Hear Me Out: Horses Remember Specific Voices

Many horse owners feel gratified when then walk into a barn or field and call their horse that he answers them with a nicker or a whinny. A recent study highlighted the importance of this horse-owner relationship. Previous research has shown that horses are able to tell the difference between human voices and that they are also able to recall if the interaction around that voice was positive or negative.

Researchers Serenella d’Ingeo, Angelo Quaranta, Marcello Siniscalchi, Mathilde Stomp, Caroline Coste, Charlotte Bagnard, Martine Hausberger and Hugo Cousillas used 21 riding and pasture horses for a study to test horse’s recall of specific voices. For seven days, they offered each horse either a bucket of feed or a bucket of feed that had been soaked in vinegar, making it unappetizing. During the presentation of the bucket, a recoding was played through a speaker worn by the person who presented the bucket. The text was the same, but the voices were different depending on which food was presented.

The scientists then exposed each horse to the voices again, but without food. They recorded the horse’s reactions, basing them on electroencephalogram and behavior. The horses very clearly associated with each voice, negatively for the one they had when exposed to vinegar-soaked feed and positively for the one that offered the feed.

When not held in-hand, horses turned their head to the right more often for the voice that was linked to the positive experience. The study team suggests that the left hemisphere of the horse’s brain processes the positive voice. When involved in the study, the horses exposed to the vinegar-soaked feed tended to put the speaker on the left side. When haltered, the horses had their ears forward when the positively linked voice was played; their ears were back more often when the negatively linked voice was played.

The researchers confirmed that horses do discriminate between individual human voices and that they are able to link the voice with prior experiences.

Read the full study here.

Read more at Horse Talk.

The post Hear Me Out: Horses Remember Specific Voices appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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