New Year's Eve champagne toast. But though imbibing alcohol is a time-honored tradition for humans—one that may well go back as far as 10 million years—we are far from the only species with a soft spot for drunken revelry. Along those lines, the question we want pose to you this year is not what you'll be drinking to welcome 2015, but which animal you'd most like to get blitzed with.

Fortunately, there are quite a few options. Birds are always up for a party, as evidenced by this recent story about a drunken zebra finch experiment. Researchers based out of the Oregon Health and Science University wanted to test whether drunk finches would change their vocalizations in the same way drunk humans do. So naturally, they gave a bunch of lab finches spiked juice with an alcohol content of six percent.

"At first we were thinking that they wouldn't drink on their own because, you know, a lot of animals just won't touch the stuff," said Christopher Olson, one of the researchers, in an interview with NPR. "But they seem to tolerate it pretty well and be somewhat willing to consume it."

The finches did end up singing with the avian version of a slur, though it's difficult to notice it without slowing the audio down. Regardless, the upshot is clear: if you party with a bird, you'll both be on the same page about belting out some off-key karaoke.

It should also be mentioned that birds can be down for some pretty wild binges. Take the antics of the Bohemian waxwing, a species that goes on an annual bender every fall when the first frost of the winter transforms berries into convenient fermented cocktails. They get so intoxicated that there is actually a drunk tank (read: hamster cage) set up for them in Whitehorse, Canada. Once they've sobered up a little, they are returned to the wild—as long as they seem fit enough to, that is.

Bohemian waxwings about get down on some berries. Image: John Harrison

"We do put them in a line to walk to see if they are stumbling," said Meghan Larivee of the Environment Yukon's animal health unit, in an interview with CBC. So clearly, if you're looking for a completely epic rager, birds are probably your best bet.

If you are all the way on the other side of the spectrum and would prefer a quiet night in, fruit flies might be the ideal drinking partner for you. These flies use alcohol for far more relatable reasons, like recovering from sexual rejection or to protect their children from parasitic wasps.

Conversely, you might want to invite animals that know how to handle their liquor (unlike some waxwings we could mention). The pen-tailed treeshrew of Malaysia is the world's heaviest drinker. It drinks fermented flower nectar pretty much constantly, and has been for millions of years, but it never seems to get drunk. So as long as you don't challenge this animal to any drinking contests, it would make for a pretty great party guest.

But if you want an animal that reacts to liquor more or less the same way that humans do, we recommend keeping it in the family. Plenty of our primate cousins enjoy boozing it up, and some, like the vervet monkey, have even graduated to stealing alcoholic beverages directly from people. And as this video demonstrates, their drinking adventures have the same general cadence as human nights out: a couple fights here, trouble walking, and boom, passed out. They are just a whole lot cuter about the entire experience.

Vervet monkeys getting drunk. Credit: BBCWorldwide/YouTube

Of course, you may be a person who doesn't want to limit yourself to only one party animal, and who could blame you? There are a lot of boozehound creatures out there, and the vast majority of them are hilarious. I mean, just look at this pig that starts a fight with a cow or this moose that got stuck in a tree after getting wasted on rotten apples. Who hasn't woken up somewhere weird after a wild night out? One empathizes with the moose's evident bewilderment.

Along those lines, if you find yourself unable to choose which animal would be your ultimate party personality match, you should consider visiting southern and western regions of Africa for the marula fruit harvest. If this documentary about the fruit's high alcohol content isto be believed, pretty much every marula fruit-eating animal is drunk around this time. Unfortunately, the marula fruit story is mostly a legend, but it's worth watching the video for the stumbling ostrich alone.

Marula fruit annual party. Credit: YouTube

Whether your ideal party animal is a zebra finch, a fruit fly, a shrew, or an ostrich is a deeply personal and important matter. Whatever you end up with, have a happy New Year, and try not to end up in a hamster cage or a tree.

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