Musth is a sexual aggressive period among elephant bulls. Musth occurs in male elephants over 15-20 years old (sometimes referred to as similar to male deer’s “Rut”). There is a three weeks pre-musth-condition, about one month high-musth, and one post-musth condition.
Symptoms of musth includes swelling of temporal glands, where a strong smelling fluid, rich of testosterone, runs down on their cheeks. During musth the males are very aggressive, and sexual active. According to Cynthia Moss, author of the book elephant memories, the older females in a herd give passage to musth males when a female is in heat, while they block the way for younger males, not in musth. But males are always able to cover a female, also outside the musth period.
Bulls aging over 55 does seldom show musth at all. Many Indian mahouts claim that Makhnas (Tuskless males) show lesser musth than tusker´s. In captivity, bulls are claimed to have been in musth for over a year, (Hellabrunn Zoo, Munich) or longer. (CopenhagenZoo).
Recently it was discovered that long-term administration of leuprolide acetate (LA) depot reduces the musth. Early musth signs ceased within 3 days of drug administration after 10 of 12 injections.
No drugs or intoxicants shall be used to suppress musth except on a written prescription by a Veterinary Doctor.
As far as possible elephants in musth should not be transported. Waiting for the completion of muth period is a wise decision. But if the musth elephant injured the Mahout and unable to control, it can be transported after administering tranquilizers as well as leuprolide acetate (LA) depot administration.
de Oliveira, C. A., West, G. D., Houck, R., and Leblanc, M. Control of musth in an Asian elephant bull (Elephas maximus) using leuprolide acetate. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 35, 70-76. 2004.