Posts Tagged ‘Flehmen’

by , Keeper
I've been at the museum since 2010. I love to read and learn; it's rare that a day goes by at work when I'm not suppressing the urge to spew out something cool I just learned to my coworkers. In my spare time, I play the 'cello, snuggle my dog and reminisce about snowmen and Nor'easters.
I work Sunday through Thursday. You can find me raking the Farmyard in the morning or training the donkey and dwarf goats in the afternoon.

Big Word of the Month: Flehmen Response

December 23rd, 2012
Zebra Flehmen

The Funny Face

Lion Face

The Stinky Face

Llama Flehmen

Impressing the Ladies

Chummix Flehmen

Testing the Air


Whatever you call it, if you have a pet cat at home (especially if it’s a male) you’ve likely seen this face before. It goes by many variations of the same name: Flehmen Response, Flehmen Position, Flehmen Reaction, or simply Flehming. Flehmen (pronounced: FLAY-men) Responses are used by a wide variety of ¬†hoofstock (ungulates) and many cats (felids). Males and females, adults and babies, all exhibit this silly facial expression.

The silly look on the animal’s face helps to activate an organ that allows him or her to sense chemicals in the air; specifically pheromones. Pheromones are a chemical signal that passes useful social information to another animal of the same specie. The organ used is called the Vomeronasal organ (also called the Jacobson’s Organ). This organ is located in the nasal cavity of many animals, including fetal humans. It is the organ used by snakes and water turtles as their primary sense of smell, but in most other animals it is used in more of a secondary or social fashion. More animals use a Vomeronasal Organ to detect pheromones than those that display the Flehmen Response, like lemurs, salamanders, lizards, dogs and pigs.

The lip curl or grimace directs the inhaled air toward the Vomeronasal Organ, allowing it to pick up the chemicals in the air and let the animal know important information about what they’re smelling. Information like whether there’s a female nearby who’s looking to mate or simply to get a more complete understanding of a new smell they’re being introduced to. Lightning, the donkey, often exhibits Flehmen Response to new smells and Chummix, the Boer goat, does it after smelling his urine (it’s a male goat thing…).


Join the conversation:

  1. We just talked about this, when I got this response from Lightning because he smelled my Chapstick. Very fun.

    Posted by Ranger Ro
  2. Amazing things here. I’m very glad to see your article.
    Thank you so much and I’m having a look ahead to touch you.

    Will you kindly drop me a e-mail?

    Posted by web page

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *