Musth

From Academic Kids

Musth is a periodic condition in bull elephants, characterized by a thick, tar-like secretion from the temporal ducts and, far more notably, by highly aggressive behaviour. It is accompanied by a significant rise in reproductive hormones - testosterone levels in an elephant in musth can be as much as 60 times greater than in the same elephant at other times. However, whether this hormonal surge is the sole cause of musth, or merely a contributing factor is unknown: scientific investigation of musth is greatly hindered by the fact that even the most otherwise placid of elephants may actively try to kill any and all humans. Similarly, the tar-like secretion remains largely uncharacterised, due to the extreme difficulties of collecting a sample for analysis.

Although it has often been speculated that musth is linked to rut, this is unlikely, because the female elephant's estrus cycle is not seasonally-linked. Furthermore, bulls in musth have often been known to attack female elephants, regardless of whether or not the females are in heat.

Interestingly, mahouts are often able to greatly shorten the duration of their elephants' musth: this is accomplished by tying the bull to two extremely strong trees, and keeping him on a starvation diet until the musth ends, typically after 5 to 7 days. It should be noted that, as mahouts work with Asian elephants, this technique has not been tried on African elephants.

The word is from the Urdu mast, which is from a Persian root meaning 'drunk'.

External link

A musth FAQ (http://www.upali.ch/musth_en.html)

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