Music is a universal language. We all can enjoy music, even when it speaks on different languages from our mother tongue, through its sounds and rhythm. But, have you ever wonder; what about animals? Do they also understand music?
It all started with Charles Darwin. In 1837, Darwin fascinated with his first great ape imitated him by putting harmonica to its mouth. Later he believed that rhythms are everywhere in the biological world.
Other studies with different animals followed. Bonobo apes are once studied to see how they react to a beat. One of the most popular ones, named Kanzi showed his ability to respond to languages and repeat the beat back when the researcher tapped the glass outside his enclosure first.
Is legit to say that animals understand music and rhythms, then? Let’s discuss it together with this article!
Do the Animals Have Their Own Rhythm?
Not only apes, but some studies also use other animals like dogs, sea lions, and more. Some of them did react and respond to rhythms. However, there is no enough proof about animals, or in this case, nonhuman primates like bonobos, able to match varying tempo without the help of human settings. Bonobos, as to how the researcher mentions, are the same with how human children below 4 years old who can hear the rhythm but cannot synchronize with it. In addition, the ability to synchronize with rhythm is actually a part of the ability to socialize with others.
Animals might be able to make sounds as part of mating or communicating with others, but not all of them have the ability to genuinely synchronize with the rhythm. What we know so far is that only humans and some species animals with complex vocal learning, like bats, birds, or elephants who have it.
The reaction of happy dogs to the happy song
How about the animals who react with kinds of music? You may find your dogs enjoy the music that you play at home. Not to mention that dogs are one of those animals with superior hearing ability. They must be able to understand music like we do, right? How nice it is to imagine that our pet has the same taste in music!
Sorry, but the answer is no. Even dogs do not enjoy music as much as we do. Not because they hate it, though. They just cannot fully understand the beats as much as we do. They do not have the ability to catch the rhythm. Studies suggest that when you find your dogs positively respond to upbeat tune by jumping around, barking, or wagging tails, instead of the song, they actually respond to your own reaction. They feel and sense you.
Aw, still a lovely conclusion, isn’t it?
Biological Clock and Rhythms in Animals
Animals, on the other hand, have internal awareness of time, which called the biological clock. You probably know that there are some species who are active during the day, and some others who active during the night, right? That is the biological clock. For short, the biological clock is an internal timing mechanism that can affect animals’ activities. This ability help the animals to tell the feeding time and mating time, to avoid predators, or to prepare for any environmental changes like seasons and migration.
So, what’s this biological clock does to rhythms in animals?
Well, there is something called biological rhythms in animals. Biological rhythms that we have talked about before set a biological rhythm in animals. The rotation of the earth that causes day and night, for example, plays a role in the biological rhythms in animals. You probably ever heard about nocturnal or diurnal animals, right? Diurnal refers to animals who more active during the day and the nocturnal refers to those who more active after dawn or during the night. There is also one more called crepuscular, which refers to those who active during both day and night.
Others example besides earth rotation that may affect animals’ biological rhythms are daily cycle of high and low tides and season period with different daylength. Take it as an example, winter has a shorter day length with lower light intensity than summer. This condition then triggers some animals to migrate or to hibernate.
All of these examples of biological clock control the biological rhythm in animals. Thus, animal behavior is not only a response to the environmental factor but controlled by the animals’ internal timing mechanism too.
As for the conclusion, animals have the ability to produce sounds, but animals rarely have the ability to fully understand and synchronize with rhythms as humans do. They react to our actions: they can respond to a beat or songs, but never make a new or change the beat by themselves without the help from humans.
Instead, animals have something called biological rhythms. Biological rhythms associated with the biological clock, which is an internal timing mechanism that can affect animals’ activities daily. One of the most understandable examples is diurnal or nocturnal animal categories. It shows how the earth rotation that creates day and night, affect the behavior of animals throughout their lives. This internal timing system also helps the animals to tell their feeding time, mating time, hibernation, or migration time, which is essential for them to be able to survive during any environmental changes.
Even without the ability to fully understand or enjoy music, animals are still pretty interesting and amazing, right? So, let’s try to help them as much as we can. Since animals are so dependable on the environment as a place for them to live in, we can try to preserve their natural habitat to keep the balance in their population number. Remember that even animals are not more complex than us, they still can ‘think’ and feel emotions. After all, they are also live beings who share the same earth with us!