Animals march to the beat of a different drummer

By Ted Blankenship | August 1, 2019

I was doing some serious research on the internet the other day when I came across a movie clip purporting to show how animals are attracted to music. 

It showed a guy playing a concertina in a pasture (a good place to play one) and a group of cows seemingly intrigued by the music. They stared at the source for a bit then slowly moved toward the sound. No, not to destroy the concertina. 

I don’t know whether the cows thought they were hearing “Lady of Spain” or “Cow Cow Boogie.” I couldn’t tell either. 

I’m sure you wanted me to, so I decided to look into it for you. I found that animal scientists have actually studied what kind of music animals like. See what you learn by reading this column? 

It turns out that most animals don’t enjoy human music at all.  I agree with them on some of the human music I’ve heard. They (animals) hear a pitch that differs from that of humans. They don’t feel the same rhythms either. Maybe that’s why you never see a Yorkie tapping his or her tiny toe to a Taylor Swift Tune. You are sure to hear some serious yapping, though. 

Dogs are a tough audience because of their wide variety of sizes resulting in a varied vocal range and heart rate. The heart rate apparently affects their sense of rhythm.

The animal scientists say that big dogs like Labradors or mastiffs have vocal ranges similar to adult male humans, so they might respond to music in the human frequency range. They might sing as well as some humans, too. 

You’ll be impressed to know that I did some private research into the sound frequency of dogs though I didn’t know I was doing it at the time. 

We took our cat to the veterinarian one day a few years ago and the vet wondered whether we owned a dog, his sly introduction to an orphan dog he needed to find a home for. It was Zip, a Brittany Spaniel with white silky fur splotched with large reddish patches. 

Zip let out a long, mournful howl and rubbed his head against my leg. 

“You ought to take him home,” said the vet. 

“How old is he?” I asked. 

“Seven or so,” he replied. 

“We can’t keep him,” said my wife. 

“That’s age discrimination,” I said, as I took hold of the leash. The Zipper went home with us, and it didn’t take long to learn that Zip liked to run—long distances. I was afraid he’d run off and not be able to find his way home. So, I got a long rope and let him run in the pasture. He made wide swaths looking for imaginary birds.

I called his name and he ignored me. I yelled louder and he ignored me. I apparently wasn’t on his frequency. I bought a dog whistle, and thought, “now try to ignore me.” He ignored me. 

I repeated this routine day after day and the result was the same: I shouted, “Zipper, COME!” He just pointed his nose upward, to smell an imaginary bird.

Finally, I realized that Zipper was deaf. No wonder he sang out of tune.