FunNature & AnimalWhy we should speak kindly to animals

Why we should speak kindly to animals

Talking kindly to animals can make a difference, and according to research carried out by scientists from the University of Copenhagen in collaboration with the ETH Zurich, they are capable of differentiating positive sounds from negative ones . The discovery could be very useful in terms of animal welfare.

As was done with domestic and wild horses, pigs were studied alongside their wild relatives, wild boars. What happened was that the pigs reacted to the emotional charge of the sounds of their counterparts. They did it in the same way as when it came to sounds of their own kind. “The results showed that domestic pigs and horses, as well as Asian wild horses, can distinguish both when sounds come from their own species and close relatives, and from human voices,” explains Elodie Briefer, one of the scientists who have participated in the research.

The animals even showed the ability to distinguish between positively and negatively charged human voices . Although their reactions were more subdued, all but the warthogs reacted differently when exposed to human speech laden with positive or negative emotions.

The experiment

To reach all these conclusions, the researchers launched the following experiment. They played recordings of animal sounds and human voices from hidden speakers. To prevent pets from reacting to specific words, positive and negative human speech was like gibberish without specific phrases.

The reactions of the animals were recorded taking into account certain aspects such as the position of the ears, whether they made any movement or not…

On this basis, the researchers concluded that the way we speak is important to animals.

“Our results show that these animals are affected by the emotions we carry in our voices when we talk to them or are close to them . They react more strongly – generally faster – when spoken to in a negatively charged voice, compared to with when they are first spoken to in a positively charged voice. In certain situations, they even seem to mirror the emotion they are exposed to,” says Elodie Briefer.

Is there “emotional contagion” between animals and humans?

Part of the goal of the study was to investigate whether “emotional contagion” could occur in animals, a kind of mirror of emotion. In behavioral biology, this type of reaction is considered the first step in the category of empathy.

“If future research projects clearly show that these animals reflect emotions, as this study suggests, it will be very interesting in relation to the history of the development of emotions and the extent to which animals have an emotional life and a level of consciousness. says Elodie Briefer.

The study failed to detect clear observations of “emotional contagion,” but one interesting result was the order in which the sounds were made. Sequences in which the negative sound was played first elicited stronger reactions in all but the wild boars. This included human speech.

According to Elodie Briefer, this suggests that the way we talk to animals can have an impact on their well-being. “It means that our voices have a direct impact on the emotional state of animals , which is very interesting from an animal welfare point of view,” he says.

This knowledge not only raises ethical questions about how we perceive animals, and vice versa, but can also be used as a concrete means to improve their daily lives.

“When the animals reacted strongly to first hearing negatively charged speech, the same is true in reverse. That is, if the animals are initially spoken to in a more positive and friendly voice, when they encounter people they should react less They can be calmer and more relaxed”, explains the scientist.


Reference: Maigrot, AL., Hillmann, E. & Briefer, EF 2022. Cross-species discrimination of vocal expression of emotional valence by Equidae and Suidae. BMC Biology. DOI:

When hyenas lived in the Arctic

These animals crossed from Asia to America through the Bering Bridge during the Ice Age.

Can an alligator have feathers?

If alligators and crocodiles have the genes that allow them to form feathers, why aren't they feathered?

We were able to start breeding animals 2000 years earlier than previously thought

This is demonstrated by remains of charred manure that are 13,000 years old.

They discover that more than 50 animals that we thought were mute can speak

Acoustic communication plays a fundamental role in aspects such as partner attraction and a number of other behaviors. The finding takes us back to 407 million years ago.

Hairy snail found in 99-million-year-old chunk of amber

How come they had hair? Its utility? Scientists think that Mesozoic land snails probably benefited from their fine hairs. Would it make them more attractive?