25 Japanese Animal Sounds and Onomatopoeia You’ve Got to Know

There are thousands of onomatopoeia in Japanese, which add wonderful texture to the language.

Common onomatopoeia can be broken up into categories, depending on what the sound is used to describe. The one for human and animal sounds is called 擬声語  (ぎせいご), and you’ll hear its content a lot from natives.

In this post, we’ll focus on 25 animal sounds in Japanese in particular. Soon you’ll know how to imitate animals in Japanese


1. Dogs: ワンワン (わんわん)

This is the sound made by your friendly, household  (いぬ – dog). “To bark” in Japanese is 吠える  (ほえる).

2. Cats: ニャーニャー (にゃーにゃー)

This is the sound made by a  (ねこ – cat).

A “hiss” in Japanese uses the onomatopoeia しゃーっ . To use this as a verb, “to hiss,” we say しゃーっという音を出す (しゃーっという おとをだす), literally “to put out the sound of a hiss.”

3. Horses: ヒヒーン (ひひーん)

You’ll want to know the sound made by a (うま – horse) if you get to visit a farm somewhere in rural Japan. “To neigh” in Japanese is いななく .

4. Cows: モーモー  (もーもー)

いななく can also be used to mean “to bray,” which is often the sound a cow, (うし), is described to make.

5. Mice: チューチュー (ちゅーちゅー)

I don’t know if it would ever be used to describe the sound a mouse, ネズミ (ねずみ), makes, but the verb “to squeak” in Japanese is 軋る (きしる).

6. Frogs: ケロケロ (けろけろ)

Bigger frogs, カエル (かえる), make the sound ゲロゲロ  (げろげろ) instead.

Interestingly, in Japanese “croak” is a noun, as in “the frog’s croak.” This word is しわがれ声 (しわがれ ごえ), used as in カエルのしわがれ声 (かえるの しわがれ ごえ).

7. Chicks: ピヨピヨ (ぴよぴよ)

Wee little chicks, or ひよこ, make these peeping sounds. Cute, right?

8. Roosters: コケコッコー (こけこっこー)

This one might feel a bit wrong to English speakers. They’re missing a syllable! Do you think roosters, or 雄鳥 (おんどり) in Japanese, crow with one less syllable in Japan?

Speaking of which, “rooster crow” is again a noun, used as 雄鶏の鳴き声  (おんどりのなきごえ).

9. Ducks: ガーガー (がーがー)

This is so much more accurate than “quack” for the sound made by a duck, or あひる.

Amazingly, there’s a Japanese equivalent of the English noun “quack,” as in a bogus or false doctor: 偽医者 (にせ いしゃ) or やぶ医者 (やぶ いしゃ).

10. Monkeys: ウキウキ (うきうき)

Monkeys, or (さる), sometimes also make the sound キキ (きき).

There are a few words to mean “screech” in Japanese. There’s a noun, 金切声  (かなきりごえ), and a verb, 怒鳴る (どなる), which can be used to mean “to bellow/shout/roar/cry/scream.” It’s a versatile verb.

11. Birds: ピヨピヨ (ぴよぴよ)

Birds, or (とり), are also said to make the sound, チュンチュン (ちゅんちゅん). Better than tweet tweet?

There’s a Japanese verb for “to tweet” as well, which can also mean “to chatter” or “to whistle”: さえずる .

Also, if you don’t like birds very much and somehow find yourself surrounded by Japanese birds, the Japanese command to shoo birds away is, しっしっ!

12. Elephants: パオーン (ぱおーん)

You might not see many elephants, or (ぞう) outside zoos and children’s shows in Japan, but who knows when these sounds will come in handy!

13. Flies: ブーン (ぶーん)

This is a pretty accurate transliteration of “bzzz” for flies, or (はえ). It expresses how super annoying this noise is pretty well.

There’s a verb, ざわめく , that expresses a sound like a buzz, a burr or a murmur, like the sound of a crowd of people all speaking at once, or a fly or mosquito in your bedroom keeping you up at night.

14. Wolves: ワオーン (わおーん)

When you’re talking about wolves, or (おおかみ), in Japanese, you should know that “howl” in Japanese is a noun, 遠吠え (とおぼえ), to which you can add -する to make a verb “to howl,” which looks like this: 遠吠えする (とおぼえする).

The verb “to growl” is 唸る (うなる), which can also be used to mean “to groan/roar/snarl/moan/howl/hum/drone.” Another wonderfully versatile verb!

15. Rabbits: ピョンピョン (ぴょんぴょん)

I don’t think rabbits, ウサギ (うさぎ), actually make a sound, but in Japanese the sound they make when they hop is ピョンピョン (ぴょんぴょん), which no one can deny is completely adorable.

16. Foxes: コンコン (こんこん)

At last, an answer to what the fox says, the (きつね). It says コンコン” (こんこん)!

17. Bears: グゥー (ぐぅー)

Bears, or (くま), are not typically associated with specific vocalizations in Japanese. However, this sound is sometimes used to represent a deep growling or grunting sound that bears might make.

18. Sheep: メー (めー)

Sheep, or (ひつじ), are known to produce this sound, which mimics their bleating or baaing sound. Sounds pretty similar to the English version, right?

19. Pigs: ブーブー (ぶーぶー)

Pigs, or (ぶた), are often associated with the sound ブーブー (ぶーぶー), which imitates their oinking sound. At least that’s the case in Japan! 

鳴く (なく) means “to make a sound” or “to cry.” When combined with word for pig, 豚が鳴く (ぶたがなく) translates the verb “to oink” or “pig’s squeal.”

20. Owls: ホーホー (ほーほー)

Owls, or フクロウ (ふくろう), are often shown as making this sound which represents their hooting sound. s

21. Bees: ブンブン (ぶんぶん)

Bees, or (はち), are associated with this sound, which represents their buzz. It’s another one that’s pretty different in English. 

The kanji (まい) means “to dance” or “to flutter,” and when used in the context of bees, it represents the verb “to buzz” as it would be used in English.

22. Snakes: シュー (しゅー)

Snakes, or (へび), are not typically associated with specific vocalizations in Japanese. However, this sound is sometimes used to represent the hissing sound snakes might make.

嘶く (いななく) means “to neigh” or “to hiss.” When combined with the word for snake, 蛇が嘶く (へびがいななく) translates to “to hiss” specifically for a snake.

23. Dolphins: キューキュー (きゅーきゅー)

Dolphins, or イルカ (いるか), are known for their high-pitched clicks and whistles and this sound represents that. This is one that doesn’t seem to exist in English!

24. Penguins: ギャーギャー (ぎゃーぎゃー)

Penguins, or ペンギン (ぺんぎん), also don’t have distinct vocalizations in Japanese. However, this sound can be used to represent their calls or squawking sounds.

25. All-purpose “Roar”: ガオ (がおー)

This is a “roar” sound like when made by the likes of a lion, ライオン (らいおん), tiger, 虎 (とら) or monster, 化け物 (ばけもの).

There are a few verbs that can be used to mean “to roar”: 怒鳴る (どなる), 唸る (うなる) and 吠える (ほえる) all work.

There’s also 轟く (とどろく), which can be used as a noun. For example, you would use it in 轟きが聞こえる (とどろきが きこえる) and this translates to “I can hear a roar.”

Things to Keep in Mind About Animal Sounds in Japanese

Onomatopoeia is almost always written in either hiragana or katakana. The decision of which one is used tends to be determined by the sound of the word itself.

So, if the sound is “softer” it’s often written in hiragana, while katakana is used for stronger or “harder” sounds. That makes this is a pretty good way to practice your katakana if you’re not so confident with that yet.

If you’re feeling a bit lazy, there’s a universal verb for all animal sounds in Japanese: 鳴く (なく). It can be translated into English as “to make a sound” or “to cry.” As you might have noticed above, when used with animals, it indicates the vocalizations they produce, such as a bird’s chirping, a cat’s meowing, a dog’s barking and so on.

Once you learn the onomatopoeia in Japanese, you can always use 鳴く to finish the sentence. For example, 犬はワンワンと鳴く (いぬは わんわんと なく) is “The dog barks woof woof” Or, another example is ひよこはぴよぴよと鳴きます (ひよこは ぴよぴよ となきます) is “The chicks chirp piyo piyo.”

The strangest and most fun thing about onomatopoeia in foreign languages is that, when you first read them aloud, you think “Umm, this sounds completely wrong.”

Meanwhile, while you’re in that country, these native sounds really do sound more like the local words for them! Dogs do seem to say “wan wan” rather than “woof,” and heartbeats sound more like “doki doki” than “ba-boom, ba-boom.” Trick of the mind? Or true?

I’ll leave that up to you to decide.


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