Elephant Sounds

What does an elephant sound like? Many will say a trumpet. However, there is more to their vocabulary.

Elephants are known for their impressive vocalizations and communication skills. They use a variety of sounds to communicate with other elephants in their herd, as well as to express their emotions and establish dominance. Elephants can produce a wide range of sounds, from deep rumbles to high-pitched trumpets.

One of the most distinctive sounds that elephants make is their trumpet call. This loud, brassy noise is produced by forcing air through the elephant’s trunk, which acts as a natural trumpet. Elephants use this sound to signal danger, express excitement or frustration, and communicate with other elephants over long distances.


Another common sound made by elephants is the rumble. This low-frequency sound is produced by the elephant’s vocal cords and can be heard up to several miles away. Because the forest is so dense, researchers believe that the forest elephants produce low-frequency rumbles—sometimes at frequencies below what the human ear can detect—to communicate across long distances with each other. Through their rumbles, the elephants can send information to one another and coordinate meeting places at various areas in the forest.

In addition to trumpets and rumbles, elephants also produce a variety of other sounds. They may make chirping noises, similar to the sound of birds, to greet each other or signal their presence. They may also produce grunts, growls, or snorts to express their emotions or establish dominance over other elephants.


Sound is produced as the air expelled from the lungs is passed over the vocal cords or larynx, a structure in elephants some 3 inches long. The moving air causes the vocal cords to vibrate at a particular frequency depending on the type of sound the elephant is making.

By lengthening or shortening the vocal chords an elephant can produce a wide range of frequencies. The column of air vibrates in the elephant’s extended vocal tract or resonating chamber and, depending upon how the elephant holds the various components of this chamber (trunk, mouth, tongue, pharyngeal pouch, larynx) it can modify and amplify different components of the sound.

Some of the calls made by elephants are produced with the mouth open, while others are made with the mouth closed. This includes low-frequency rumbles, some of which emanate through the mouth, while others emanate through the trunk. Rumbles with an open mouth tend to be louder, noisier, higher in frequency, and have a more modulated contour. Those that emanate through the trunk are lower in frequency and tend to be flatter. Long Rumbles may last 6-8 seconds, while very short rumbles may only last 3 seconds.

Elephant Sound Facts

Their low-pitched ‘rumble’, so deep humans cannot hear it,
can be heard almost four miles away through the ground. Using the same equipment which measures earthquakes, researchers detected elephants’ rumbles, which are used conversationally for messages
ranging from ‘let’s go’ to ‘welcome to our group’.

The team from the University of Oxford also picked up the
sound of elephants stamping, which is louder than a sledgehammer.
This can be heard from up to two miles away when elephants are walking fast, their models suggest – and it could be used to detect poachers. Scientists hope to use seismology equipment to pick up the ‘panic run’
that herds begin when they are under threat.

Based on their seismology recordings, the zoologists estimate
the vibrations could travel almost four miles, and elephants almost
certainly, produce them on purpose to speak to each other.

Elephants are highly vocal animals that have a rich and complex communication system that helps them navigate their social and environmental landscape.

Further Reading


Sound Effect from Pixabay
Journal of Experimental Biology
Quick Sounds
Elephant Voices
Daily Mail
The Conversation

Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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