While certainly not an obvious or complex sound repertoire – zebras do, in fact, make noises that mean something. They make very unique sounds that often resemble those of certain other animals.
Often sounding close to horses, pigs, and even dogs – they are certainly intriguing animals. Despite sounding similar to some of these other animals, zebras have a unique high-pitched noise which is intriguing to explore.
So don’t be too quick to dismiss the zebra’s communicative skills. They may not have the melody of birds or the orchestral trumpeting of elephants – but these striped mammals are plenty interesting. Zebras communicate with various sounds, body postures, and facial expressions.
Let’s take a closer look at what sounds these creatures make and what they mean.
What Does a Zebra Sound Like?
These are very talkative animals and their noises express anything from greetings to warnings. Even feelings of anger, impatience, or curiosity are conveyed with a bark, bray, snort, or a nicker.
What Sound do Zebras Make?
Zebras have a fairly simple sound collection when it comes to communicating with their herd. These no-fuss creatures have 4 main sounds you can listen out for next time you encounter a zebra.
Let’s find out what sound a zebra makes.
The first sound a zebra makes is referred to as a bark. Don’t think of the authoritative bark of a pitbull – but somewhere closer to that of a small, yappy dog. This zebra bark will likely surprise you on your travels. When it comes to this particular zebra noise, they produce something between a bark and a whimper. Either way, it is a high-pitched noise that is unique to this species.
The second sound you can listen out for is that of a zebra braying. One could sum it up as the sound of a donkey but with more range. It begins like a low growl (there’s that inner dog channeling again) and then gradually rises in pitch until it becomes a high pitched squeal. Once again, these are not orchestral sounding animals.
Now for their pig-like sounds – the snort. This is a short, abrupt burst of air through their nostrils. Kind of like a huff and a puff and a blow your house down.
And lastly, the most appealing of all their noises would be the nicker. This part of their sound inventory resembles that of a horse neigh. Similar to the snort, but executed much softer.
What Sound Does a Zebra Make and Why?
So what exactly do these colourful sounds mean in zebra language? Well, we can’t be sure, of course, but this is the general consensus on them.
The Bark Deciphered
The yappy-dog-bark is the plain, everyday language of these striped fellas. A barking zebra can be communicating both a greeting or a type of zebra call to grab another’s attention. This makes it a rather commonly heard sound among zebra herds – it’s the “what’s up” of zebra talk.
The Bray Deciphered
The bray is the ‘call a friend’ if you will. It‘s used to call a mate or otherwise to express anger or frustration.
The Snort Deciphered
When it comes to the pig-like snort, there is a more complex meaning. Similar to horses – it can be a greeting sound like the previously discussed bark. But this huff-puff sound can also be used to warn other herd-members about danger.
Distinguishing the semantics in these instances is often context-dependent. It would be helpful to note the zebra’s body language when deciphering what this sound means.
The Nicker Deciphered
And lastly – the lovely nicker. Certainly the most endearing of all zebra sounds is one that expresses affection for other members of the herd. A good example of when this sound would be heard is between mothers and their foals (baby zebra).
Baby zebra sounds are similar to adults, but they have a much smaller range. They communicate largely with very high pitched barks – primarily with their mothers.
Some More Facts about Zebras
Where do Zebras Live?
These animals can be found in eastern and southern Africa and they live in a variety of habitats. You can find them in the savannahs, grasslands, woodlands, and even mountainous areas.
Zebras generally live in social harems. These consist of a male (stallion) and several females (mares) and their young, called foals. The males of this species are promiscuous – often mating with several females.
A Zebra’s Stripes
Unlike their close relatives – horses and donkeys – zebras have never truly been domesticated. And the striped-coat of these mammals not only makes them very recognizable but also has made them a point of admiration for many years.
They have been featured in many African stories, books, and fables because of their unique striped appearance.
The Great Migration
Every year hundreds and thousands of wildebeest, zebra, and other antelope gather to charge across the plains of East Africa in one of nature’s most impressive spectacles – The Great Migration.
Zebras are one of the main animals who take part in this lengthy travel across Africa. They do so in search of water, good grazing, and safe places to breed and give birth. In fact, zebras and wildebeest ban together for this travel to ensure a better chance of safety against predators like lions.
What Does a Zebra Say
These animals are certainly not void of being colorful and dynamic. We have noted them sounding like everything from yapping dogs, to squealing pigs, snorting horses, and growling cats. These are special creatures – even if they are a whole zoo on their own.
The sound similarities they share with so many other animals, is actually exactly what makes their sound so unique.
So while they may not get the lead in the animal kingdom orchestra, they certainly win for the most unusual sounding members.
And next time you are on a safari in Africa and you come across one of these mammals in their striped pyjamas – stop to listen which animal sound-alike noises you can hear!