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What Sound Does a Giraffe Make?

After working as a chemist at a biotechnology company, I enjoy writing about science, travel, and gardening.

Adult Giraffes Whoosh

Adult giraffes rarely make audible noise to human ears, though they certainly have the vocal cords to do so. The giraffe trachea is 13 feet (4 meters) long, so producing sound is more difficult for this animal than for animals with a shorter trachea. The myth that adult giraffes are silent, however, is false. New research in bioacoustics shows that adult giraffes use infrasound: a sound that is too low for human ears to detect. Elephants use a similar communication system, inaudible to human ears.

Adult giraffes squeeze air up their long tracheas, and through their larynx (voice box). The sound, if it were audible to human ears, would probably be a whooshing "PSSHHH!" When recorded with specialized equipment, giraffes can be observed moving their long necks and listening to each other as these infrasonic sounds are created.

Giraffes Hum to Each Other at Night

Researchers at the University of Vienna collected over 947 hours of giraffe sound recordings, demonstrating the animals would hum in sustained harmony, with varying sound wave frequencies. The average frequency of the humming was 92 kHz, which is within the range of human audibility.

Humans are able to detect sounds as low as 20 kHz, though standard hearing tests only test to 125 kHz on a graph known as an audiogram. The younger a human is, the more frequencies they are able to detect.

The humming behavior typically occurs in the nighttime hours. The scientists believe the giraffes do not hum during daylight, as they have excellent vision and are able to communicate with visual signals. At nighttime, however, they cannot see well and change their communication tactics to humming at low frequencies.

Baby Giraffes Moo

Giraffes make an audible sound when they are young. A baby giraffe may "moo," especially if it is in a stressful situation. A young giraffe being restrained for a veterinary exam may call out for its mother in distress, making a mooing type of noise. The sound is very similar to a young calf calling out to its mother!

Adult giraffes communicate using sound at night, when vision is limited.

Adult giraffes communicate using sound at night, when vision is limited.

The Final Giraffe Sound Answer

Of the nine different subspecies of giraffe, all are able to make noise. Unfortunately, human ears are simply too insensitive to detect the sounds! Infrasound is able to travel long distances, across the savannas the giraffes must travel in search of food. Researchers (such as Liz von Muggenthaler) are able to record the infrasound and present it in a visual fashion. For the first time in human history, we are finally able to hear an adult giraffe vocalize!

Giraffe FAQ's

What animals are the closest relatives to the giraffe?

The giraffe is an even-toed ungulate, most closely related to the okapi. The giraffe is also related to deer and cattle and was originally called the camelopard by ancient English speakers. The camelopard name comes from the ancient Greek kamelopardalis (kamelos meaning "camel" and pardalis for "leopard"). Ancient people believed the giraffe resembled a camel with leopard spots.

Where does the word giraffe come from?

The word giraffe appears in English from around the 16th century, most likely from the Arabic zurapha.

What are the knobs on a giraffe's head called?

The knob-like appendages on a giraffe's head are called ossicones and are similar to an antelope's horns. Unlike an antelope's horns, however, the giraffe's ossicones are formed from ossified cartilage and entirely covered in skin and fur.

How many vertebrae are in the giraffe's neck?

Despite their long neck, giraffes have seven cervical vertebrae - the same number of neck bones that all mammals share. Many people wonder why giraffes do not faint when taking a drink since the animal's head is below its heart for an extended period of time. The reason is simple: the giraffe's blood vessels have valves that prevent blood from rushing to its head when it bends down to take a drink.

Where do giraffes live?

The giraffe lives in the savannas of Africa, with a range extending from Chad to South Africa.

What do giraffes eat?

The preferred food is the Acacia tree, which the giraffe reaches with a long neck and a prehensile tongue.

What do giraffes smell like?

The giraffe's fur has a characteristic scent and may act as a defense mechanism due to anti-parasitic and antibiotic properties.

How do giraffes defend themselves?

Giraffes are extremely strong, and one swift kick from a giraffe is capable of decapitating a lion.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Have you ever heard a giraffe's sound before?

Answer: I have heard a baby giraffe "mooing" at our local zoo, as their sounds are within the human range for audibility. I have not personally heard an adult giraffe make a sound, as the vocalizations are below my range of hearing.

© 2011 Leah Lefler

Comments

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on September 30, 2018:

Giraffes are fascinating animals. I absolutely love seeing them, and I hope to be able to travel to see them in Africa sometime in the future! I have seen pictures of the Giraffe Manor in Kenya, Zia, and it looks amazing!

Zia Uddin from UK on September 30, 2018:

Nice article. I guess there's too much facts about giraffes and we never learn enough of them.

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on April 18, 2018:

I agree, Glenn. Our sensory limitations would make recognizing (or even detecting) alien life forms difficult. Long term space travel would be very difficult for humans, since our bodies have evolved with gravity. Bone loss, edema, and other medical issues would become worse over time in space. Colonizing low gravity planets would lead to the same issues.

Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on April 18, 2018:

In reference to your reply comment Leah, I have this idea that our sensory limitations can also stand in the way of recognizing intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, should we ever have the opportunity to discover it.

As for the way our blood vessels have valves in our legs for the same reason as discussed, it's interesting how our bodies have evolved to live on a planet with the gravity that we have. Astronauts in the ISS need to do various physical exercise to compensate for the lack of gravity.

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on April 18, 2018:

It is really fascinating, Glenn! Elephants are similar and produce complicated vocalizations we cannot detect with human ears. The human ear can typically hear sounds from about 125 Hz to about 8000 Hz (young children can hear higher frequencies than this). Our understanding of nature is often restricted by our own sensory limitations.

The blood vessels are quite necessary in giraffes so they can drink without having too much blood rush to their heads. A similar system exists in human feet and lower legs (which is why you don't have blood rush to your feet when you are sitting there, but if you turn upside down you do have blood rush to your head).

Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on April 18, 2018:

It’s interesting how various animals evolve with different physical makeups that are necessary for survival. I learned a lot from your article on Giraffes, Leah. Well-written and informative.

The most amazing thing is what you explained about the valves in their blood vessels to prevent blood from filling the head when they bend down to drink, considering that long neck.

I didn’t know about the low pitched vocal sounds that are too low a frequency for humans to detect. This makes one wonder if there are lifeforms we don’t even know about since they may not be perceived by us.

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on November 26, 2014:

I would love to hear a giraffe, Nathan! I have never heard one, other than a baby giraffe at a wildlife park once. I find it fascinating that so many animals we once considered "silent" are quite vocal - we just have difficulty hearing their voices!

Nathanvpap on November 15, 2014:

I've actually heard a giraffe before. I was on a church trip and heard the deepest noise I've ever heard. I have a naturally deep voice, but I couldn't go that low if I tried. The only thing I can compare it to is a ship creaking, but it's still much deeper than that. I asked if anyone else in my group heard that, but I was the only one. By the way, it sounded like a moo or a grunt, not a woosh.

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on December 12, 2013:

You can hear young giraffes, Jeff, but by the time the animals have matured, their vocal cords produce sounds outside of our hearing range. Elephants do the same thing - they often vocalize, and we can't hear most of their vocalizations.

jeff on December 05, 2013:

but why can't you hear the giraffe

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on October 13, 2011:

Elephants have a similar system of infrasound vocalizations. So many of the animals we regard as 'silent' are simply vocalizing outside of our hearing range! It is fascinating - thanks for the comments, everyone!

Susan Hazelton from Sunny Florida on March 18, 2011:

Now I know why I never heard a giraffe make a sound. Interesting hub.

connor12 on March 12, 2011:

this is pretty cool i didn't even know they made noises haha

mythbuster from Utopia, Oz, You Decide on March 08, 2011:

I've always wondered... now I know. Great hub. Thanks for sharing!

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on March 07, 2011:

It's one of my favorite animals also. Thanks for the interesting info.

mannyrolando on February 26, 2011:

Thanks for sharing... really enjoyed reading this information and the videos were an added plus!

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on February 26, 2011:

I do believe there is a children's book with a similar title - I saw it when I was researching this hub. I love giraffes, too - "giraffe" was one of my son's first signs (before he could talk)!

E Jay from Colorado Springs, Colorado on February 26, 2011:

Giraffe's have always been one of my favorite animals. I epecially enjoyed the video that the baby giraffe cried out in. Nice hub...I picked it to read because the title caught my attention...would make a good children's story book.

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on February 25, 2011:

I started wondering after we went to a Disney World show, and they asked "What sound does a giraffe make?" to a small child. The responses were hilarious, but no one knew what a giraffe sounded like!

Eiddwen from Wales on February 25, 2011:

This is why i love HP . It's all the variety of topics and this was a great one.

I love animals and nature and I have never asked myself this question.I've never heard any one discuss it on any TV programme either.

So well done and its awesome/beautiful/useful/up here.

Take care

Eiddwen.

Heidi Parton on February 24, 2011:

Always wondered what sound a Giraffe makes; now I know.

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