Study Finds Horses Very Reactive To Human Facial Expressions

by | 01.10.2020 | 11:42am

It's long been known that horse's react to human emotions, but a new study shows just how in-tune equines are to their human counterparts. To test their emotional aptitude, Dr. Léa Lansade, of the French Horse and Riding Institute and the National Institute for Agricultural Research, and graduate student Miléna Trösch projected short video clips to a group of Welsh mares that had had limited human interaction, reports The Horse.

The videos, which did not have sound, showed a woman making a joyful face and an angry face. An audio clip was played at the same time with another voice saying “ahhh” or “grrrrr.” The 34 mares in the study had strong reactions to the women's emotions; when the women looked and sounded upset, the horse's heart rate rose dramatically, and they became stiff and alert; when the joyful audio and video was played, the mares relaxed and their heart rate slowed.

When the audio and video played didn't match, the horses were intrigued and spent time observing the video more closely. The scientists encourage horse handlers to be cognizant of horse's sensitivity when expressing emotions around them as horses react even when the emotion isn't directed toward them.

Read more at The Horse.

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