Listen To Me! The Nuances Behind Mare-Foal Communication

By studying the communication between wild mares and foals, researchers have found that the more communicative mares are, the better their offspring’s chance of survival.

Dr. Cassandra Nuñez, from the University of Memphis in Tennessee, and Daniel Rubenstein, from Princeton, studied the communication between mares and foals living on the Shackleford Banks in North Carolina. They recorded 956 whinnies, nickers and snorts between the mare and foal during the foal’s first year of life. Communication was initiated almost evenly between mares and foals, but mares were more likely to use snorts to communicate (snorts are the softest form of communication). Foals tended to whinny.

Both mares and foals often used snorts when the other was close by. Mares tended to nicker when their foals were fairly close by and foals nickered no matter the distance between the two. Mares tended to whinny more when visibility was limited and foals whinnied less as they aged.

The scientists determined that the rate at which a mare initiated communication with her foal was linked to foal survival rate. The more a mare “talked” to her foal, especially during the first 10 weeks of life, the longer the foal survived. They believe this constant auditory contact allows the foals to wander further from the mare to explore their environment and socialize with other horses, two factors critical to foal survival.

Read more at HorseTalk.

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