Giraffes are the world’s tallest land mammals, reaching heights of up to 6 meters, making them extremely visible. They are friendly animals, yet they are not known for forming long-term ties among themselves. Their group is always changing, and there are numerous exchanges among the members. It was assumed that they were deafeningly silent and didn’t make any sounds. They do, however, communicate with one another, and they do it in a variety of ways.
Means of Communication
Animals’ methods for interacting with one another are different and sophisticated. Giraffes are no different. They communicate in physical, chemical, optical, and aural means, primarily amongst members of the same species.
It primarily occurs among males in order to assess their power, establish group hierarchy, and have the privilege of copulating with a female. Giraffe males communicate signals through their body position in this sense. They walk with their heads lifted and their legs extended. They then perform an action known as necking, which translates to ‘kissing’ in English. There are two possibilities.
In one, males test their strength by crossing their necks and pressing against one another. The winner is the one who can keep his position. Another possibility is a particularly intense clash with strong punches, for which they utilize ossicones, which are hard and comparable to horns. Using the neck muscles can result in major injuries and damage, neck fractures, and even death.
After a battle, males may pet each other and remain in the same group for an extended amount of time without new conflicts.
Furthermore, even if the males do not engage in the care of the pups, they may interact with them. This includes verbal and physical communication. Females, on the other hand, cooperate and communicate to care for the cubs, as the moms go in search of food and water in some circumstances. In these circumstances, adult females take up cub care, resulting in a communicative interaction.
In terms of chemical communication, giraffes have a reasonably well-developed sense of smell that allows them to detect all scents. They do, however, have a quirk: the male must taste the urine to determine whether the female is in heat.
Following that, the male exhibits the so-called Flehmen’s response, which consists in the retraction of the lips, exposing the vomeronasal organ. Hormones, for example, have a high sensitivity to this organ. Once the male has scented the pee, he will know the female’s physiological propensity toward reproduction.
Giraffes communicate visually as well. This is done as a preventative measure. When they wander out from the herd, they remain attentive due to their elevated perspective of large spaces. If they detect danger, they warn the remainder of the herd, preparing them to use their strongest protection mechanism, notably powerful legs.
Another way these animals communicate is through the production of various sounds, which are hardly audible to humans.
The Discovery of Giraffe’s Sounds
A study conducted in 2015 by a group of researchers from the University of Vienna in Austria, lead by Angela Stöger, tried to determine whether giraffes communicate with one another through noises.
However, after evaluating approximately 1,000 hours of recordings over the course of 8 years from three separate European zoos, the team from the University of Vienna has discovered that these animals communicated by releasing infrasonic sounds that were too low to be heard by the human ear. The study concluded that giraffes do make a sound, which is not as quiet as previously thought.
According to the study, the elusive voice of giraffes, which had previously gone undiscovered, only occurs at night, when no one sees them, and has a sound frequency of only 92 hertz, which makes it hardly noticeable to our ear.
Although, according to Dr. Stöger, it was still too early to say whether sound is a form of communication or a circumstantial guttural sound, what is evident was the type of noise that giraffes make: “hum.”