Brain Size Matters: Are Horses Smarter Than Humans?

William Simpson lives with his wife Laura in a remote area of the Soda Mountain Wilderness, which is on the Oregon-California border. The Simpson’s are lucky enough to see all sorts of wild animals, including herds of wild hoses that pass literally right through their back yard.

The horses in the Soda Mountain Wilderness Area in Siskiyou County, Calif., and Jackson County, Ore., have been there for at least a millennia, according to fossils found in the area. The horses have been well documented in local papers for over 100 years, he notes in HorseTalk.

These horses are technically considered “feral,” not wild—wild horses in the United States are under the care of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and live on publicly owned lands. Simpson enthuses that these horses, though not considered “wild,” truly are: They were born free in the wilderness and must fend for themselves with regards to predators and locating food and water sources.

One herd of horses the Simpsons see regularly has a stallion they have dubbed “Black” and  a small band of mares he watches over. The Simpsons were surprised to learn that the horses become used to humans and even are accepting of their touch. The babies in particular are inquisitive of the humans (just like human babies) and very much enjoy grooming.

Mutual grooming is a common occurrence in the horse world; it shows care and concern for others in the herd and it also helps scratch itches, remove debris and attend to any injury a horse may have. Laura and William began to carry curry combs with them to groom the babies and the adult horses when they will allow it. The babies will walk directly to the humans and nudge them until they receive the attention they are looking for; the babies often try to reciprocate the grooming process by grooming the human’s jackets.

Simpson was intrigued by how much the horses paid attention to him when he spoke to them. He noted that horses have extremely powerful senses of smell and hearing, so he speaks softly when talking to them. He began to do some investigation into how intelligent horses are and what he found was a bit surprising.

Simpson chose an excerpt from The Equine Behavioral Health Resource Center in which brain weight is equated with intelligence. A human’s brain weighs about 3 pounds; a horse’s brain weighs 2.5 pounds and is about the size of a human child’s brain.

Simpson also noted that human and equine brains are very similar, but with a few key differences: Most of the horse’s brain is used to analyze information it gets from the environment while the much of the human brain is used for fine-motor skills and language.

Simpson notes that some scientists say that horses have the intelligence of a 12-year-old human. Their cerebellum is larger than a human’s cerebellum, as a horse must be able to stand and use all four legs within an hour of birth. Once a horse learns a movement, which is usually more quickly than a human, it will not be forgotten. Humans, on the other hand, retain information for only a short amount of time unless the information is reviews regularly.

Learn more about Simpson’s investigation into equine intelligence and how it compares to human intelligence at HorseTalk.

The post Brain Size Matters: Are Horses Smarter Than Humans? appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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