The Memory Of A … Horse?

Be sure to smile when you leave your horse; new research shows that horses are wary of people who seemed angry looking during their last encounter. Interestingly, they respond positively to those who were smiling when they saw them last.

This study was completed by Karen McComb, a professor of animal behavior and cognition at the University of Sussex. She and her team showed a photograph of a human with an angry face to 11 horses and a picture of a smiling human to 10 horses; each horse saw the photograph for 2 minutes.

Between three and six hour later, the horse met the human from the photograph, but this time the human was neutral, neither angry or smiling. The person was unaware which image the horse has been shown prior to their meeting.

The study, which was published in Current Biology, showed that horses that had been shown an angry photograph viewed the human out of their left eye for longer than those who had seen a happy photo. Viewing the person from the left eye is important as the left eye correlates with the right hemisphere of the brain, where potential dangers and threats are perceived.

The horse that had seen the happy human photo looked the person out of the right eye when introduced to them face-to-face.

It was determined that horses can remember facial expressions of humans, even from a photograph. It is not clear if horses can read the expressions of other animals or if they are especially tuned into humans through domestication.

Read more at The Guardian.

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