Animal Language


According to this article a rooster crows in all languages, in short all animals communicate universally if its their own species. But what we would like to know is if these animals can still understand each other if they are brought up in different countries and/or regions.

Same species, different continents

According to this article, they can. Though it’s primarily non-verbal. What is interesting is that all species have an innate set of sounds & gestures that transmorph to non-verbal communication. For animals non-verbal communication i.e. physical communication is the predominant form of communication same-species wide.

However, factors like extreme deviations in appearance as well as geographical barriers are breeding grounds for slight differences ending up in dialects. They can contribute to a reduced (immediate) mutual understanding.

Different species, same continents

Continents are populated by different species to create a somewhat harmonious ecosystem. In order for different species to communicate with each other, they primarily use body language. As animals have an unlimited vocal range yet a limited meaning range, communication in body language is to their natural advantage preventing miscommunication cross-species.

Interestingly, species that are more group-centered (non-wild) naturally gravitate into the development of well-defined body language compared to the more solitary-centered species (wild) that do not require this in order to survive.

Different species, different continents

But let’s take this to the biggest scope where cross-species are blended cross-continents. Their connecting element is their body language combined with universally understood sounds such as growling and hissing representing alarms or threats. The accumulation of all these aspects creates a fragile balance where on average all species regardless of their location know or understand what to expect from each other.

The Humans

In stark contrast, humans have a limited vocal range yet unlimited meaning range. Though it breeds creativity we are at a disadvantage inter-species as our unlimited meaning range requires longer conversations as well as a steeper learning curves to mutual understanding. This interpertation freedom potentially leads to more conflicts. 

What sets humans apart is the combination of using both body language & verbal communication. However it is very fine-grained and this degrades the clarity of communication. As an example, imagine a dog. When he wags his tail it goes clearly from side to side. When he barks, he barks as loud as he can to friends and enemies alike. This intensity of expression allows species to read each other crystal clear but humans have somewhat disregarded this level of expression intensity for the sake of being ‘civilised’.

As humans have come into existence way later than animals. Animals had to adapt to this new reality and developed verbal communication skills during the great domestification period to be able to interact with their human companions.


It is interesting that the development of verbal communication skills in animals is solely developed because of and used to human interactions only cross-species and cross-continents. The innate expressive non-verbal abilities animals exercise might be limited but generates mutual understanding much faster. If humans could simplify their communication without the loss of their meaning range, it would be interesting what this could lead into.


Time: 8,5 hours
Written by: Mariëlle Pax & Robert Velhorst