Communication and Perception
Members of the family Bovidae communicate in a number of different ways. Some species are vocal, while others communicate via different body postures and displays. Although vocal communication is limited, during mating season mature males may bellow or roar to intimidate each other and to make their presence known to females. Muskox frequently roar during male-male contests and hold a unique posture that maximizes the intensity of their roar. The ventrorostral ventricle, a vocal ligament that transforms into a large fat pad during maturation, increases the amplitude of the bellow by adding additional resonance space and by directing the sound through a unique pulsing structure. The posture of the male effects how his roar is delivered. Other bovids utilize their nasal passages to roar. Male saiga contract and extend their peculiar noses while forcing air through their nostrils to produce a roaring sound, which is used to deter rival males and attract females. Vocal communication between calves and their mothers help them recognize and locate each other when separated.
In addition to communication that is used to increase reproductive success and offspring survival, bovids also vocalize in an attempt to ward of potential predators. Grunting and roaring, much like those used by competing males, are used to drive off predators and warn herd members. Domesticated bovids are known to vocalize in anticipation of food and native Korean cows vocalize before being fed.
Unlike primates and many carnivorous mammals, bovids are fairly limited in their ability to convey information via facial expressions, thus they rely heavily on postural displays to communicate their intentions. When attempting to communicate dominance or aggression towards competitors or lower ranking individuals, most bovids make themselves look as large as possible. Slow rigid movement and occasionally posing in an erect posture with a level muzzle, is used to exhibit dominance over others. Common aggressive displays include mimic fighting, staring, or shaking their heads wildly to communicate they feel threatened and are ready to fight. Submissive communication includes a lowering of the head or raising the chin so horns rest along the top of the neck. When threatened, bovids often remain still. In some antelope, like impala, lesser kudu, and common eland, individuals may jump in place to signal a potential threat to conspecifics.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic
- Frey, R., A. Gebler, G. Fritsch. 2006. Arctic Roars: Laryngeal Anatomy and Vocalization of the Muskok (Ovibus moschatus Zimmermann, 1780 Bovidae). Journal of Zoology, 268: 433-438.
- Yeon, S., J. Jeon, K. Houpt, H. Chang, H. Lee. 2006. Acoustic Features of Vocalizations of Korean Native Cows (Bos taurus coreanca) in Two Different Conditions. Applied Animal Behavior Science, 101: 1-9.