Hoover the Talking Seal
The following sound file from 1984 captures Hoover the Talking Seal, who lived at the New England Aquarium in the 1970’s and 80’s. Hoover was rescued as a pup by a Maine man and raised at his home before moving to the aquarium. During his time in Maine, he picked up some words from his owner. The sound is not great, but if you listen carefully you can hear Hoover say “Hoover get over here! Come on, come on!” with a Maine accent.
A longer video of Hoover with speech sound bites at 1:30, 3:25, 12:38, and 29:38 is available below.
The scientific lesson to be learned from Hoover (not to mention parrots and other speech-mimicking animals): it’s not the ability to create speech sounds that makes us unique in the animal kingdom, but our ability to use them to convey an infinite number of messages.