• Question: why do goats sound like sheep

    Asked by beano on 20 Jun 2019.
    • Photo: Kaitlin Wade

      Kaitlin Wade answered on 24 Jun 2019:

      I think it’s just that they have similar shaped vocal tracts. My favourite fact though is that they can sound like humans…

      Humans have the unique ability to alter the shape of their larynx (voice box) and pharynx (throat) to create very human-like sounds. In mammals, the vocal tract is made up of the nasal cavity, oral cavity, pharynx (throat region), and larynx (voice box). But no other animal can really produce vowel sounds, where the pharynx is elongated.

      A professor in Vienna researches the vocalisations of animals including goats and sheep, and showed that they can drop their larynx during loud vocalisations, which results in something similar to that which is seen (heard?) in humans. This has been demonstrated perfectly when you listen to the YouTube HIT, “Taylor Swift’s Sheep”, which sounds very much like a sheep yelling – because the shape of the vocal tract is very human-like during the “yell” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVqebPVBRY4


    • Photo: Nina Rzechorzek

      Nina Rzechorzek answered on 24 Jun 2019:

      I love Kaitlin’s answer to this – and I can’t really better it! 🙂

    • Photo: Shobhana Nagraj

      Shobhana Nagraj answered on 25 Jun 2019:

      I thnk Kaitlin has this one covered! 🙂

    • Photo: David Wilson

      David Wilson answered on 25 Jun 2019:

      Fun question!
      Like Kaitlin said they have similar shaped vocal tracts. This is because they are closely related in evolutionary terms. This is like a family tree of how a plant or animal evolved.
      In biology we use the word taxonomy to describe this. It’s the science of naming, defining and classifying groups of biological organisms on the basis of shared characteristics.
      Here’s what the taxonomic tree looks like, every living organism in the world can be put into one of these categories: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a5/Biological_classification_L_Pengo_vflip.svg
      So in the case of Goats and Sheep. They are from the Kingdom Animalia, the Phylum Chordata, the Class Mammalia, Order Artiodactyla, Infraorder Pecora and the Family Bovidae.
      The Family Bovidae are all cloven-hoofed, ruminant mammals that includes bison, African buffalo, water buffalo, antelopes, wildebeest, impala, gazelles, sheep, goats, muskoxen, and cattle.

    • Photo: Rebecca Moon

      Rebecca Moon answered on 25 Jun 2019:

      All I can say on this is good knowledge Kaitlin. My guess would also be that they were probably even more closely genetically related in the past too, and a quick google confirmed this for me!

    • Photo: Matthew Bareford

      Matthew Bareford answered on 26 Jun 2019:

      This is all to do with how genetically related Goats are to sheep. With the diversifying (changing) of animals over time from a common ancestor, different things will change at different rates. For Goats and Sheep, the vocal sounds haven’t needed to change much and so they sounds similar