Horses Can Recognise Human Emotions, Say Scientists

By Tom Pritchard on at

Anyone who's ever spent significant time around horses will know that they can be spectacularly stupid creatures, but maybe not as stupid as some people think. It turns out that horses are able to recognise human emotions and behaviour.

This conclusion was reached by researchers at the University of Sussex, who showed 28 domestic horses large pictures of male faces showing a variety of different facial expressions. As it turns out, the horses responded negatively to angry-looking expressions. It's now theorised that domestication may have allowed horses to adapt to humans and learn to interpret their behaviour.

The results were determined by noticing that horses looked at angry faces with their left eye, and according to the researchers input by the left eye is processed by the right side of the brain. The same side of the brain specialises in processing negative stimuli. The horses were also hooked up to heart rate monitors, with researchers noticing a significant rise in the horses' heart rates when faced with angry photos.

Past studies have also shown this sort of reaction is true of domestic dogs, further raising questions about how animals are affected by human domestication.

[Biology Letters via BBC News]