Study: Goats Can Have “Accents”

Research suggests a goat’s voice is not solely genetic, but is also a product of their environment

We hear Baaaa but goats hear Baawww.

Goats acquire different “accents” depending on where they’re put to pasture, according to a recent study by Queen Mary University of London.

Researchers found that as goats grew older and moved with different herds, their voices changed to adopt the specific call of their new herd, the U.K. Daily Telegraph reported. That suggests a goat’s voice is not solely genetic, but is also a product of their environment.

Scientists monitored noises from half-sibling baby pygmy goats of several different herds. When the goats were one week old, their calls showed little likeness to the rest of their herd. By the fifth week, the goats’ calls were very similar in structure. And half-siblings living in the same herd had even more closely related “accents” over time.

Before this study, it was believed that only a few types of mammals, such as humans, elephants, and dolphins, were able to develop new accents. Now scientists are questioning whether environment can affect other mammals’ calls.

“We don't know, because people are so sure there's no effect of the environment that no-one has checked. But if goats can do it maybe all mammals' accents could be affected by their environment," Dr. Elodie Briefer, the lead researcher of the study, told the Telegraph.

The results of the study, which might also lead to new insights for improving animal welfare, can be found in the journal “Animal Behavior.”

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