Most equine enthusiasts have known a Horse Houdini that can let themselves out of nearly any locked situation. Researchers have discovered that there is not one conventional door or gate latch that cannot be opened by a determined equine—some horses have even been able to open locks that required keys!
Until this study, completed by Drs. Konstanze Krueger, Laureen Esch and Richard Byrne, the only research done on opening fastening mechanisms was done on animals that had claws and paws.
For the study, the scientists created a website that asked owners and managers of horses, mules and donkeys to report on gate and door-opening behavior. Unedited videos from YouTube were also collected, where animals had no signs of training. In total, 513 cases of doors or gates on hinges being opened were reported; 49 sliding doors were opened and 33 barred doors were opened.
The majority of the horses sought to escape their confines, but they also attempted to access food and friends. After opening the doors, 87 percent of the animals walked out and 62 percent ran around their stable; 22 percent went into other stalls or barns and 15 percent of escapees freed other horses; 22 percent of the Houdini's broke into other places such as feed storage rooms or human houses.
The closing mechanisms they broke out of included 260 instances of horizontal bars and 155 cases of vertical bars; 43 twist locks were beaten, and 42 door handles, 40 carabiners, 34 electric fence handles and two locks with keys were opened by the horses.
Over 44 percent of the horses were able to open several types of locking mechanisms; some horses could open five different kinds of locks. The more complex the confining mechanism, the more movements the horse had to apply, from around two motions for door handles to 10 movements for carabiners.
Though 70 of the horses observed the latches being opened by other stablemates, 183 horses did not, indicating they learned to open doors and gates on their own volition or from watching humans work the latches.
The researchers concluded that horses can open a wide range of man-made devices to latch doors and gates, typically handing the mechanisms with their mouths.
Read the full study here.
Read more at HorseTalk.
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