The Science Behind Animal Laughter: Do Animals Have a Sense of Humor?

Laughter is a universal human behavior associated with joy, amusement, and social bonding. But what about animals? Do they possess the capacity for laughter and a sense of humor? In this article, we delve into the fascinating world of animal laughter and explore the scientific evidence behind it.

How do we Define Animal Laughter?

Laughter, as a human behavior, is a complex vocalization involving distinct sounds and facial expressions. When it comes to animal laughter, researchers have identified analogous behaviors in various species. While not identical to human laughter, these vocalizations and behaviors resemble playful, joyous expressions.

Scientific Evidence of Animal Laughter

Numerous scientific studies and observations have shed light on laughter-like behaviors in animals. For instance, dolphins are known for their playful antics and vocalizations resembling chuckles. Primates, such as chimpanzees and bonobos, exhibit panting sounds during play, akin to laughter. Even rats emit ultrasonic vocalizations when tickled, suggesting a form of laughter.

The Purpose and Function of Animal Laughter

Animal laughter appears to serve various purposes and functions. It plays a crucial role in communication, social bonding, and stress relief within animal societies. Laughter-like behaviors are often observed during play sessions, fostering positive relationships among individuals. Moreover, laughter serves as a natural mechanism for releasing tension and promoting emotional well-being.

Sense of Humor in Animals

While humor is subjective and culturally influenced, some animals exhibit behaviors that resemble a sense of humor. Playful teasing and practical jokes have been observed in species such as dogs, ravens, and dolphins. These behaviors indicate a level of cognitive flexibility and the ability to derive pleasure from humorous interactions.

Do Donkeys Really Laugh?

No, donkeys do not really laugh. The sounds they make that might sound like laughter are actually brays that they use to communicate with other donkeys or warn of possible danger. The expression they make that looks like a smile is called the Flehmen response, which is a way of transferring a scent to an organ in their mouth that processes smells. It has nothing to do with laughter or happiness.

Chinchilla Laughing Noise

According to some sources, chinchillas can make a sound that resembles laughing or crying, which is called the warning call. They usually make this sound when they hear something unfamiliar or potentially dangerous, and they want to alert other chinchillas or their owners. This sound is different from the gentle squeaking or teeth grinding that chinchillas make when they are happy or content.

Controversies and Limitations

The study of animal laughter is not without its controversies and challenges. Skeptics argue that anthropomorphism, attributing human traits to animals, may cloud interpretations of animal behaviors. Additionally, deciphering the subjective experience of humor in animals remains a significant hurdle due to the inherent differences in cognition and communication between species. Further research is needed to address these limitations and deepen our understanding.

Animal laughter has been studied by researchers from different disciplines, such as biology, psychology and neuroscience. They have found that 65 different species of animals have their own form of laughter, which they use to communicate during play or express positive emotions. These studies can help us understand the evolutionary origins and functions of human laughter, as well as the social and emotional lives of other animals.


Animal laughter remains a captivating field of study, offering insights into the emotional lives of our fellow creatures. While animal laughter may not mirror human laughter precisely, the evidence suggests that animals possess their own forms of joyful vocalizations and playful behaviors. The existence of a sense of humor in animals is a subject of ongoing research and debate. Exploring animal laughter not only enriches our knowledge of animal cognition but also encourages us to appreciate the diversity of emotional experiences across the animal kingdom.