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What Sound Does a Giraffe Make?

Updated on March 12, 2011
They're talking... we just can't hear them!
They're talking... we just can't hear them! | Source

Background on Giraffes

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.

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

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.

The giraffe lives in the savannas of Africa, with a range extending from Chad to South Africa. The preferred food is the Acacia tree, which the giraffe reaches with a long neck and a prehensile tongue. The giraffe's fur has a characteristic scent, and may act as a defense mechanism due to anti-parasitic and antibiotic properties. Giraffes are extremely strong,and one swift kick from a giraffe is capable of decapitating a lion.

All of this information is great, but the question remains: what sound does a giraffe make?

Adult Giraffes and Infrasound

Adult Giraffes Whoosh

Adult giraffes do not often make audible noise to human ears, though they certainly have the vocal cords to do so. The myth that adult giraffes are silent, however, is false. New research in bioacoustics shows that adult giraffes use infrasound: 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.

Baby Giraffes Moo

Giraffes make 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!

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!

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    • profile image

      Heidi Parton 6 years ago

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

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      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.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 6 years ago from Western New York

      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!

    • E Jay profile image

      E Jay 6 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado

      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.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 6 years ago from Western New York

      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)!

    • mannyrolando profile image

      mannyrolando 6 years ago

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

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

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

    • mythbuster profile image

      mythbuster 6 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

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

    • profile image

      connor12 6 years ago

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

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

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

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      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!

    • profile image

      jeff 3 years ago

      but why can't you hear the giraffe

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 3 years ago from Western New York

      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.

    • Nathanvpap profile image

      Nathanvpap 2 years ago

      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.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      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!

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