Types of Whistles

By Laila Alvarez
This is just one kind of whistle

There are many different kinds of whistles made for many different activities and jobs. Whistles are not just used to officiate sports games, but they are also used for calling the end of the work day, and even providing a warning of an oncoming train. While whistles still have many uses, they've also become collectible items for those who like their unique qualities.

Police whistles

Police use whistles to get attention.

These whistles, formerly known as metropolitan whistles, are known for their tapered mouthpiece and high pitched sound. Police whistles are primarily used when police need to get someone's attention. Although police cars and sirens are more common in some areas, many police officers still use whistles.

Dog Whistle

Dog whistles are not heard by human ears.

The dog whistle is usually a slender cylindrical-shaped whistle that provides an extremely high pitched sound inaudible by human ears. It's primarily used to train dogs and sometimes even cats, since they can also hear it.

Train Whistle

Trains use air compression whistles.

Original train whistles were mounted onto trains and activated by a pull cord. The train whistle is a loud, low, billowing pitch that is actually made up of three different frequencies. The noise is created with air compression, the same type of system used by big-rig trucks. These whistles are meant to warn people that the train is coming.

Referee whistle

Professional Referee whistles don't have

While referees officiating different sports use many types of whistles, the most popular for professional sports is the Fox 40 whistle, which makes sound only using air pressure and does not have a pea—a small metal ball that fits inside the whistle's air chamber and vibrates when the whistle is blown—inside. Professional refs prefer this type of whistle because it's one of the loudest and can be heard well over the noise of an arena.

Factory Whistles

Factories are noisy and need very loud whistles.

Factory whistles are used primarily in industry jobs to indicate various times—start of a work shift, break, lunch and end of the work day. These whistles are usually steam powered and vary in sound, depending on the factory. Similar to the train whistle, these whistles are large and can be heard over a large surface area.

About the Author

Laila Alvarez has been writing professionally since 2002. She has written for Houston Community Newspapers and "L.A. Zoo View," "North O.C. Magazine," "Perpetual Phlegm" and other magazines, newspapers and websites. Alvarez has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from California State University-Fullerton.