What Do Giraffes Sound Like?

March 7, 2024
David Sunnyside

A lion roars, a dog barks, an elephant trumpets, but what do giraffes sound like? The iconic animals have long been regarded as silent, and theories range from the physically impossible (push air out of that ten foot neck would be hard) to the philosophical (they’re just not interested in talking). But according to new research published this month in BMC Biomedical Sciences, giraffes actually do vocalize.

The team from the University of Vienna and Berlin Tierpark spent 8 years recording giraffes in 3 European zoos, and came away with an unexpected find: giraffes create harmonic, sustained, and frequency-modulated humming noises at night. These sounds are on the low side of human hearing – about 92 Hertz — so it’s not exactly infrasound, but it is incredibly low and probably why giraffe keepers had never heard these sounds before.

It’s not clear if these are calls or just sounds giraffes make to communicate with each other, and they were only recorded at night, when the animals had been separated into individual stalls. But because they can’t see each other at night, it seems likely the humming could be a way for them to communicate with one another over long distances without attracting predators.

Giraffes also snort, grunt, hiss, and moo, though it’s uncommon to hear those sounds outside of zoos. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to be close to a herd of giraffes in the wild, then you may have heard them grunt and snort as they walk together, or moo when a young giraffe calls for its mother.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
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