New Research: 12 Sounds Giraffes Do Make
Find out what sounds giraffes make and what a giraffe does sound like. Bleats, mews, coughs, and hisses from young giraffes, plus grunts and snores from older ones and the infra-sound whooshes are hard for people to hear. Yet, these are the sounds giraffes do make. This article will also feature trivia giraffe facts for kids and adults.
Sounds Giraffes Make—An Animal Mystery
Although it isn't really a mystery, the question, "What sound does a giraffe make?" has been a bit of a puzzle to animal behavior researchers. Or is it sounds? Do giraffes make different sounds? Do they have a vocabulary? How do they communicate? There must be answers. Somebody has to know.
And now, with new audio evidence from researchers combined with first-hand knowledge from zookeepers and giraffe managers, that question can finally be answered. Maybe.
Mature Giraffes vs. Young Giraffes
The answer to "What sounds do giraffes make?" depends on the age of the giraffe.
Empirical and anecdotal evidence from those zookeepers and giraffe managers says that mature giraffes only make sounds of snorts and grunts, but a recent eight year, three zoo research study has recorded evidence, (over 940 hours of audio recordings), that add a third sound—a humming sound—heard only at night.
Sometimes jokingly referred to as sounding like a husband's snoring, this sound was described by a Wired article as being at the low-end level of human hearing at a frequency of about 92Hz. This borders on the frequencies often referred to as infra-sound (hear the audio recording below.)
However, young giraffes are a different matter. That same zookeeper empirical evidence attributes as many as 12 different sounds to young giraffes.
Giraffes Do Make Sounds to Communicate
Giraffes do use sounds to communicate. All kinds of different sounds. From raucous coughs to kitten-type mews, (but big-kitten size), to sub-sonics, (a level called infra-sound), that humans can barely hear, giraffes use a variety of different sounds in different situations, and for different purposes.
Yes, they do have vocal cords, and the types of documented sounds attributed to them include grunts, moaning, snoring, bellows, snorts, coughs, bleats and mews, hissing, whistle-like cries, and flute-like sounds.
But there is a catch. Most of those sounds are only made by young giraffes. Anecdotal, and recorded evidence suggests that as they mature, their vocabulary, begins to consist primarily of infra-sound "whooshes" of air, or that nighttime "humming" discovered by the researchers.
Documented Sounds Giraffes Make
Snorts and Grunts
Snores and Hisses
Fighting/Confrontations (sometimes used as danger alarm signal)
Moans and Grunts
Bellows and Whistles
Female communication with young
Bleats and Mews
Young male and female
Used by young giraffes indicating alarm, fear, or wants
Sub-Sonic, or Infra-Sound
Sounding like great modulated whooshes of air, these infra-sounds can be heard at great distances and easily travel through building walls and forests.
Although some of the sounds described can occasionally be heard from mature giraffes, researchers, using audio recordings, have discovered that the most common sounds used for communications are low-frequency infra-sounds. These low-frequency sounds are generally undetectable by the human ear as more than just whooshes of air.
New Research on Giraffe Sounds
A new study by Springer Nature's BMC Research, in an article, titled; What Sounds Do Giraffes Make, has found that although their theory says giraffe primarily use infra-sound communications, anecdotal evidence says they also use whooshing air bursts, snorts, and grunts that can be heard by the human ear.
The study did not address the empirical research that has concluded that it is the young giraffes that make the most sounds humans can hear. Nor could they positively conclude that mature adult giraffe sounds are more limited just because they depend more on infra-sound communication.
Along with that research came this audio sound clip from BMC.
Giraffe Humming Sounds Like a Man Snoring
So far, this gentle giraffe humming has only been heard and recorded at night.
Zoo managers and giraffe keepers say they had never heard this humming until the researchers played the audio recordings, so they can't be certain it isn't just a version of giraffe snoring!
What Giraffe Humming Looks Like Animated
Giraffe Sounds: Snorts and Grunts
Sounding the Danger Alarm...
Giraffes will communicate an alarm of danger by stamping their feet and emitting loud snorts or grunts.
Occasionally they will also use snoring and hissing sounds, but these are usually only heard during fights. Yes, male giraffes do fight, and yes, it is usually over a mating issue.
Giraffe Sounds: Bellows and Whistles, Bleats and Mews
Looking For and Calling the Kids...
Like mothers and their children everywhere, mama giraffes have a special set of sounds they use just with their offspring.
They use loud bellows when searching for the kid(s) which can be heard as much as a mile away, and whistling or flute-like sounds for other communications, like calling them home.
And if the kid needs a scolding? That's another time giraffe hissing is heard.
Young giraffes generally only mew or bleat when they are under a year old.
Giraffe Sounds: Snorts, Grunts, Hisses
Those are Fighting Words...
It seems male giraffes are the fighters of the family. Although there are territorial fights and disputes, the most common cause for male-to-male fights and confrontations are over dominance in mating issues.
Their fighting sounds are loud snorts and moans, with grunts thrown in, (using a danger sound), to intimidate the other male.
Two Giraffes Fighting Over Mating a Female
The head movements shown in this scene are described as "swimming" their heads at each other.
Giraffe Sounds: Raucous Coughs
But Dear, I Love you...
Love is in the air, and so are raucous coughs emanating from a 6-foot throat.
Giraffes use loud coughs to court the females they want to mate with. The louder, and more raucous the cough, the more ardent the desire. And of course, the bigger the male, the bigger the throat, and the more deep and impressive the resonating coughs.
It might not sound like "whispering sweet nothings" to us, but to female giraffes, those coughs are a real turn-on.
The Giraffe's Natural Habitat
African Deserts, Savannas, and Grasslands
The world's population of wild giraffes are on the African continent, in its deserts, savannas, and grasslands.
There are some forested giraffe habitats in Kenya, but these are the exception rather than the rule.
Did You Know the Sounds Giraffes Made Before Reading This?
Giraffe Facts For Kids and Adults
- the scientific name for giraffes is Giraffa camelopardalis, of the family Giraffidae
- giraffe's necks are approx. 6 feet long and can weigh up to 600 pounds - and - they have the same number of neck vertebra as humans - seven
- males can grow up to 18 feet tall and weigh 3000 pounds
- newborns are approx. 6 feet tall when born
- a giraffe's tongue can be 18 to 20 inches long
- giraffes only live 15 or 25 years in the wild
- giraffes can run almost 35 mph for a brief time
- a giraffe's heart can be up to two feet long and weigh 25 pounds
- giraffes have muscles in their arterial vascular system that act like "check valves" that keep them from getting dizzy or blacking out when the raise or lower their heads - which could be a distance differential of 15 - 20 feet
- giraffe's feet are cloven, but shaped like a dinner plate and up to 12 inches across
- a giraffe's tongue is usually black, or a blackish blue.
One More Giraffe Trivia Fact...
Mother giraffes give birth standing up - which means a newborn's introduction to the world is a 6-foot drop to the ground!
But they are usually up and walking in minutes.
(ps. mom carries the baby for 14 to 15 months)
It Has a Happy Ending...
Giraffe Noise Recording
© 2012 ga anderson