Chimpanzees Dance in the Rain

Jul 9, 2015

Chimpanzees live in rainforest habitats where the rainy season brings regular thunderstorms. But these African apes make little attempt to stay dry in the rain. They often huddle miserably and simply get wet. Sometimes though, chimpanzees perform what researchers call “rain dances”: vigorous yet deliberate physical and auditory displays. Male chimpanzees charge through the forest, rhythmically swaggering, drumming their feet on tree buttresses, slapping the ground, breaking and dragging vegetation, and making loud vocalizations. Occasionally several males will charge through the rain together, taking turns displaying in an exaggerated fashion. Legendary chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall once commented, after observing a 20 minute rain dance by 6 males, “My enthusiasm was not merely scientific as I watched, enthralled…. I could only watch, and marvel at the magnificence of these splendid creatures. With a display of strength and vigor such as this, primitive man himself might have challenged the elements.”

Dr. Sylvia Amsler is a lecturer in anthropology at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.


Goodall, J. 1988. In the Shadow of Man (revised edition). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.