Every year leading up to its annual Halloween festivities, the Oregon Zoo in the US kicks the party off with a grand display of gourd-smashing, officially titled the Squishing of the Squash. But lest you thought it was children or even people squashing the gourds, you would be mistaken. Instead, the zoo unleashes its resident elephants on the area’s largest pumpkins, allowing the herd to thoroughly enjoy themselves while pulverising the massive squash.
The gourd-stomping bonanza is an opener for the zoo’s “Howloween” celebrations that take place the following weekends, which include “a fun scavenger hunt that directs trick-or-treaters to easily accessible activity stations throughout the zoo where they can collect lollies and prizes and learn about wildlife.”
But reader, it seems to me the gourd-smashing affair is the zoo’s crown jewel — perhaps even its most anticipated event of the year. Just listen to its attendees howl with satisfaction every time one of the big guys lands its honking foot on a pumpkin:
This year’s Squishing of the Squash saw over 5000 attendees. The zoo currently has six Asian elephants, and participating parties included Chendra, Rose-Tu, and Rose’s 5-year-old daughter Lily, the zoo’s spokesperson Hova Najarian told Gizmodo by email. If its records are to be trusted, this year’s event was the 20th in its history.
[T]he tradition goes back at least to 1999, when Hoffman’s Dairy Garden of Canby dropped off a prize-winning 376kg pumpkin for the Asian elephants.
Local farmers would often donate their overstock Halloween pumpkins for use in the zoo’s then-groundbreaking, now world-renowned, environmental enrichment program. (It was here in the 1980s that the concept of environmental enrichment was established. The first international animal enrichment conference was held at the Oregon Zoo in 1993, producing the book “Second Nature,” co-edited by our deputy conservation manager, Dr. David Shepherdson, and Dr. Jill Mellen, a member of our animal welfare committee.)
According to the zoo, the elephants enjoy eating the pumpkins as much as they enjoy smashing the shit out of them. As for the squash themselves, these suckers weigh in at about 400-450kg each and came courtesy a pumpkin patch in Albany, Oregon.