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6 Animals That Make Sounds Like Human Laughter

a hyena laughing
J. NATAYO/Shutterstock

Humans aren’t the only animals that laugh. It just so happens that there are a few other species who express jovial sounds, although some only sound as though they are laughing. The next time you hear a cackle outside your window, one of the animals in the list below might well be making it!

That being said, this list doesn’t include every last animal that has ever laughed or made jovial noises, but it does touch on some of the most common ones to do so. So the next time you find something funny and let laughter fill your lungs, imagine which of these creatures you might sound like. Are you laughing like a nervous hyena or a hungry seagull?

Great Apes

Chimpanzees are considered to be almost as human as humans are.  Along with other great apes, they can learn sign language, which allows them to communicate with people. They also have the ability to make a laughing sound.

Together with orangutans and gorillas, chimps will “laugh” when tickled or to communicate with their fellows. The resulting noise may sound more like a buzz or purr, but make no mistake, it’s laughter!

Hyena

Africa’s spotted hyena is often referred to as “the laughing hyena”—because it’s the only subgroup of the well-known, dog-like species that can make the famous (if creepy) laughing sound.

However, the spotted hyena is not actually laughing when it makes those high-pitched and somewhat frightening noises; instead, it’s likely alerting other members of its tribe to danger or complaining about a stressful situation.

Crows

If you’ve ever come across a murder of crows—yes, that’s what a group of crows is called—or even a lone crow perched upon a tree limb, you may have heard them caw in a manner that resembled laughter.

Yet, that sound isn’t a laugh. In fact, it’s probable that the crow is just telling its fellows where it or a food source is. Birds have their own unique and complex language, so it’s hard to give a definite answer.

Seagulls

The seagull’s “laughter” operates a lot like the crow’s in that these calls sound very piercing (although slightly higher-pitched) and are used to communicate with other colony members.

If you ever dare to feed seagulls at a park or drive-thru parking lot, they’ll make those laughing sounds in order to tell other seagulls to come and join the feast. In fact, these scavenger birds will probably swarm you, so beware!

Parrots (and Other Talking Birds)

Birds that can learn to “talk”—or rather, mimic human speech—can also make laughing noises. (They may not actually think you’re funny, though.)

Some parrots, including parakeets and cockatoos, are definitely able to mimic human speech, while corvids, such as crows and ravens, are capable of learning a few words. After all, if a bird can talk, it makes sense that it can laugh, too!

Laughing Owl

The laughing owl has sadly gone extinct, but it was once among the birds that could give a sound that closely resembled laughter. In the case of this particular bird, its call sounded like evil, maniacal laughter.

There are other owls that seem as though they are laughing when making certain calls. (Of course, we usually imagine owls asking “Who?” when making noises.)


While laughing may seem like a uniquely human thing to do, the truth is, we aren’t the only animals who see the humor in life. And—even if chimps, spotted hyenas, crows, seagulls, and parrots aren’t actually amused when they make laughing sounds—their calls can definitely make us laugh.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow has been a professional writer for almost two decades. Yvonne has worked for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and much more as a writer and editor. She's also a published poet and a short story writer. Read Full Bio »