Well you don’t see rhinos with hangovers, now do you

Myths can be lethal.

A friend of mine just got back from a trip to Botswana to see the wildlife; she told me one of the guides told them there’s been a big surge in rhino poaching and it’s because of a myth in Vietnam that a bit of rhino before you get shitfaced will make the hangover not so bad. Well that’s a pathetic reason to wipe out a species, even if it’s true.

So I Googled, and there’s reporting on it. Like a piece titled

Using horns in hangover cures the hot new way to make rhinos extinct

Drunks in Vietnam have recently acquired a taste for rhinoceros horn and, frankly, the timing couldn’t be worse. The selfish lushes will pay $50,000 for a pound of horn, believing it will cure their hangovers, and the surge in demand is pushing rhinos to the very brink of extinction. It seems the dwindling rhinoceros population is inversely linked to an increase in stupid medical mysticism.

Why the fuck couldn’t they make the stupid myth be about dandelions or dust or something else abundant and easy to produce?

The Atlantic reported on it at the same time, last May.

Rhino Horn: Party Drug Some conservation groups, however, don’t think rhino horn’s newfound popularity in Vietnam has much to do with the cancer cure-all rumor (pdf, p.2). The more likely reason, they say, is that the horn powder is increasingly seen as a cocaine-like party drug, virility enhancer and luxury item–“the alcoholic drink of millionaires,” as a Vietnamese news site called it.

That’s partly because it is supposed to help the liver. With alcohol consumption on the rise as living standards improve, the swinging Vietnamese now prize rhino horn  as a way to let them drink more and cure hangovers faster. Tom Milliken, an expert on the rhino horn market, reckons that a rhino-horn  detox, “especially following excessive intake of alcohol, is probably  the most common routine usage promoted in the marketplace“.

Ah it’s our old friend detox again. Goodbye rhinos, hello bogus “detox” drug.


  1. alqpr says

    Some conservationists inject poison into the horns and dye them pink. I would leave out the dye. (But perhaps start with something that just causes impotence rather than deadly poison)

  2. cottonnero says

    Finally figured something homeopathy is good for. Who do we have to do to convince people that homeopathic rhino horn is a more effective hangover cure?

  3. Al Dente says


    Ever hear of disulfiram, also known as Antabuse or Anabus? To quote the pfft! of all knowledge:

    It blocks the processing of alcohol in the body by inhibiting acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, thus causing an unpleasant reaction when alcohol is consumed…After alcohol intake under the influence of disulfiram, the concentration of acetaldehyde in the blood may be five to 10 times higher than that found during metabolism of the same amount of alcohol alone. As acetaldehyde is one of the major causes of the symptoms of a “hangover”, this produces immediate and severe negative reaction to alcohol intake. Some five to 10 minutes after alcohol intake, the patient may experience the effects of a severe hangover for a period of 30 minutes up to several hours. Symptoms include flushing of the skin, accelerated heart rate, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, throbbing headache, visual disturbance, mental confusion, postural syncope, and circulatory collapse.

  4. says

    Obviously the people selling these virility potions etc. would be taking the best stuff themselves. So eating the virility potion sellers would have the maximum effect. Do you think we could get that widely believed?

  5. debbaasseerr says

    Once all the Rhinos are dead, they’ll start making fake-shit, and only the poachers will know any different.

  6. Francisco Bacopa says

    I would have thought that the production of real clinically tested boner pills like Viagra and Cialis would have shown the that science trumps magic and that there was no need for rhino horn. But they just seem to want rhino horn and will make up new reasons to get it.

    We Americans are not that much smarter. Our colonizing class has been driving people off their land in pursuit of fracked natural gas for years even as the price of gas has fallen so much that it’s barely profitable. And don’t count on the export market. The CNG/LNG offshore terminals near Houston and Beaumont are booked up with contracts from two years ago.

    I was taught that colonialism was something one nation did to another. I was misled. Colonialism is something that classes and corporations do to other classes and peoples, usually with government support.

    Fracking is colonialism. Mountaintop removal is colonialism. The utility of the land is destroyed. The productive way of life that the people who lived there depended on is taken away, and the people are displaced without appeal to justice. It’s becoming similar to what happened to the native tribes and nations of the Americas.

    The American People are becoming a colonized people. Folks of African descent warned us tmostly white folks his was happening, but we did not listen. I hope it’s not too late.

  7. debbaasseerr says

    I’d just go with “we Americans are not smarter” – we nearly murdered the Buffalo to death for fun and hatred of the natives. Massive misguided assholes they might be, these tycoons aren’t doing it out of spite.

  8. Dunc says

    Why the fuck couldn’t they make the stupid myth be about dandelions or dust or something else abundant and easy to produce?

    Because then (a) it’s consumption wouldn’t be a status symbol, and (b) nobody would get rich off it.

  9. lorn says

    Rhino horns and elephant tusks, tiger penis and gall bladder from bears, they are all quite useful, to the animals they grow on or in. They are essentially useless for human purposes. Which, in a way is why people demand them. You demand the useless and expensive product because it is conspicuous consumption and nothing proves wealth like being seen to spend great sums of money for something entirely useless.

    I suspect someone needs to figure out a difficult to tell apart substitute for rhino horn. Perhaps cow horn dyed grey, and mixed with something mildly fibrous, perhaps asbestos. Anything that contains carotene and looks about right. If it was mildly poisonous so much the better. Flood the market with that stuff and watch prices collapse. It isn’t like cocaine where the medicinal effect is real and quantifiable. Selling artificial rhino horn mislabeled as a hangover cure and aphrodisiac is just substituting one form of useless for another. And saving a few rhinos doing it.

    After reading about elephants poisoned for their tusks I got thinking it would be interesting to see if those tusks could be permanently stained with something that would make them unsuitable for carving. Tusks are dead tissue so you might drill a few small holes fairly deep and inject a dye that would diffuse down the grain and make the tusk unsuitable for carving. Color the tusks without having to remove them from the elephant. Perhaps day-glo pink or green would work because it would make it look entirely too much like plastic.

    Rhino tusks are smaller but I doubt buyers would go for day-glo. Odds are that rhinos wouldn’t care what color their horns were.

    One thing is IMO pretty well established: talking sense to people about how these materials have no medical use, legitimate or otherwise, isn’t working. Import/export controls haven’t worked, and international trade bans haven’t worked.

    Flooding the market with a hard to detect substitute and/or making the real thing unusable are just two possible alternatives. We need to try something different.

  10. says

    Well, one is certainly not going to be able to see the subspecies of the black rhino with a hangover. Sadly tt has now become extinct. It was classified as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species — when it was last seen in Western Africa in 2006.

  11. says

    Finally figured something homeopathy is good for. Who do we have to do to convince people that homeopathic rhino horn is a more effective hangover cure?

    But wouldn’t it then make the hang-over worse? For homeopathy, you should use something that causes hangovers, like alcohol. So, I guess the cure for hangovers is to have a very watered-down drink.

    Hey, that actually makes sense. I wonder if we could peddle that at bars. Homeopathic drinks: Guaranteed not to cause hangovers!

  12. footface says

    I’ve never understood this. Why aren’t the poachers just grinding up some moss and bark—or whatever—and saying, “Yep—genuine rhino horn powder right here. Guaranteed to make you hard. Or soft. Or whatever you want”?

    Why go to the trouble of actually (and illegally and horribly) killing rhinos and elephants and bears?

  13. trucreep says

    I heard awhile back that there was a leader of a country that burned a bunch of rhino horns as a way to deter poachers. He was basically saying that they have no value. I thought that was an interesting way to combat it. I think the country was Assam, or that may have been the leader’s name :/

  14. al says

    Our colonizing class has been driving people off their land in pursuit of fracked natural gas for years even as the price of gas has fallen so much that it’s barely profitable

    Hey, cart and horse, there. Natural gas prices are low because of fracking, especially in my state of PA, which has experienced huge production growth. And I don’t believe that gas companies are forcing anybody off their land–in fact, PA landowners were paid about $1.2 billion in royalties for allowing fracking on their lands. In PA, at least, it’s being done carefully and scientifically, and hasn’t turned the state into an apocalyptic heckhole where the living envy the dead.

  15. Gordon Willis says

    First comes rhino horn. Then: it’s good for — oh, nasal decongestion, erectile dysfunction (what a lovely phrase!), bruised fingernails, hair-stiffeners or anything that needs to be tall, dark and shiny, I suppose. And now that it’s in the human consciousness it’s part of the religion and therefore good for everything else. Purity and all that, natural nature. I imagine a select vocabulary of scientific words mixed in with natural balance and Aquarian chakras and negatively-charged ley-lines and extraterrestrial forms of monosodium glutamate mined homeopathically in Tibet.

  16. K says

    Cows love to eat half-fermented fruit if they happen to have apple or pear trees on their pasture, and they get drunk. I have heard the same of elephants, and I’m sure rhinos would do the same. So maybe we should just start to spread videos with drunk rhinos?

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