Playing a classical musical instrument is not cheap, you can find a top of the most expensive violins here. Plus, not everybody enjoys this sort of music. Through a series of experiments, scientists all over the world have analyzed the response that cats, dogs, birds, cows sharks and even mosquitoes have to music.
Music is a universally enjoyed experience. Animals, just like humans, have a different reaction to it, which is the reason why we have decided to dive into the topic by looking at what scientific studies had to say about this subject.
Dogs and classical music
A study published in 2012 by the researchers at Colorado State University noted that playing classical music in kennels can reduce the level of stress that the animals feel. The research was carried out on 117 kenneled dogs and it monitored various aspects, from body shaking to activity levels and vocalization.
During the experiment, the scientists played three types of music to the dogs, from classical to altered and heavy metal. The results showed that the dogs were less anxious and able to sleep and relax when listening to classical music. Different behavior was observed when other types of music was played.
By comparison, previous studies indicated that classical music has the same effects on the human brain, as it makes the listeners improve mood, sleep better and feel less stressed and anxious.
Cows love a beat
One of the most popular studies related to how animals react to music is the one conducted by researchers from the University of Leicester in 2001. As part of the research, the scientists played various music pieces to no less than 1000 dairy cows.
The results of the study are quite interesting. It seems like cows are fond of calming music such as Beethoven’s “Pastoral Symphony”. Even more so, it seems like playing this type of music to bovines also stimulates milk production by 3%.
To put this into perspective, each cow produced 24.6 ounces more milk per day while listening to slow-paced music. Dr. Adrian North, one of the researchers argued that milk production increased probably because of the calming effects that music had on the animals.
In 2014, a group of musicians from the Cleveland Orchestra visited an animal sanctuary from High Falls, NY and played music to the animals. They immediately noticed that the rescued animals were drawn to the sounds made by their instruments.
Even more so, the cows were so fascinated by the music that they stopped what they were doing and came closer to the players to get a better listen.
Fish and composers
A fun study from 2013 showed that goldfish can be trained to distinguish between different composers. The research was carried out by scientists from Keio University in Japan.
During the experiment, they used pieces of music composed by Johann Sebastian Bach and Igor Stravinsky. To measure the success of the study, the scientists trained the fish to eat whenever a certain music piece was playing.
At first, the fish were separated into two groups. Each school of fish was played a different composer and they were fed. When they were played the music composed by the other musician, the fish did not eat. In conclusion, the researchers observed that goldfish can make a difference between the timbre and the pitch of the two composers.
The Thai Elephant Orchestra
We all know that elephants love to paint. However, it seems like these majestic-looking animals also have an ear for music. In 2000, in Thailand, a conservationist named Richard Lair put together an orchestra of 16 elephants who were trained to play classical music pieces such as Beethoven’s sixth symphony.
In order for the elephants to be able to play, the team that developed this idea constructed various steel instruments such as harmonicas and drums. Scientists who analyzed the music made by this fun orchestra noted that the elephants are able to keep a tempo and that they have a better ear for music than humans do.
This is possible because these mammals have an extraordinary sense of hearing that compensates for their not that good sight. Even more so, the Thai Elephant Orchestra has since released more than three records. The proceeds were donated to a milk bank that provides food to orphaned baby elephants.
The fact that elephants can make music is not surprising. The first to notice this were the Asian and Roman mahouts who saw that elephants can distinguish between melodies. Similarly, in 1957, Bernard Rensch, a German researcher tested the animals’ ability to identify various musical tones and to remember simple melodies that were played on different instruments, at various pitches.
Even more impressive, the elephant that Rensch used during his research was still able to recognize the tones used in the experiment a year and a half later.
Cats are indifferent to music
Recent studies have indicated that cats do not enjoy human music. However, scientists were able to create pieces that the most beloved felines seem to enjoy. Two psychologists from the University of Wisconsin, Charles Snowdon and Megan Savage argued that the type of music that cats like has to be in the frequency range that the animals naturally communicate in.
To test their assertion, they used the help of composer David Teie who specifically composed a couple of songs such as “Spook’s Ditty,” Cozmo’s Air,” and “Rusty’s Ballad” for cats. The two researchers then looked at the way in which cats reacted to these pieces vs. to classical music pieces that humans like.
They concluded that cats show more interest when cat-appropriate music was played. Plus, it seems like younger and older cats are more into music than middle-aged pets. If you find these findings interesting, you can test this on your fluffy companion at home as you can find the cat music composed by David Teie online.
It could be argued that birds are the singers of the animal Kingdom. So, it comes as no surprise that they like to listen to various tunes. A researcher specialized in neuroscience and music from the Emory University named Sarah Earp set up a study with the aim to examine the response that music evokes in the brains of birds.
To test this aspect, she used male and female white-tailed sparrows and analyzed how these birds responded to music stimuli. After performing various trials, Sarah Earp inferred that the brains of the birds have a similar response to music like the human brain.
Because birds do not have the same regions of the brain as humans do, it is still difficult to say whether or not they can really make music. For a better understanding of this process, Earp plans on analyzing whales, also known for the beautiful songs that they create.
However, this is somewhat problematic given the size and these animals. Until then, we can only speculate. It should be pointed out that some researchers believe that birds, and animals in general, understand music in a different way than humans do. Still, this assertion is yet to be proven.
Mosquitoes and dubstep
If you hate mosquitoes, it might be time to explore dubstep music. A study conducted in 2009 showed that exposing Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to dubstep music made them less interested in feeding and copulating.
This happens because male mosquitoes identify females by listening to the buzzing of their wings. However, given that dubstep music made it impossible for them to hear the buzzing, they were inefficient at doing so. The study is valuable because Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are carriers of the yellow fever virus in various regions of the world.
Sharks and jazz
For a long while, it was believed that sharks associate the sound of boat motors with the presence of food, as food is used to lure them during most cage-diving expeditions. To prove these correlations, in 2018, a group of researchers from Sydney’s Macquarie University used jazz to test out this assertion.
They carried out a series of trials through which they taught juvenile Port Jackson sharks to recognize music and to associate it with food. Funnily enough, even though this Pavlovian experiment was a success, the researchers noted that the sharks had no idea what to do when classical music was played instead of jazz.