No Bull: Thug Boys and Hooligan Elephants

frican Elephant Walking on Savanna, Marakele National Park, Sout
Men are more important to our culture than just for breeding and opening jars. Even nature teaches this to us. 

In less than a decade (1991-2001), 63 rhinos were killed by young hooligan male elephants in the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi conservation park in South Africa.  It seems that these maturing bull elephants were in musth (similar to the rut of deer) and they had high levels of sex and aggression on the brain.  The musth is a normal part of the male maturation, but the killings were not.


Pick on somebody your own size you hormonally challenged punk! This rhino is no small critter. He’s right at 6 ft tall, 12 feet long and weighs in around 4500 lbs. A little bit bigger than a typical midsize sedan.

A few reports said the thug elephants were killing and raping the rhinos, but that was journalistic hype. Of course, with humans we know there is “science” out there to prove that men have enough blood in their body to operate the brain and the penis, but not enough for both at the same time.  Maybe the reporters assumed young bull elephants have the same tendencies.

Park rangers linked the young bulls’ violent behavior to the absence of older male elephants in the herd.  The older bulls had recently been culled for population control.  The side effects were unexpected.  When the younger bulls began to mature, there was no dominant bull around to keep them in line.  The young guys had no boundaries and no one to demonstrate acceptable male behavior.

The remedy was easier than you’d think.  Older, mature bull elephants were simply brought into the herd.  As mature bulls will do when they see a mess, they put things back into order.  Since the intervention, the young bulls have not killed or raped any rhinos.

Here’s the rub. 

Sons need their dads.  Grandsons need their grandpas.  Nephews need their uncles.  And vice versa.

The presence of a nurturing man in a boy’s life is necessary.   Without it, our cities will be overrun with boys who have little self control or concept of what is or isn’t right. They become thugs, hooligans, bullies, punks, and all around troublemakers.

When men see society slipping that way, then we know it’s time to get more involved in the life of a young man.  Don’t just tell him what he’s doing wrong or what he should be doing.  Be like the old bull elephant; show the young bulls how to live.  But because of the bloodrush going to vital organs below the belt, you may have to explain a good bit along the way.  Common sense isn’t so common to a young man in musth.



Rob Slotow,Dave Balfour, Owen Howison.  Killing of black and white rhinoceroses by African elephants in Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park, South Africa. University of Natal, Durban, South Africa.  KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, Hluhluwe Research Centre. 2001


  1. Chris Rawlings says:

    As a young man who grew up without a dad around much I agree with this. Don’t get me wrong, my dad lived in my home with our family until I was 17. He was there, but he wasn’t there. He was present, let’s say. There’s a lot that I wish I could have talked with him about and I neededd him to talk to me about. I was naiive about so much of life. I screwed up so much of myself during that time that I don’t know that I will ever really recover. I’m 43 now, and I still feel like a f***d up teenager. I don’t blame him for everything that went wrong. I made my choices. I just didn’t know at the time. Wasn’t that his job to teach me?

  2. tobystevens says:

    There’s no written job description out there for dads, Chris. But I think that in every culture around the world, the Father’s role is to nurture something within his young man. Historically, if the father is dead or not around, then that duty falls on the other men of the community.
    So, as a 43 year old man, you have learned some things. The hard way of course. But you have learned some things. If you don’t have your own sons, I propose you get involved in a young man’s life somehow. A nephew, a friend’s son, Big Brother program. Something.
    It would be a shame for someone to make the same mistakes you did … just because you kept them all to yourself. You have a story that can save some young man out there a world of hurt. Do for him what you wanted someone to do for you. Be for him what you wanted someone to be to you.