What Do Giraffes Sound Like?

November 3, 2023
David Sunnyside

Aside from the coughing, hissing and whistling sounds they make to avert danger or announce their presence to other giraffes, most people have no idea what a real giraffe sounds like. That's a bit of a shame because it turns out these quiet animals are actually quite vocal and make interesting noises to communicate.

A popular hypothesis is that giraffes produce infrasound, which are sounds below the range of human hearing and can travel long distances. This is because giraffes have large vocal folds in their voice box that can be pushed together to create these low-frequency noises, similar to how elephants elongate their trunks to make trumpet-like sounds.

However, a recent study reveals that giraffes are not making infrasound and instead make much more complex vocalizations that sound like a hum. In fact, these hums can be heard by other giraffes from up to ten feet away! The humming is thought to be a way to reaffirm social allegiances and communicate changes within the small groups that giraffes frequently form.

It's not clear if these vocalizations also convey other information, such as age, sexual arousal or dominance status. Regardless, they are likely an important part of giraffe communication and should not be underestimated.

It's interesting that giraffes who are usually incredibly quiet – think Melman from the Madagascar franchise or Jerome from the TV show Penn and Teller - turn into the most mysterious of singers at night. We only have a limited understanding of how giraffes communicate with one another in the wild, but this research may prove invaluable in the future.

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