Do Gorillas Burp When They Are Happy? (Yes, But..)

In the Western world, burping is considered impolite. In other countries, like China, Egypt, and Taiwan, burping is the highest compliment a chef can get – it is considered good dining etiquette and means that you were happy with your food. 

Either way, it is a natural and healthy way of getting rid of air swallowed during eating and drinking. And since we share about 96% of our DNA with apes, it’s natural to wonder: do gorillas burp when they are happy?

You might be surprised to learn that in the gorilla world, belching means almost the same thing. 

When feeling happy, gorillas will burp. The sound they make is more of a deep prolonged rumble, rather than a soft belching sound. Gorillas pronounce it as a long, di-syllabic, ‘throat-clearing’ type of sound (umm-umm), with the second note dropping down from the first. 

Often, a dominant gorilla will initiate this vocalization and the rest of the group will follow. 

Gorillas will make these belching sounds when the entire group feels the most content – when they all sit down to eat, during the nest-building time, or towards the end of a sunning period when play and grooming interactions are common between these apes.

In the wild, this burp vocalization conveyed a sense of contentment from one gorilla to another and also served to indicate their position to one another. 

Scientists that examined two captured gorilla infants noticed that the younglings belched in happiness when they got large portions of food. Just like humans at a restaurant when a waiter brings their food. 

do gorillas burp when they are happy

What Else Do Gorillas Do When Happy?

When feeling happy about their meal, gorillas will also sing and hum. Singing serves as a way for them to express contentment with their meal, as well as for the dominant male to communicate to others that it is dinner time.

Scientists noticed that the humming sounds gorillas make – a steady low-frequency tone – sounds a bit like a sigh of contentment. The singing part – a series of short, differently pitched notes – sounds like the gorillas are humming some random melody.

Gorillas in captivity will sing louder if they get their favorite food. In wild, only the dominant males will sing. This means that the singing is a signal of contentment or pleasure with the food but also a way for an alpha to inform the group that it’s still meal time and it’s not yet time to move on.

Happy gorillas are also very curious. If zookeepers provide them with mental and physical stimulation, gorillas will engage in playful behavior and might even dance! The presence of play can indicate an animal is content or comfortable and can be recognized as an indicator of the general welfare of the animal. 

In the wild, jolly young gorillas love to swing on the vines and sometimes twirl around so much that they get dizzy and fall over. Gorillas also love jumping, rolling over, running, climbing, etc.

How Can You Tell If A Gorilla Is Not Happy?

sad gorilla

If you ever go to a zoo and see a gorilla engaging in stressful and repetitive behavior, this might be a sign that the animal is not content. Gorillas that are withdrawn, quiet, and uninterested in interacting with their environment are often under some stress and are not feeling well. 

Tight lips and shoulders, peering out at the world from the side of their eyes, are warning signs of an unhappy gorilla.

Providing gorillas with various stimuli, like a simple ball to play with, or a mirror to look themselves in, giving them new food, or changing their location, can make a huge difference for these amazing and graceful animals. 

Besides gorillas (who are apes), in some species of monkeys, like the colobus monkeys, burping is considered to be a friendly social gesture. 

P.S. Did you know that a completely different type of animal, a llama, hums when happy as well? Make sure to read more about it.

monkeys ribbon

Final Thoughts – Do Gorillas Burp When They Are Happy?

Gorillas are huge and complex creatures that might have several ways of expressing their happiness. They might belch, burp, hum, and even sing when they are happy with the food they are eating or if they are having a blast with their band. Next time you see one at a zoo, make sure to try to notice if the gorilla is feeling playful and happy, or stressed. 

We certainly hope we explained properly the answer to the question: do gorillas burp when they are happy?

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