We tend to humanize animal actions in a variety of ways. From the movies we create to the captions we give photos of our pets—we give them our version of emotion. With as theatrical as they can be, who could blame us?
There is no denying our dog looks stricken with guilt when he is in trouble. There is no question our cat is looking deceitfully at us before they knock the glass off the counter. There is no refuting the love that mammals of all walks show their babies.
But just how extensive are these emotions? How far as research come to decode animal speak? It is hard to say how much they mimic human emotion and how much is a language all their own.
Science verified another emotion an animal may experience: laughter.
Do animals actually laugh? The verdict is in, and the answer is yes!
In 1872, Charles Darwin himself began a study he called “The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals”. In his observations, chimpanzees would mimic laugh-like responses during times of horseplay with one another. It was very similar to human children at play.
Banking on that research, a University in Germany also concluded that these sounds mirrored human laughter. While laughter has long-since existed in our species, primates have spent the last several million years evolving this emotion.
Patricia Simonet is an animal behaviorist who has done particular studies on dogs at playtime. Simonet used a spectrograph, which is a device that measures soundwaves, to take recorded data of sounds dogs make while excited and having fun.
If you know anything about dogs, you know these sounds. They sound like a mixtape of grunting, yipping, and mouthy breathing. When this sound was analyzed, the sounds of laughter increased.
Simonet took the recordings to play for other dogs and puppies to gauge their reaction. When she played the sound, the dogs started to get frisky and even search for toys or get into a playful stance.
Jaak Panksepp from Bowling Green University did a study on baby rats. When caressing the nape, the babies made a distinct chirping sound. He found rats emitted the same pleasure sound in response to stimuli while at play.
Maria Davila-Ross is a scientist from the University of Portsmouth. She and a trusted team of researchers have been studying animal videos on the internet. She stated many species have a distinctive response to being tickled.
There is no definitive research that states these responses are actual laughter as we know it, per se. But there is one thing that is for sure– they are definitely sounds of happiness.