GA Anderson is a freelance writer for private and commercial publishing platforms.
Did you know that giraffes make sounds? Here I talk about what sounds giraffes make. From bleats, mews, coughs, grunts and snores from senior giraffes, and even hisses from young giraffes, giraffes make a diverse array of noises to communicate. They even make infra-sound whooshes that are hard for people to hear.
The Sound a Giraffe Makes Is 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. Is it sound or is it sounds? How many different sounds do giraffes make? Do they have a vocabulary? How do they communicate? Somebody has to know.
Now, with audio evidence from researchers and first-hand knowledge from zookeepers and giraffe managers, we can finally attempt to answer that question.
Mature Giraffe Sounds vs. Young Giraffe Sounds
All giraffes have vocal cords and make sound, but what sounds do they make? And what do those sounds mean? That depends on the age of the giraffe.
Elder Giraffe Sounds
Empirical and anecdotal evidence from zookeepers and giraffe managers supports that mature giraffes primarily snort and grunt, but a recent eight-year-long, three-zoo study recorded over 940 hours of a third sound—humming—heard only at night.
Sometimes jokingly referred to as being similar to a husband's snore, 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 the frequencies often referred to as infra-sound. Check out the audio recording below!
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 researchers.
Young Giraffe Sounds
However, young giraffes are a different matter. That same data collected from zookeepers attributes as many as 12 different sounds to young giraffes.
Young giraffes make all types of sounds, including grunts, moans, snores, bellows, snorts, coughs, bleats, mews, hissing, whistle-like cries, and flute-like sounds.
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
So What Is This "Humming" Sound Giraffes Make?
A study published by BMC Research Notes found that giraffes primarily use infra-sound to communicate.
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 in the sounds they make.
Along with that research came this sound clip from BMC.
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's up With Giraffe Snorts and Grunts?
Giraffes will communicate alarm or danger by stamping their feet and emitting loud snorts or grunts.
Occasionally they will use snoring and hissing sounds, but these are usually only heard during fights. Yes, male giraffes do fight, and yes, it is usually over mating.
What Does It Mean When a Giraffe Bellows, Whistles, Bleats or Mews
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.
Snorts, Grunts, Hisses: The "Aggressive" Giraffe Noises
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.
Giraffe fighting sounds are loud snorts and moans, with grunts thrown in, (using a "danger" sound), to intimidate the other male.
The following video shows aggressive male behavior that ends in the defeat of one of the males. The giraffes in this scene are shown "swinging" their heads at each other.
So When a Giraffe Makes a Raucous Cough, What Does That Mean?
Love is in the air, and so are raucous coughs emanating from a six-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.
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Where Do Giraffes Live?
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.
Giraffe Facts for Kids and Adults
- The scientific name for giraffes is Giraffa camelopardalis, of the family Giraffidae.
- Giraffe's necks are approximately six feet long and can weigh up to 600 pounds.
- Giraffes have the same number of neck vertebra as humans; seven.
- Male giraffes can grow up to 18 feet tall and weigh 3,000 pounds.
- Newborns are approximately six feet tall when born.
- A giraffe's tongue can be 18 to 20 inches long.
- Giraffes only live for 15 to 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 they raise or lower their heads, which could be a distance of 15 to 20 feet.
- A 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 blackish blue.
One More Giraffe Trivia Fact!
Mother giraffes give birth standing up, which means a newborn's introduction to the world is a six-foot drop to the ground!
But they are usually up and walking in minutes.
(Mom carries the baby for 14 to 15 months)
Baotic, A., Sicks, F. & Stoeger, A.S. Nocturnal “humming” vocalizations: adding a piece to the puzzle of giraffe vocal communication. BMC Res Notes 8, 425 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13104-015-1394-3
San Diego Zoo. Retrieved from SanDiegoZoo.org
TrakNature.com, 2011. Retrieved from Treknature.com
© 2012 ga anderson
Comments About What Sounds Do Giraffes Make
Nick on March 15, 2020:
Your use of commas is deplorable.
Makai on November 11, 2019:
I heard a giraffe make a fart sound it was so funny that I almost peed my pants lol (:.
ga anderson (author) from Maryland on January 08, 2019:
Thanks for the comment Migratorybird. And thanks for that grunt/belch tidbit about the sounds giraffes make.
migratorybird on January 05, 2019:
You've left out a sound I heard giraffes make repeatedly in Africa. That is a big grunt or belch. I finally realized I was hearing it when their stomach pumped their cud up that long neck so it could be chewed again.
Another fact of interest is that giraffes have prehensile lips. That is how they can get around acacia thorns to eat the tender leaves.
Muhammad Hasham khan from pakistan on December 16, 2018:
THAT IS AMAZING
Farhat from Delhi on April 19, 2012:
This hub is a big relief to all Moms & Dads..that now they will not face the embarrassing situation when their children ask about Girraffe, its behaviour and the sound it makes...and they go for some pretension to get rid of the situation cleverly!
ga anderson (author) from Maryland on March 28, 2012:
@Phoenix - Thanks for reading "What Sounds does a Giraffe Make?," and I'm glad it answered your question.
Thanks for the nice comment and vote too.
phoenixarizona from Australia on March 28, 2012:
I cannot thank you enough for answering my question! My daughter asked me when she was three what sound a giraffe made and I could not find out! She's now nearly eleven!
If this does not win the contest then I'd say HP had a very sad panel of judges!
WOW this was an awesome hub and I VOTED IT AS SUCH (Contest or no contest).