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Horses Will Ask for Human Help

A new study conducted at the Kobe University Graduate School of Intercultural Studies in Japan has revealed some interesting findings. The study has demonstrated that horses will attempt to ask humans for help when they are faced with a problem that they cannot solve. The study has also revealed that horses can adapt their behaviour based on a human’s knowledge of the situation.

Horses Will Give You a Nudge in the Right Direction

When horses face problems that they cannot solve unaided, they use visual and tactile signals to gain human attention. The study in Japan involved eight horses from the university equestrian centre together with their caretakers and took place in a paddock. In one experiment, the scientists placed carrots in buckets which the horses could not reach but which humans could. The horses’ caretakers then tended to their charges but were not told about the carrots in the buckets.

The horses would stay close to their caretakers and would nudge and push them. This behaviour occurred over a significantly longer period compared to when the scientist conducted the experiment without hiding any food.

In a second experiment scientist hid carrots in the buckets in view of the horses’ caretakers. The horses’ reactions were different to those observed in the first experiment. This demonstrated that horses can understand the knowledge level of their human caretakers and will adapt their behaviour accordingly.

Humans and Horses

The high social cognitive skills that horses exhibit towards humans might partially explain why humans and horses have been so successful at collaborating. Horses have been domesticated for 6,000 years and have been fundamental to human advancement. It could just be that they are capable of helping us and working with us to a greater extent that previously realised.

Scientist will likely require further research but the findings of the Japanese study could have significant implications. A greater understanding of the way that horses communicate and precisely what they comprehend will lead to more effective relationships and training methods.

We don't know to what extent horses’ cognitive abilities have evolved as a result of their domestication. Perhaps living and working with humans has made horses think more like humans!


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