Celebrating fall in the US usually consists of picking the ripest pumpkin, carving out a design, and putting it on display. But, the Oregon Zoo in Portland rings in the new season a little differently — they watch Asian elephants smash pumpkins under their giant feet. The annual event is called the “Squishing of the Squash,” and announces the start of the zoo’s “Howloween” festivities. Over 5,000 people attended the event this year, which was held on October 19th.
A video of the “Squishing of the Squash” was posted online, and has already attracted a significant amount of attention. It has been viewed by over 370,000 people and shared more than 5,000 times.
The tradition dates back to 1999, when Hoffman’s Dairy Garden of Canby dropped off a record-setting 828-pound pumpkin for the zoo’s Asian elephants. Zoo spokesperson Hova Najarian told Gizmodo via email, “Local farmers would often donate their overstock Halloween pumpkins for use in the zoo’s then-groundbreaking, now world-renowned, environmental enrichment program.” And according to the zoo, the elephants don’t just smash these 1,000-pound squashes — they eat them, too.
Following the Squishing, the zoo hosts a number of “Howloween” activities including scavenger hunts and educational programs on bats and aquatic invasive species. Entrance is free with zoo admission.