Researchers Discover Horses’ Ears Are a ‘Communication Tool’

Good job, science! Next stop: the cure for cancer.

Top photo: Flickr/Alex/Creative Commons License

The University of Sussex study involved a behavioral experiment in which 72 horses were led, one by one, to a point where it had to select from one of two buckets. At this “decision-making spot,” they faced life-sized photo of a horse’s head facing to the right or left. The horses tended to go in the direction the horse in the photograph was looking and had its ears pricked toward. In some of the trials, the horse’s eyes or ears were covered, in which case the horse would just choose a bucket at random.

Like so:

The findings were recently published in the journal Current Biology.

“It seems there’s something in the visual cues — from both the eyes and the ears –that are really important,” lead researcher Jennifer Wathan told BBC News.

Many thanks to reader Lynn Howland for sending us a link to the BBC story with the note, “Duh. Science seems to be slowly discovering that horses are sentient beings with emotions. How sad that it taking this long to become this mainstream.”

She also sent us this GIF, which seems fitting:


Next study: If horses had human hands for ears, would that make them even more capable of pointing other horses in the direction of a certain feed bucket?

Go Riding.


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