Do Goats Have Accents?

One British study found that goats' vocal behavior changes over time, becoming more similar to their social surroundings.

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Marko Djurica / Reuters

As we grow older or change our social settings, we often adapt our ways of speaking and communicating. According to scientists in England, the same goes for goats.

A study published in the journal Animal Behaviour says pygmy goats can develop “accents” as they grow older in accordance with other members of their social group, or “creche.” To examine the vocal behavior of young goats, known as “kids,” researchers at the University of London recorded calls at one week old and again at five weeks old. They found that the calls of kids within the same social group became more similar to one another over time.

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Current theories suggest that goats’ vocal sounds are based chiefly on genetics. While the researchers did find that biologically-related kids produced similar calls, the study indicates that kids can and do modify their sounds depending on their social surroundings, thus developing a unifying “accent” that indicates membership to a particular creche.

“This could act as a ‘group member badge’ allowing them to identify members of the group, differentiate them from members of other groups, and increase group cohesion,” said Dr. Elodie Briefer, co-leader of the study, in an an interview with the BBC. She said this concept could be particularly important for goats, who live within complex social structures that separate during the day and reconvene at night.

One key question remains unanswered: Does this also apply to goats who yell like men?

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