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9 Animals That Can Communicate With Humans

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to talk to an animal? Then you’re in luck because this article investigates 9 animals that communicate with humans. Whether it’s through vocalizations, body movement, or sign language, animals make an effort to get their needs met. Communication between a human and an animal can take place in a variety of ways.

9 Animals That Can Communicate With Humans

Learn more about animals that can ‘talk’ to people and take a look at the following list of 9 random species that are able to communicate with us.

1. Dogs

Dog training
Dog training

Dogs are man’s best friend for a reason. Loyal, determined, and hardworking, dogs have worked with and been trained by people for thousands of years. Dogs were first domesticated from their wild ancestor, the wolf, around 15,000 years ago.

Hundreds of breeds have been developed to serve every kind of purpose – from hunting to protection to companionship. Dogs communicate with mankind in a variety of ways. They bark, growl, lick, and wag their tails to indicate their mood.

Most dogs are trainable too. They learn commands of varying degrees of complexity depending on the strength of the training and the breed of dog.

2. Cats

Domestic Cat sits on a couch
Domestic Cat sits on a couch | image by James St. John via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Cats may not be as affectionate or trainable as their canine counterparts, but they definitely communicate with humans on a regular basis. Whether it’s a purr, meow, or a yowl, they are intentional about making noises for their owners to hear and respond to.

Domesticated cats are actually more vocal than feral cats. Why? Humans communicate through speech, so your cat may be imitating you by meowing or yowling.

Communicate with your cat by speaking its language. The next time your cat looks into your eyes, blink slowly. This tells him or her that you’re a friend, not a threat.

3. Horses

Horse in the field
Horse in the field | Image by Inn from Pixabay

Until the early twentieth century, horses were an integral part of daily life. Farming, transportation, entertainment, you name it – a horse was probably involved. Communication with horses was necessary to train them to pull wagons, plows, and carriages.

Horses are gregarious animals which establish social networks in the wild. When owned by humans, they create those networks with their owners. Horses neigh, nicker, whinny, and snuffle to communicate their moods with the person who brushes, rides, and takes care of them.

4. Bottlenose Dolphins

Bottlenose Dolphin breaching
Bottlenose Dolphin breaching | image by caroline legg via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

There are many stories of shipwrecked sailors being towed to safety on the backs of helpful dolphins. They also guided fish towards fishermen’s nets. Those legends are more than just myths.

Dolphins are extremely intelligent and have extensive communication abilities which they can use to help humans. Dolphins use underwater sonar to navigate. They click their tongues and listen for responses that travel at high speed through ocean waters.

Today, captive dolphins in zoos and aquariums communicate regularly with their handlers. They learn tricks, express their moods, and even indicate preferences for their favorite types of fish.

5. Crows

Black crows
Black crows

Despite their ‘spooky’ reputation, crows are intelligent and highly social birds. Crows communicate to humans through movements, squawks, and the giving of gifts. However, they can only mimic human speech, not come up with original ideas.

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Gift-giving is one way that crows respond to human actions. In the wild, they’re attracted to shiny or metallic objects like coins, tinsel, nails, and foil. They make gifts of such objects to humans who provide them with food or help injured members of their community.

6. Gorillas

Gorilla | Image by Alexa from Pixabay

Gorillas are some of the most intelligent primates in the world. Due to their size and potential to be a threat, they were not studied in earnest until the early twentieth century.

When humans did have the opportunity to observe gorillas, they noticed that these great apes were able to mimic sign language with their hands, which are very similar to humans’. Gorillas in captivity have learned American Sign Language. This may be easy for them since gesturing is part of how they naturally communicate with other gorillas.

Gorillas are elusive and mainly herbivorous. They are rarely aggressive, except when protecting territory or mates, and are under threat by poachers and habitat destruction.

7. Bonobo Apes

Bonobo ape eating green plants
Bonobo ape eating green plants | Image by tsauquet from Pixabay

Monkeys, especially Bonobos, share most of their DNA with human beings. Despite the obvious differences, we have enough in common to be able to communicate through pictures and simple hand signals.

Scientists were able to teach Kanzi, a Bonobo, over 600 words on a computer. He communicates with her handlers by pressing buttons with symbols printed on them. Researchers also believe he is one of the first great apes to understand English when spoken aloud.

8. African Gray Parrots

African gray parrot perching
African gray parrot perching | Image by wasi1370 from Pixabay

Parrots are known for their mimicry abilities, but they’re much smarter than most people give them credit for. African Gray Parrots are especially intelligent. They can learn numbers, colors, and basic words for shapes and things in their lives.

An African Gray Parrot famous for its intellect was Alex, the subject of a Nova documentary on the intelligence of parrots. This parrot was owned by a research scientist who dedicated much of her time to studying birds’ brains.

Alex knew his own name, how to count up to six, and over 100 words in English. If you’re lucky enough to own a parrot, consider teaching it some new vocabulary. Your feathered friend might surprise you!

9. Honeyguides

Lesser honeyguide perching
Lesser honeyguide perching | image by Charles Gates via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Honeyguides are birds native to Africa. They are unique among birds because they have evolved the ability to communicate with humans for one specific purpose: to guide people to honey.

These wild birds’ favorite foods are bee larvae, eggs, and wax. At some point thousands of years ago, honeyguides noticed East African tribesmen breaking open beehives to get to the honey, something honeyguides can’t do on their own. Once the hive was open, the bird’s chosen foods were available.

Since honeyguides were aware of hives the tribesmen didn’t know about, they got the hunters’ attention by chattering and flapping their wings. Then, by flying from tree to tree, they guide the people to the nest.

Today, tribes have special whistles they use to call honeyguides, which lets the birds know the men are ready to look for honey.