What Noises Do Giraffes Make?

February 15, 2024

For decades, it seemed that giraffes were mute animals. Their long necks made it nearly impossible to get enough air through the larynx for vocalization, and aside from a few low moans and bleats from newborn calves, these animals remained remarkably quiet. It was widely believed that giraffes could only communicate visually and with body language, but now researchers at the University of Vienna have discovered that giraffes do make noises – specifically, a humming sound that some have described as flute-like.

The team spent eight years recording 22 giraffes in three European zoos, amassing 947 hours of data. Then they listened to the recordings again and again, studying them visually to look for signs of communication in the animal’s body language. They found that when giraffes gathered at night to rest, they would often hum.

Interestingly, the humming they heard was a low-frequency “infrasound” – sounds that are below the threshold of human hearing and can carry over long distances. In other species that have these kinds of vocalizations, they are used to communicate a variety of things, including age, territory, sexual arousal, and dominance.

While giraffes do not roar like lions or moo like cows, they can produce a range of other sounds, including snorts, hisses, coughs, bursts, groans, grunts, bellows, and whistles. They can also bark like a dog and growl at a threat, though they are less likely to do this in the wild than they are in zoos.


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