Can Horses Read Our Expressions?
Articles Blog

Can Horses Read Our Expressions?

August 15, 2019

“What we really want to do is work out what
the emotional life of horses really is. What their emotional world is really like.” To build her library of horse emotions, Karen
has designed a set of experiments to trigger them. She plays recorded horse-talk and observes
the response. Startled and afraid, or curious. She shows them photographs of horses and of
humans. Toffee likes this one. This one isn’t so popular. Karen’s team has made the surprising discovery
that horses have 17 different facial expressions. That’s three more than chimpanzees and one
more than dogs. They’re subtle, but by playing the images
back, Karen can show me what the untrained eye might miss. “He’s sniffing the ground ostensibly, and
you think, oh he’s just sniffing the ground; another horse was in here but – stop. Actually, that sniffing the ground again occurs
consistently in response to something that’s a bit more negative. So that he’s unsure about this. Humans do that as well, you know when we’re
a bit uncomfortable, you might scratch yourself or we glance away from something, just gives
us a little bit of time to adjust. Now this will be interesting. Look at what part of the face he’s going to
go to. Look he’s going towards the -”
“Right to the mouth.” “Mouth, yeah and sometimes they go right up
to the eyes, yep. It’s interesting, that sweep between the mouth
and the eyes. It’s almost as if they understand that the
mouth and the eyes are the most significant bit of the human face. They have enough understanding to interpret
not only emotion in the face of their own species but emotion in our faces.” It makes sense that horses use emotions to
communicate with each other, but what fascinates me is they can read our
emotions as well. “They’re capable of putting together the sort
of representation of the person with the emotion. To me, that shows a very acute emotional awareness.”

Only registered users can comment.

  1. Hmm. Interesting. Guess if one masters this type of knowledge, they can train horses more effectively for sports. Much like team leader who can handle their team's emotions can build a stronger and better team.

    Because it means, they can adjust the training according the horse's liking which might encourage the horse to become better for their owner but also helps the owner bond with the horse better.

  2. It seems to me a pack of horses would be similar to a pack of dogs. Just less agressive with each other. Both very intelligent, tune.

  3. The real question is humans, reacting to other humans? When I walk into a room, and someone reacts in a necative way, by looking to the left, or down almost saying I want nothing to do with you? The common person is necative, and they do not even know you. We as humans need space but we need friendship, we are simply not all created equal?

  4. This was a fantastic show!!! I learned so much about the way they breathe, run…and the fact that they are MINDREADERS!!! Highly recommend this show!!!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *