Did Horses Evolve To Read Human Emotions?
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Did Horses Evolve To Read Human Emotions?

August 14, 2019


Humans and horses have had a strong connection
for generations. But that connection may be even stronger than we thought. Hey animal lovers, Lissette here for DNews.
When I was a little girl, I wanted a pony. They’re so beautiful and majestic, but today
science is telling us they’re also pretty smart. In a recent study published in the
journal Biology Letters, researchers found that horses can distinguish between different
human facial expressions. They were able to figure this out by showing the horses photographs
of either angry or happy male faces and then noting the horses’ responses. When the horses
were presented with an angry face, they exhibited left-gaze bias. This basically means that
the horses turned their heads to look more with their left eye towards the right side
of the face on the photograph. When they were presented with a happy face, they didn’t
express this same bias. In the case of the horses, this left-gaze
bias with the angry faces versus the happy human faces, showed that they could detect
a difference between these two human expressions. Left-gaze bias is also used to study emotions
in both humans and animals, and although it may vary by species, some studies have shown
emotions are perceived as more prominently expressed on the right side of a person’s
face. So, as you might guess, animals detecting
different human facial expressions isn’t something new… According to research, other
animals like dogs and pigeonscan distinguish between faces and expressions. Researchers
at the University of Iowa, found that pigeons can see similarities among human faces when
it comes to identity and emotion. Essentially, the pigeons could tell when the photographs
they were shown were of the same person and when the emotions of different people were
similar. And, the research on dogs is particularly
robust. In one study, researchers at Azabu University, found dogs could learn to pick
out photographs of smiling human faces from those with blank expressions. And researchers
from Kyoto University showed that dogs can match their owner’s face to their owner’s
voice. Furthermore, a study on 22 dogs from the University of Lincoln showed a very similar
result to the horse study. The dogs more strongly exhibited a left-gaze bias when they looked
at negative facial expressions than positive ones. So if this dog study shows a similar result
to this new horse study, what makes it so special? Well, because in addition to measuring
the horses’ external physical reactions, researchers also collected internal data – specifically
their heart rate. The horses’ heart rates accelerated at different
rates depending on whether the faces shown were angry or happy ones. As one of the researchers
explains, “The reaction to the angry facial expressions was particularly clear — there
was a quicker increase in their heart rate.” Which is huge! According to the researchers,
this makes it the first in all animal studies to show a differential heart rate response
to human facial expressions. It suggests that on top of recognizing the
difference between what the two facial expressions look like, the horse might know what the angry
expression means. A rapidly increasing heart rate is associated with threatening situations.
Again, to quote one of the study’s researchers, “in this context, recognising angry faces
may act as a warning system, allowing horses to anticipate negative human behaviour such
as rough handling.” This makes sense as horses are highly social
animals, and emotional awareness is helpful to the functioning and survival of highly
social groups. Now, as one of the researchers points out, we can’t conclude from this
research that horses evolved an ability to recognize human faces because of co-evolution
with humans or if each individual horse simply learned how to read faces during its own lifetime.
Or it could be because of something else. But what’s clear is that horses may be more
clued into our emotions than we think. Maybe horses should be man’s best friend?
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below and remember to subscribe to DNews.
So if some animals can recognize our emotions, does this mean they can also feel some of
the same emotions we do? Check out this episode on whether animals can empathize to find out

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  1. Its all about breeding. They are constantly making breeds that would never have naturally existed. Dogs were bread to be man's best friend. It would be like breeding humans that only think and look a certain way…scary….

  2. Evolve from what ?? Do you really think an atom by itself can become a living animal? An atom automatically can say I'll be part of the nose, and another atom says I'll become part of the leg!!!?? We as humans can have a loving connection with all animals if they are kind and loving towards them. But pls don't bring evolution which is a fake fraud to make people think there is no creator!! Did the universe create itself??? 🕋😍☝️

  3. Animals do not evolve to adapt to environment, they simply survive and let the mutations do the evolving. So if humans select and breed specific horses that have a tendency to display these features, then perhaps they are.

  4. The reason the domestication of horses was so successful is that their wild ancestors were not very intelligent at all. Herbivores in general are not intelligent. It takes most of their metabolic energy to digest their food, leaving comparably little to build a complex brain. Their eyes are also on the sides of their heads: Good for watching for predators, but for brain growth.

  5. Horses ARE human best friend! I love dogs and horses. I have 6 dogs and 2 horses but horses are the real deal!! They are the best and we conect more with horses than dogs!

  6. The reason horses might be able to pick up on human facial expressions is for 6,000+ years humans have selectively bred horses to be more responsive to human masters. Those horses that responded well to humans were allowed to breed, and those that didn't were not.

  7. I hate how people comment about how she is attractive and everything. Okay, we get it. So keep that to yourself, this is a science channel, not pornhub.

  8. Horses scared me since I was little, they're too smart. I don't like it. We're going to have a horse Apocalypse and they're going to murder us all.

  9. 🐺I!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! TOLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🐲🐊🐗WILD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ANIMALS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! TO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🔪K*LL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GRAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! FATHER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! FUCKING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! >>>>>>>>>>:-OOOOOOOO HELLING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 😠😡😤😬PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!😈😈👹💀👻

  10. They didn't evolve this ability because of humans. This is an ability that all animals use for survival.

    We can easily tell when animals are angry, and they can do the same thing with us. This skill is millions of years old.

  11. I like cats, because they know how you're feeling, but they don't give a fuck, which is a trait that I respect.

  12. Horses are giant powerful and skittish as hell. One missed step and that's a broken foot. One panicky kick and that's your skull. They are way to fearful to be that strong. I don't trust them.

  13. My horse thinks I'm a living tissue 😂😂😂 but I'm pretty sure she knows who I am & what my voice sounds like so that's gnarly

  14. You guys still don't get it do you? Why is the horses' backs also seem to be perfectly curved to seat a human? It's called design! God designed these horses to help us and understand us! Dah!

  15. How horses used to be tamed(brutal by the way), recognizing our faces make sense with their hearts rates raising.

  16. I'm no expert, but in my own life it has seemed all animals can read each other's emotions. We're all living beings, bit egotistical if humans were to think they were the only one's smart enough to understand emotions and reactions.

  17. Horses are very intelligent then should be judges on judiciary-!!(hahaha), no horses are awesome

  18. All 3, dogs, horses and pidgeons have evolved alongside humans and benefitted very much by being able to read the emotions of their handlers or in the case of pidgeons, people who feed them.

  19. Let me guess… Clever Hans will be in this video, right? (didnt watch it yet)

    [EDIT] What why wasnt Clever Hans in this? He was the first documented Horse showing clear reactions to human emotions. He is like the perfect example of horses reading our facial expressions and actually acting accordingly… that horse fooled so many people in to thinking it can do math, Hans would definetly have been worth mentioning.

  20. I work/ride at a horse stable twice a week, and it amazes me that they needed a study to figure this out. It is very obvious that they are incredibly intelligent, and they easily work out patterns in the emotions and behaviors of people. If you mess up handling a horse just once, they will generally try to take advantage of you. They are easily able to read emotions, and react differently depending on your mood. Some horses require a very angry or gentle trainer.

  21. Ponies are NOT friendly. They are demon equestrians. DEEEMONS!!!! I like horses, but the Napoleon horses like NOONE!

  22. It's sad to think that horses have been so mistreated that they adapted such a response to human facial expressions as to prepare physically/emotionally. 😕

  23. Horses my dad has a horse I ride him though I think I have a strong connection with him but I don't no how to tell do u no he always whiners when he hers me or sees me I love him and hope to get a horse of my own

  24. Horses can also sense earth quakes before they happen, they also sense where food is underground. I also think they can see electromagnetic but not sure about that one.

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