Do Animals Have Rhythm? Another Look at Musical Animals

a pianist plays for elephants

Elephants enjoy a Beethoven concert

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I’ve written on this subject before, the answer being that some animals really do dance in response to music (birds) and others are simply trained to go through the motions (dogs).

Whenever I see a new example of musical intelligence in an animal, I’m inspired to take up the subject again.


Elephants are remarkably sensitive and intelligent animals with an enormous capacity for long term loving and committed relationships.  They are also playful and enjoy music.


In one clip an elephant dances without music and in another, another elephant plays music without dancing. In this first video, the question arises “what exactly is the definition of dance?”  I usually define dance as making a musical instrument out of your body and jamming with the band, but I also see dance as a physical expression of emotion.  People can burst into spontaneous dances of joy when there is no music at hand simply because the joy is so powerful it bursts out of them. Sometimes there is a fine line between joyful play and dance.  Do you think this elephant is dancing?

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In this next video, Peter the elephant is entranced with the music being played by his human friend and is eager to try it himself.  He is clearly not only enjoying the music but fascinated by the making of music, much like a human child with a natural musical talent.  Watch him carefully work on the nuance of getting a gentler tone out of the piano.

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Do you doubt that this animal has rhythm?

by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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