Booze | December 28, 2021 12:28 pm

Research Suggests Hamsters Have a Surprising Tolerance for Alcohol

There's an evolutionary reason for this

Hamsters are just full of surprises.
John Stockla, CC BY-SA 4.0

As it turns out, humans are not the only creatures currently calling the planet home who are capable of getting drunk. The full spectrum of inebriated animals is one that scientists and historians continue to explore — but it’s something that’s of particular interest to many. There are several reasons for this: for scientists, this phenomenon can improve their understanding of how inebriation works. And for the rest of us, the idea of a drunk moose or elephant has a surreal beauty to it.

Turns out one of the most impressive tolerances for booze among animals comes from a more humble creature, however. That would be hamsters, whose behavior in the wild includes a penchant for indulging in fermented fruit. That information comes via a new article in The Atlantic, which includes the detail that hamsters will, if given the choice, opt to drink Everclear instead of water.

Even more surprising is that hamsters don’t get as visibly drunk as other species. As the article notes, that’s because hamsters’ livers are shockingly efficient at dealing with alcohol. The scientists interviewed for the article surmise that it has to do with hamsters’ tendency to gather plenty of food for the winter; if they didn’t metabolize alcohol so quickly, the thinking goes, they might not thrive as much in the colder months.

It also doesn’t hurt that alcohol has more calories than water, which might explain the hamsters’ preference for Everclear. Hamsters as nature’s own perfect barflies might not be the most intuitive conclusion one could reach, but it is delightful in its own way.