A recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences notes:
Elephants are able to differentiate between ethnicities and genders, and can tell an adult from a child – all from the sound of a human voice.
…Elephants can reliably discriminate between two different ethnic groups that differ in the level of threat they represent, significantly increasing their probability of defensive bunching and investigative smelling following playbacks of Maasai voices. Moreover, these responses were specific to the sex and age of Maasai presented, with the voices of Maasai women and boys, subcategories that would generally pose little threat, significantly less likely to produce these behavioral responses.
It stands to reason that if elephants can distinguish between various African ethnic groups, they also should be able to distinguish between larger racial groups as the cues demarcating larger racial groups are less subtle.
Can other animals? I have often wondered whether dogs can differentiate between human races. I have anecdotal evidence for such a claim, but before I give it let me say I often find anecdotal evidence about dogs to be lacking, sometimes even comical (such as people who want to claim that pit bulls are not more genetically violent than other breeds because they know someone with a gentle pit bull). That said, every dog I’ve owned (often living in larger multiracial cities) seems to distinguish between races, that is they seemed to be friendly around white people and more wary of blacks. Of course, many things could be going on here. Blacks (and mestizos to a lesser extent) seem to be more wary of dogs and certainly won’t dote on them as whites do, and dogs could pick up on these cues. Or it could be something else.
Do the scents of human races differ and dogs pick up on them? The keenest sense for dogs is smell — which is 10,000 – 100,000 times more acute than humans’. We’ve recently learned for instance that different races have different oral bacteria, so it is not entirely unreasonable that different races project different odors and dogs pick up on them?